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An Employers Guide To Obtaining A UK Sponsor Licence

Attracting and retaining talent is a constant challenge for many businesses. Often, people who have the right skills and qualifications reside outside the EEA. To hire workers from non-EEA countries on a Tier 2 or 5 visa, you will need a valid UK Sponsor Licence.

The application process is strict and keeping your Sponsor Licence requires committing to a rigorous compliance regime which requires that your HR processes and procedures run smoothly and effectively.

Over the next two weeks, we will be blogging about applying for and maintaining a UK Sponsor Licence. In addition, we will discuss the steps that a Sponsor Licence holder must take to employ a foreign worker.

This article details how to apply for a UK Sponsor Licence and the processes and procedures you must put in place to ensure you meet the compliance requirements.

It is important to note that being granted a Sponsor Licence does not automatically mean that the international recruit will be granted a Tier 2 or 5 visa.

How the issuing of UK Sponsor Licences are regulated

The eligibility and suitability criteria for obtaining a sponsor licence are not found in statute law nor in the Immigration Rules; they are mainly contained within the long and regularly changing Sponsor Guidance for Tiers 2 and 5 (SG), and in the supplementary guidance on the UK Visas and Immigration pages of the GOV.UK website.

The key principles are that a potential sponsor must:

  • be genuine and operating or trading lawfully in the UK
  • be based in the UK
  • hold the appropriate planning permission or Local Planning Authority consent for the type of business operated at the trading address
  • be 'honest, dependable and '
  • not represent a threat to immigration control, and
  • be willing and able to comply with the sponsor duties and responsibilities

The application procedure

When applying for a Sponsor Licence under Tiers 2 and 5, a business will work through the following process:

  1. decide which categories/tiers it wishes to include on its licence
  2. assess its eligibility and suitability for each category/tier and make any relevant changes to its HR systems
  3. decide who will be the 'Key Personnel'
  4. get together the appropriate documents for submission with the application
  5. decide how many Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) it wishes to request for the first year of the licence
  6. submit the online application and hard-copy documents to the Home Office
  7. where relevant, prepare for and attend the Home Office site visit to the organisation's offices
  8. receive the decision

Key Personnel and HR processes

Organisations applying for a Sponsor Licence must decide who in their organisation will take on the following roles:

  • Authorising officer
  • Key contact
  • Level 1 user of the Sponsor Management System
  • Level 2 user of the Sponsor Management System

These roles can be fulfilled by the same person. An immigration solicitor can act as a Key Contact, and Level 1 and 2 user but at least one member of staff must be a Level 1 user of the Sponsor Management System.

There must always be an Authorising Officer, Key Contact and Level 1 user in place; it is important to be mindful of this if staff members holding these positions leave the organisation.

There are a several reporting and record-keeping duties that must be complied with to ensure your Sponsor Licence maintains its 'A' rating. At application stage, it is imperative that your HR systems are up-to-date, organised and able to cope with the additional duties required after your business has been granted a Sponsor Licence - these will be discussed in detail in a later post;

Support for your Tier 2 and 5 Sponsor Licence application process

Most organisations find it beneficial to invest in a consultant who understands immigration law and the decision-making processes of immigration officials when making an application for a Sponsor Licence. A consultant can assist you by:

  • help you decide the type of international recruitment that will benefit your business; for example, should you bring in new talent via an intra-company transfer or Tier 2 (General) visa?
  • assessing your current HR systems and putting a strategy in place for ensuring they meet the compliance requirements for Sponsor Licence
  • preparing your application and collating the necessary supporting documentation
  • train key personnel on the compliance requirements that come with a Sponsor Licence
  • perform regular mock audits to ensure your HR processes and procedures are up-to-date, and you would pass any 'surprise' assessment visit by the Home Office

In summary

Obtaining a Sponsor Licence for your organisation is an exciting move forward. If granted, it can provide your business with the ability to recruit talent from all over the globe, a move that can provide the skills and expertise needed to drive your company forward.

In our next blog, we will be discussing the compliance requirements of a Sponsor Licence and how to ensure you maintain your 'A' rating

The team at Reiss Edwards consists of some of London's leading immigration lawyers. If you require expert legal advice on obtaining a UK Tier 2 and 5 Sponsor Licence, please call us on 020 3744 2797.


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