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How Employers Can Sponsor a Work Visa in 2021

If your business is considering sponsoring overseas workers in the UK in 2021, it is important to understand the end to end process to maximise your chances of success. By taking a careful and systematic approach, you will be able to secure the permission you need to take on workers from anywhere in the world. Due to Brexit, which brought to an end free movement between the UK and the EU, many businesses in the UK either have or are soon to request the permission they need from the Home Office to recruit from overseas. To sponsor workers from outside of the UK, your business will need to apply for and acquire a sponsor licence for the type of employees you require. In this article, we will explain the type of sponsor licences available, the eligibility requirements, and the application timeframes in 2021.

What Types Of Sponsor Licence Does The Home Office Offer?

There are two main categories of sponsor licence, each with its own sub-categories; these include:

Worker sponsor licences

Worker licenses enable businesses to recruit staff from outside of the UK on a long-term basis. The types available are:

  • Skilled Worker – this is the main work visa route in the UK and is for roles that require skills equivalent to RQF level 3 or higher
  • Intra-company visas - this includes Intra-company Transfer and Intra-company Graduate Trainee visas for multinational companies which need to transfer established employees or graduate trainees to the UK
  • Minister of Religion - for people coming to work for a religious organisation
  • Sportsperson - for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK

Temporary Worker sponsor licence

This type of licence is intended to allow businesses in the UK to recruit overseas nationals on a temporary basis. The types available are:

  • Creative or Sporting Worker – for high-level sportsperson, entertainers or artists
  • Charity Worker (unpaid work)
  • Religious Worker – for those in a religious order or organisation
  • Government Authorised Exchange Worker
  • International Agreement Worker – this is available for workers coming to do a job that is covered by international law
  • Seasonal Worker (for up to six months)

Is My Business Eligible For A Sponsor Licence?

The Home Office guidance states that applicants must not have either any unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering, or have had a sponsor licence revoked in the last year prior to applying. Either of these will lead to your application being refused.

The main requirement is that you have the people, processes, and systems in place within your business to properly manage the sponsorship process. In many cases, businesses will receive a pre-licence compliance visit from the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) compliance team to check that you have the necessary elements in place to meet your sponsor licence duties and obligations.

What Are The Duties And Obligations Of A Sponsor Licence Holder?

To be granted and retain your sponsor licence, the Home Office will verify that your business:

  • Is able to check that any overseas workers you sponsor have the necessary skills, qualifications or professional accreditations to do their jobs. You must keep copies of documents showing this
  • Only assign certificates of sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship
  • Informs UKVI if there are any significant changes in circumstances – both for the business and for sponsored employees.

To monitor your sponsored staff in accordance with the Home Office rules, you must:

  • monitor your employees’ immigration status at all time – this is to ensure that you do not end up employing someone whose visa has expired or who does not have the necessary visa clearance to work in the UK. Either of these situations may lead to your sponsor licence being downgraded or revoked.
  • retain copies of relevant documents for each employee, including passport and right to work information – UKVI will want to see you have a system (paper-based or electronic) for this. In future compliance visits, they will check that you are keeping the necessary documents and these are up to date.
  • track and record employees’ attendance – in certain circumstances, you may need to report any prolonged unauthorised absences to the Home Office through the Sponsor Management System (SMS)
  • keep employee contact details up to date – again, during future compliance visits, the Home Office will check you are keeping up to date contact details. They will often interview sponsored employees and ask them for their contact details and cross-reference these against your records.
  • Report to UKVI if there is a change of circumstances or there is a problem – this may include situations such as if the employee does not arrive for work on day one, prolonged unauthorised absences, or if they decide to leave your organisation. Likewise, if there are any significant changes in your business, such as if you change your business name, you become insolvent, you change the nature of your business, you switch from a charitable business to a non-charitable business, or if the business is sold or merges with another, you will need to advise UKVI.

Other Considerations When Sponsoring A Work Visa

Bear in mind that you may need to pay £199 each time you issue a certificate of sponsorship (this is £21 for temporary workers), and the immigration skills charge (this ranges from £364 to £1,000 depending on whether you are classed as a small or charitable sponsor or a medium/larger business) for each person you sponsor. In addition, you will also need to pay the application fee for a sponsor licence; this ranges from £536 to £1,476.

It takes in the region of eight weeks to receive a decision on a sponsor licence application in most cases, however, it is also possible to secure a decision within five working days if you pay an extra £500 for priority processing.

Summing Up

The UK sponsor licence offers a gateway to sponsoring long-term and permanent staff from all over the world. The scheme is now playing a central role in the recruitment strategy of many businesses in the UK which is struggling to find suitable staff. If you need any help with preparing for and applying for your sponsor licence, speak to an Immigration Solicitor in the UK who will be able to advise you on the end to end process, and if you require, complete much of the process on your behalf.

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