To employ any workers from outside the EEA, you will need to hold a Sponsor Licence. Applying for a Sponsor Licence can be a long and complex process. You will need to provide detailed information on your business and why you need to employ workers from overseas.

Holding a Tier 2 or 5 Sponsor Licence is essential to employing foreign workers legally. Once it has been granted, your business will be expected to comply with the Home Office guidelines throughout your time as a UK sponsor.

The lawyers at IAS are experienced in providing Tier 5 and Tier 2 Sponsor Guidance. We will help you every step of the way and ensure that your business is set up to uphold your duties correctly. Get in touch today on 0333 363 8577 or using our online enquiry form for Tier 5 or Tier 2 Guidance tailored to you.


What are the duties of a Tier 2 Sponsor?

Before applying for a Tier 2 Licence, you will need to ensure that the duties outlined by the Home Office are carried out.

These include:

  • Outlining the roles you will be advertising for;
  • undertaking the Resident Labour Market Test;
  • preparing your business to pass the ‘genuine business test’ during a visit from the Home Office; and
  • ensuring all HR roles are filled and the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) is operated responsibly.

Once your Sponsor Licence has been granted, you will need to maintain such duties as:

  • Keeping records of your migrant workers throughout their employment via the SMS;
  • assigning the correct Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to each employee;
  • ensuring that your employees are actually doing the work outlined on their CoS;
  • informing the Home Office of any changes to their employment, such as promotions or wage increases; and
  • informing the Home Office of any significant changes to your business.

What are the Tier 5 Sponsor Licence duties?

The duties of a Tier 5 employer are similar to those for a Tier 2 employer and include:

  • Outlining the role you will be advertising for;
  • following the relevant Codes of Practice for the role in relation to the resident labour market;
  • ensuring your business passes the ‘genuine business test’;
  • assigning the correct HR roles before employing any migrant workers;
  • creating accurate Certificates of Sponsorship and assigning them; and
  • maintaining records of your workers’ time in the UK using the SMS.

What supporting documents do I need to apply for a Sponsor Licence?

Sponsoring an employee requires a substantial amount of evidence. This is so the Home Office knows you are a genuine employer and that this position needs the expertise and skill of the overseas employee.

For the Sponsor Licence application, you will need to present documents that show the different positions in your company. This is known as a ‘Hierarchy Chart.’ You will need to show where the role you are hiring for fits into this chart.

You will need to file a document that states exactly what the job role in question will entail, what their salary will be and for how long you will need them.

Other evidence you will need to submit include:

  • HR records
  • Number of current employees
  • Annual turnover
  • Details of how you intend to comply with your sponsorship duties.

Further to this, you will be required to state the specific visa type for your employee, e.g. Tier 2 Religious Worker, Sportsperson Visa or Tier 2 General.

There is an extensive list of documents you can provide. For more advice, contact IAS today.

What is the right type of Sponsorship Licence application for me?

If you employ a migrant from outside of the EEA or Switzerland, you will need to sponsor their visa if their role requires either a Tier 2 or a Tier 5 Visa.

The Tier 2 Visa is for long-term skilled workers and can be granted for up to five years, the Tier 5 Visa is for short-term, temporary workers and lasts for up to one year. Deciding which is right for you will depend on the nature of the role you are looking to fill.

For a person in the UK with an Exceptional Talent Visa, you will not need a Sponsor Licence before taking them on at your company. However, you will need to keep a record of their details and employment activity.

How does the Sponsor Licence grading work?

The Sponsor Licence system works on a two-tiered system that presents Sponsor Holders as either A-grade or B-grade.

With the A-grade Sponsor Licence, your company will be placed on the register of sponsors on the government website. The A-grade is evidence that you meet all the requirements for sponsoring employees to come to the UK and work in your business.

Throughout your time as a sponsor, you must present records as and when the UKVI comes to inspect. If you are found not to have met the sponsor duties, your A-grade will become a B-grade and your Sponsor Licence will be suspended.

B-grades can be reverted back to A-grades. This is done by following an ‘Action Plan’ laid out by the UK Visa and Immigration office.

A company can only have two B-grades in the four years a Sponsor Licence is valid for. If issues do not improve after the second Action Plan, the UKVI will revoke your licence. You could face fines and possible criminal charges if you choose to employ any more workers from outside the EEA after losing your licence.

How do I renew my Sponsor Licence?

You can renew your Tier 2 Sponsor Licence, provided you:

  • pass the Home Office audit;
  • can show you have the correct documentation (this includes working records of all sponsored employees);
  • keep the SMS up to date during your sponsorship; and
  • continue to meet and follow Home Office immigration standards and policies.

You can apply to renew your Sponsor Licence as many times as it takes to satisfy the Home Office. However, if you do not meet these requirements once your current licence has expired, you will need to make a fresh application.

More information on Sponsor Licence renewal.

Why was my Sponsor Licence application rejected?

After putting in the work for a Sponsor Licence application it can feel disappointing to receive a rejection. This can be especially disappointing for any workers you were interested in hiring as well.

You are no longer able to appeal a rejection of a Sponsor Licence application. You can, however, make amendments, or ‘fix mistakes’, to your current application.

Reasons a Sponsor Licence application can be refused:

  • False Documents
  • Unspent Criminal Convictions
  • You do not meet the requirements
  • There is no evidence that you trade in the UK

If your rejection letter states that you were not approved for any of these reasons, you will be subject to a six-month ‘cooling off period’. This time is for you to reassess your application and work out any other reasons you may have been rejected. You could also use this time to seek professional Tier 2 Sponsor guidance.

You may have had your Sponsor Licence refused because you failed the ‘genuine business test’. This is a recent system used by the Home Office to assess visas/immigration matters. The test looks at how genuine the company’s need for a foreign worker is. The Home Office will ask questions about how necessary the role is and what worth the employee’s input will have.

What services does IAS offer?

The Home Office is now placing a limit on the number of Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship issued to UK employers each year. Because of this, it is crucial that an application for a CoS is completed to the highest standard. IAS has a range of Immigration Consultancy services to ensure you are not employing foreign workers illegally.

To assist with your Sponsor Licence application, we will:

  • assess the role and individual you intend to hire to determine which type of Sponsor Licence is appropriate;
  • check all the details of your prospective employee(s) to ensure they qualify for a Tier 2 Visa;
  • check that the role(s) you want to fill is either on the UK Occupation Shortage List or that it has passed the Resident Labour Market Test;
  • ensure you are prepared for the ‘genuine business test’;
  • perform a document check to confirm you have sufficient documentation for your application;
  • prepare a Letter of Representation to accompany your application; and
  • complete your application form to the highest standard.

To maintain your A-grade licence rating, we will:

  • support your use of the Sponsorship Management System;
  • ensure your employees are working in the jobs outlined on their CoS;
  • Perform a full immigration audit to ensure everything is operating correctly;
  • Prepare you for any visits from UKVI.

Call us on 0333 363 8577 or use our online enquiry form for personalised Tier 2 Sponsor Licence guidance from one of our expert lawyers.

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