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UK Visa Sponsorship for Employers - Types of Licence, Requirements and Eligibility

The dust has started to settle on the historical dismantling of political ties between the EU and the UK. There is likely a long road ahead in terms of stabilising trade and customs cooperation between the two, which at present seems somewhat fragile. For employers in the UK, one of the biggest impacts of Brexit is that they can no longer hire EU workers without a considerable amount of red tape. Gone are the days when an EU worker can simply arrive at the UK border and be permitted entry to live and work here without restrictions. EU workers are now treated the same as any other migrant worker from around the world, requiring a job offer from a licenced sponsor in the UK and a work visa. In this article, we will outline how employers can acquire a sponsor licence, the types of licences available, and the requirements and eligibility rules which apply.

What Are The Types Of Sponsor Licence Available To Employers In The UK?

There are two types of sponsor licence available to UK employers, one for long term employment (this is referred to as the ‘worker’ licence) and one for short term or temporary employment. When applying for your licence, you will need to specify which type you need (it is possible to have both).

Worker Licence

The worker licence is used by businesses who know that they need to recruit for the long-term or even permanently. You should apply for this visa type if the non-UK staff you hire will need one of the following visa types:

The main route for the majority of migrant workers is the Skilled Worker visa. Under this visa, your business will be able to hire non-UK staff as long as the role they are filling has a skill level of RQF level 3 (this is A-level equivalent or higher).

Temporary/Short-Term Worker Licence

The temporary worker licence is intended to allow businesses to recruit staff from outside the UK on a short-term basis. While the words ‘short-term’ are used, in some cases, it is possible to hire staff for up to two years. You will need to apply for this licence type if you are hiring non-UK staff for any of the following visa types:

  • Tier 5 Seasonal Worker visa - for those coming to the UK for up to two months to do farm work – such as packing and picking of produce
  • Tier 5 Charity Worker visa – these must be unpaid workers (up to two years)
  • Tier 5 Creative or Sporting Worker visa – for high-level sportspeople (up to one years) and entertainers or artists (up to two years)
  • Tier 5 Religious Worker visa (two years)
  • Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange Worker visa - work experience (one year), research projects or training, for example, practical medical or scientific training (two years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge
  • Tier 5 International Agreement Worker visa - where the worker is coming to do a job under international law, e.g. as an employee of an overseas government

What Are The Requirements And Eligibility Criteria For A Sponsor Licence In The UK?

When applying for a sponsor licence in the UK, regardless of the type, you will need to satisfy the Home Office that you do not have any unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or for other crimes, including fraud or money laundering. They will also check if you have held a sponsor licence in the past year, and if so, it was not suspended or revoked in this period. Licences can be revoked or suspended if the Home Office has strong evidence that businesses are not adhering to their compliance requirements.

The next set of criteria your application for a sponsor licence will be assessed on is your readiness to sponsor migrant workers. The Home Office defines a set of rules which sponsor licence holders must abide by at all times. To satisfy the Home Office of this, you will need to ensure that before submitting your application, you have processes and systems in place to:

  • Keep accurate and up to date records on your sponsored staff, including key documents such as the right to work checks, identity documents, and qualifications
  • You only recruit migrant workers with the skills necessary to perform the role they are being hired for
  • The roles that migrant workers are being hired for has a skill level of RQF level three or higher
  • You report to the Home Office any changes in circumstances (such as if the nature of your business changes, a sponsored employee leaves, or if a sponsored employee has a long unauthorised absence).
  • You keep the Home Office’s Sponsor Management System (SMS) up to date

You can expect to receive a visit from the Home Office to ensure that your business is ready to hire migrant workers – this is referred to as a pre-compliance visit. Only if they can see that you have put in place the necessary systems and processes to meet the requirements listed above will they grant a sponsor licence.

Final Words

If your business is new to sponsoring international workers, it is highly recommended that you engage the services of an immigration Solicitor. Immigration Lawyers are well versed in auditing the preparedness and compliance of small, medium, and large businesses for a compliance visit from the Home Office. They can also undertake mock audits through the life of your licence to ensure ongoing compliance. And where any gaps or issues are identified, they will recommend practical solutions to meet the compliance requirements of your sponsor licence.

Related article

What's The Best Way To Find A Sponsorship And Get A Tier 2 Visa In The UK?

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