Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence Application - Top Tips
Across the UK, thousands of businesses are desperately endeavouring to find skilled staff to fill vacancies. The shortage of skills is partially due to the ending of the free movement of workers between the UK and the EU following Brexit. In other cases, shortages are the result of growing in-demand sectors for which there is a general lack of skilled workers in the UK – for example, in the healthcare and IT sectors. To resolve the issue, more businesses than ever are applying for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence from the Home Office to enable them to sponsor foreign nationals to work in the UK. Part of our role as specialists in immigration law and global mobility is helping small, medium, and large organisations to acquire a sponsor licence as quickly as possible and (just as important) to retain it for as long as is needed. In this article, we will provide some of our top tips for Skilled Worker sponsor licence applicants to ensure they receive a positive decision in the shortest possible time.
Tip 1) Before You Apply, Check The Eligibility And Suitability Requirements Of A Sponsor
We see many cases whereby sponsor licence applicants have been refused because they have not checked the eligibility and suitability requirements of a sponsor licence holder beforehand. These are documented in detail in the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) guidance for sponsors and include the following:
- You must provide all of the documents required in Appendix A of the sponsor guidance.
- Your business must have a trading presence in the UK.
- Your business has the HR systems in place to manage sponsored workers – the importance of this requirement cannot be overstated. For this reason, all applicants should read the UKVI Part 3: Sponsor Duties and Compliance requirements and put in place the necessary business systems
- you meet the specific requirements of the route, or routes, in which you are applying to be licensed
- you don’t have any unspent criminal convictions or civil penalties
- there is no evidence of the previous non-compliance by you
- you don’t pose a threat to immigration control or have engaged or are engaging in behaviour or actions that are not conducive to the public good, or evidence from a public body of your lack of compliance with their rules
Tip 2) Engage An Immigration Solicitor To Handle The Process
Understandably, many readers will say, “well, you would say that”, but immigration Solicitors stake their reputation on achieving the goals of their clients. They also have the benefit of seeing clients who have attempted to apply themselves and have been rejected and, therefore, understand what UKVI are looking for. Another reason to engage an immigration lawyer is that they will get to know your business which will allow them to help you adhere to the compliance requirements on an ongoing basis (including carrying out regular sponsor licence compliance mock audits of your business). Remember, it is not sufficient just to acquire a sponsor licence; if you don’t meet the duties and responsibilities of a licence holder, you risk losing the licence and your sponsored workers at any point.
Tip 4) Where Possible, Invest In An Electronic System To Help You Manage Sponsored Workers
In order to successfully gain a sponsor licence, UKVI will ask for evidence during a pre-licence compliance visit that you have the necessary systems, people, and processes in place to meet the overall duties of a sponsor licence holder, including reporting and record-keeping requirements. The systems you use (for example, to keep records of the contact and visa details of sponsored workers) can be either paper-based or electronic. The larger and more complex your organisation, the more you may benefit from an electronic system that enables staff in any location to access and update the necessary records and information on sponsored workers. And crucially, if implemented properly, this will help your business to remain compliant. A new system may not be necessary as you may be able to utilise your existing HR system for this purpose. If time is of the essence, you can start with a simplified paper-based system to secure your licence and then switch to an electronic system later.
Tip 5) Put In Place A Calendar/Diary System To Ensure Your Staff Adhere To The Sponsor Duties
In line with tip three, we recommend putting in place a diary/reminder system to help your staff keep track of sponsored workers. This is important because sponsor licence holders risk losing their right to employ overseas staff if they employ an illegal worker, even if this happens inadvertently. UKVI will want to see you have some way of keeping track of the visa status of sponsored workers to avoid any possibility that you keep employing them after their visa has expired. A paper-based or electronic reminder system should be put in place to alert those responsible for managing sponsored workers to check in with them at set intervals before their visa expires (e.g. three months, two months, and one month before the expiry date). The staff member will need to ascertain the intentions of the sponsored worker – i.e. do they intend to leave the country, switch to another employer, or apply for an extension. Whether they do intend to leave, extend, or move employers, they must do this before their visa expires, and the employer needs to update the sponsorship management system (SMS) accordingly.
Given the importance of securing and retaining a sponsor licence, it is important to focus on the details of the various requirements and criteria which a UKVI case officer will take into account when you apply. Their ultimate aim is to check that you will play your role in keeping the UK’s sponsorship system free from misuse and that you have the necessary checks and balances in place to ensure this is the case. If you need any assistance with your application or to verify if your systems and processes are sufficient to meet UKVI’s requirements, speak to an Immigration Solicitor who will be able to check these for you and advise if there are any gaps that need to be filled.