Skilled Worker & Sponsor Licence Visa Processing Times
As a result of Brexit and the ending of free movement between the EU and the UK, more businesses than ever are applying for a sponsor licence to allow them to recruit staff from overseas. This is even more so now because of the rapid economic recovery the UK is experiencing and is expected to see in the coming months. The latest economic projections for the UK make for exciting reading. Not only has the highly influential EY Item Club upgraded its GDP forecast from 5% to 6.8%, but the chief economist at Deloitte, Ian Stewart, has also stated publicly that he is expecting a substantial ‘snapback in consumer activity; “The UK is primed for a sharp snapback in consumer activity...High levels of saving, the successful vaccination rollout and the easing of the lockdown set the stage for a surge in spending over the coming months”. While the future looks robust in many industry sectors in the UK, the challenge for businesses is finding enough staff. It is not just the hospitality and care sector (which historically have been heavily reliant on European staff) that are dealing with a lack of workers, professional skills are also in short supply, especially in the UK, including in the fields of medicine and digital technology. For these reasons and more, sponsorship of workers from within and outside the EU is expected to play a vital role in filling the UK’s emerging skills gap. In this article, we will discuss the processing times both for Skilled Worker visas and Skilled Worker sponsor licences.
What is a Skilled Worker sponsor licence?
A Skilled Worker sponsor license is one of four types of ‘worker licence’, enabling UK businesses to recruit workers from overseas in eligible occupations. In addition to the Skilled Worker sponsor licence, the Home Office also offers Intra-Company Transfer, Minister of Religion, and Sportsperson sponsor licences. There is also a separate category of sponsor licences for shorter-term temporary workers for the following:
- Creative or Sporting Workers
- Charity Workers
- Religious Workers
- Government Authorised Exchange Workers
- International Agreement Workers
- Seasonal Workers
Businesses can apply for one or a mix of different types of sponsor licence depending on their recruitment requirements. In order to acquire a sponsor licence, organisations need to submit an online application to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), provide supporting documents, and in some cases undergo a pre-licence compliance visit. The pre-licence compliance visit is carried out by a UKVI compliance officer to check that the business applying for a sponsor licence has the necessary people, processes, and systems in place to meet its sponsorship duties. These include record keeping, sponsoring only suitable authorised workers for genuine eligible roles, and reporting information and changes in circumstances to UKVI in a timely manner.
What Is A UK Skilled Worker Visa?
The Skilled Worker visa is granted to overseas sponsored workers and gives them permission to enter at the UK border and remain for a set duration (up to five years depending on the length of the employment contract). The visa can be further extended just prior to expiry, or the holder may wish to apply for indefinite leave to remain after a qualifying period of five continuous years in the UK. The Skilled Worker visa is only granted to migrants with:
- A job offer for a role on the list of eligible jobs from a UK employer with a sponsor licence (the licence must be A-rated)
- A ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from the UK employer
- The skills, experience, and qualifications necessary to perform the role
- A salary that meets the minimum requirements (this depends on the type of role being undertaken)
- Has sufficient English language skills
How Long Does It Take To Secure A Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence?
The current guidance issued by UKVI confirms that they aim to process 80% of applications for a sponsor licence within eight weeks. This can be reduced to ten working days by paying an additional £500 for the priority processing service. If the priority service is available to you, this will be explained after you have completed the online application process.
To make sure that your sponsor licence application is not delayed, it is important to ensure:
- You have provided all of the details required in the application form both fully and accurately
- You have paid the necessary application fee
- All additional supporting documents required are provided, and;
- Most importantly, you ensure that your business is ready for a compliance visit (Immigration Solicitors can carry out a mock audit to check whether your business is compliant before you are visited by UKVI)
How Long Does It Take To Secure A Skilled Worker Visa?
The length of time it takes to process your Skilled Worker visa will depend on where you apply, as follows:
- Three weeks for applications submitted outside the UK
- Eight weeks for applications submitted inside the UK
It is important to note that these timescales are from when you have attended your appointment at a visa application office where you live (to validate your identity and supply your biometrics – i.e. photo, fingerprints) or used the ID check app, not from the date you apply. Depending on which country you are applying from, for an additional cost, you may be able to use the priority processing service (for a decision within five working days) or the super-priority processing service (for a decision on the next working day). We recommend checking the website for the visa application centre in your country to see if these faster processing services are available to you.
As specialists in global mobility and immigration, we are regularly asked to intervene in Skilled Worker sponsor licence and visa applications that have been refused or delayed. In the large majority of cases, refusals occur because UKVI believes that the applicant does not meet the eligibility criteria or because insufficient information has not been provided. By engaging an immigration lawyer to handle your sponsor licence or visa application, you can be assured that any potential barriers will be overcome, and you will receive a positive decision on your matter in the shortest possible time.
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