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The Tier 2 sponsor licence process explained step by step.

If you are an employer, you may need to apply for a licence if you want to offer a job to a person who does not have a British or European passport. The following are examples of when a business needs a Tier 2 sponsor licence;

  • A non-British or European national working for you on a visa expected to expire in the near future. This includes but is not limited to students and those with dependant visas;
  • The business has advertised a job role to the UK labour market and have found the best candidate to need a visa to remain in the UK;

How can I sponsor my preferred candidate?

Sponsoring someone refers to offering your preferred candidate a position within your establishment. Before you consider applying for a licence, you need to determine that the role that you are recruiting for is skilled. If it is not, you cannot offer sponsorship. The Home Office define a job role as being skilled if it meets NQF level 6 or above. Click here for a table known as the Standard Occupation Codes ('SOC'). This table lists most job titles confirming what NQF level they are, also listing the minimum salary related to the role. These codes often change and at the time of writing, the link included was the most up to date.

If the job you are recruiting for is below NQF level 6 you can only sponsor the migrant if the job title can be found on the shortage occupation list, which you can see by clicking here.

The SOC and shortage occupation lists show the minimum salary for each job role. Generally speaking, the lowest salary that you will find on any given SOC is £20,500.

How do I apply for a licence?

Once you have established that your company needs a licence, you will need to;

  • Advertise the position using the job centre plus and another recruitment source; and
  • Apply for a licence using the online application form; and
  • Send documents to the Home Office as listed on the application form completed.

If a candidate is in the UK and has been on a student visa known as a Tier 4 visa, you may not need to advertise the job role before applying for a licence.

Once the online application has been submitted, the Home Office take in the region of 6 weeks to make a decision to issue a licence. If your business is regulated by an independent body such as the Solicitors Regulations Authority, this can reduce the processing time by half.

Will the Home Office visit my business before approving my licence?

The Home Office may visit your office branch before making a decision. They are likely to visit you if you are a start-up to check your human resources system. They may visit even if you have been trading for some time, although this is less likely. If your application is approved, you will have a sponsorship licence for 4 years which is renewable at the end of this term.

Your licence can be used for more than one candidate as long as you are able to maintain a reasonable HR system. A HR system does not need to be an entire department. It can be as simple as a folder including information about each employee. Examples of the type of detail includes; when the migrant's visa is due to expires, a copy of their passport and details or working hours.

What is a Certificate of Sponsorship ('COS')?

A nominated person within your organisation will be given access to on online portal which is used to keep the Home Office updated and to request the right to offer a position to a migrant. You or a nominated person will use the online portal to request a Certificate of Sponsorship ('COS'), which is a unique reference used to apply for the right to work.

If the candidate that you have decided to recruit holds a Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 1 visa, they may be able to apply from inside the UK for their visa to work with you. Requesting a COS in this situation is quicker than if requesting for candidates that have to leave to make an application. The Home Office may request evidence regarding the advertising process following a COS request.

If your candidate is based outside of the UK or does not hold a visa that allows them to apply from inside the UK, they will need to apply in their country of residence or nationality. COS request's made outside of the UK are decided by a panel of the Home Office. The panel make decisions from the 5th of each month. This may be important to the timeline of when you can employ a migrant. You will need to wait until the 5th of each month before a COS will be considered. The decision to issue a COS can take a further 10 working days from the 5th and the Home Office may ask for evidence before making a decision.

A Tier 2 General visa can be issued from as little as 1 year to a total of 6 years and leads to the right of permanent residence known as ILR. When request a COS, you nominated how many years you want the COS to be valid for.

The team at Reiss Edwards consists of some of London's leading sponsor licence lawyers. If you require expert legal advice on obtaining a sponsor licence or recruiting a Non-EEA national please call us on 020 3744 2797.

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