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Sponsor Licence Application

A sponsor licence (previously known as a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence) is required by any UK employer planning to employ workers from overseas.

Contact our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or complete our enquiry form to discuss your sponsor licence application.

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What is a sponsor licence?

A sponsor licence (Tier 2 Sponsor Licence) is required by any UK employer planning to employ workers from overseas. With a sponsor licence, UK based businesses are able to issue Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to eligible international workers coming to the UK on a work visa (e.g. Skilled Worker visa). As such, sponsor licences offer a valuable way to ensure that UK based businesses can recruit the staff they need from another country where needed. Sponsor licences are also required by educational establishments, including universities with international students.

The sponsor licence application process is strict, and keeping your Sponsor Licence requires committing to a rigorous compliance regime. Sponsor licence compliance involves ensuring that your HR processes and procedures run smoothly and effectively in accordance with the Home Office’s requirements.

Sponsor licences are issued for a period of 4 years, at which point employers need to apply for renewal.

For questions on any aspect of your sponsor licence, please contact our business immigration lawyers for a telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at info@reissedwards.co.uk.

Sponsor licence requirements

In order to be eligible for a sponsorship licence, the applying organisation must meet the following requirements:

  • Be genuine, operating, and trading lawfully in the UK
  • Be UK based
  • Not represent a threat to immigration control
  • Have key personnel who are “honest and dependable”
  • Have an adequate HR system in place that allows you to carry out your obligations as a licenced sponsor efficiently on an ongoing basis

Business eligibility requirements

Businesses applying for a sponsor licence must be genuine and legally operating in the UK as a PLC, LTD, LLP or Sole Trader. They must also hold the appropriate planning permission or the Local Planning Authority's consent for the type of business operated at the trading address.

Suitability requirements

As part of the sponsor licence application process, businesses need to show that they do not have unspent criminal convictions for previous immigration offences. They also need to satisfy the Home Office that they do not have any unspent convictions relating to crimes such as fraud or money laundering or have had a sponsor licence revoked in the last year. In addition, the Home Office must be satisfied that the Key Personnel named on the sponsor licence application are honest, dependable, and reliable. Key personnel refers to authorised officers and key contacts who will manage the sponsorship process.

Sponsorship management requirements

The Home Office must also be satisfied that the company requesting the sponsor licence is not only aware but is also capable of carrying out its sponsorship duties. In practical terms, meeting your sponsorship duties means that you must have a system and processes in place within your business to:

  • Ensure the proper use of the sponsorship management system (SMS)
  • Ensure that sponsored workers have the skills and meet the criteria for the UK sponsorship visa they will be applying for
  • Carry out right to work checks
  • Check and store certain documents relating to the recruitment of overseas workers
  • Reporting certain events to the Home Office – i.e. if a sponsored worker leaves or if there are certain changes to the business.

Under the current system, there is now no longer a requirement to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) to check if a local worker is available to perform the job before it is offered to an overseas worker.

Types of sponsor licence

There are two main types of sponsor licence available: worker licence and temporary worker licence. Businesses applying for a sponsor licence must specify which type they need when submitting their application and only recruit international staff for the type of licence they are granted.

Worker licence

A “Worker” licence is granted to employers who need to employ skilled international workers on a short time, long-term or permanent basis. Worker licences are available for a number of specific categories, including:

  • Skilled Worker – for workers who meet the skills and salary requirements
  • Senior or Specialist Worker Visa - for multinational organisations who wish to transfer existing employees to a branch or subsidiary in the UK (this replaced the Intra-company Transfer visa)
  • Minister of Religion - for international candidates coming to the UK to work for a religious organisation
  • International Sportsperson - for international elite sportspeople and coaches who wish to work in the UK

As part of the application process, businesses must specify which category of worker licence they require. Depending on your needs and eligibility, you can apply for multiple subcategories of worker licences.

Temporary worker licence

A “Temporary Worker” licence allows UK based employers to hire international staff on a short-term temporary basis, including volunteers. Temporary workers are available for several categories of workers as follows:

  • Creative Worker – for those in the creative industry (e.g. entertainers) coming to the UK for up to 2 years
  • Charity Worker - for unpaid workers working for a charitable organisation for up to 1 year
  • Religious Worker - for those employed by a UK religious order or organisation for up to 2 years
  • Government Authorised Exchange – for those coming to the UK for work experience for up to 1 year or working on research projects or training for up to 2 years (this scheme is to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge)
  • International Agreement – for international workers coming to the UK for a job related to an international agreement or law (e.g. for an overseas government)
  • Graduate Trainee (Global Business Mobility) – for international staff who are transferring to a UK branch of their employer under a graduate training programme
  • Service Supplier (Global Business Mobility) - for international workers coming to the UK to work on a contract to provide services for a UK company for up to 6 or 12 months
  • UK Expansion Worker (Global Business Mobility) - for international workers who have been sent to the UK to establish a new branch or subsidiary of an overseas business
  • Secondment Worker (Global Business Mobility) - for international workers who are transferring from overseas to work for a different UK business under a “high-value contract”
  • Seasonal Worker - for international workers coming to the UK to work in the area of “edible horticulture” for a period of up to 6 months (e.g. fruit and vegetable picking)

As part of the application process, businesses must specify which category of temporary worker licence they require. Depending on your needs and eligibility, you can apply for multiple subcategories of temporary worker licences.

How to apply for a sponsor licence

To become a sponsor, a business needs to complete a number of steps, as follows:

  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 “Key Personnel” (Authorising officer, Key contact, Level 1 user of the Sponsor Management System, and Level 2 user of the Sponsor Management System)
  4. Collate 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. Complete and submit the online application1
    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

Documents required for UK Visa Sponsorship

The Home Office publishes specific sponsor licence guidance outlining all of the possible documents that UK sponsor licence applicants may be required to submit2. In most cases, you will be asked to submit a minimum of 4 documents. The sponsor licence guidance states you may not need to send 4 documents if you are a public body recognised by the UK Government, such as a local authority or a company listed on the London Stock Exchange Main Market.

Depending on your business and the type of licence you require, you may be asked to submit some or all of the following documents (please note this list is not exhaustive and is only a small sample of the possible documents you may be asked to provide):

  • Evidence that your business is genuine and active – e.g. accounts for the most recent financial year
  • Copies of contracts for goods or services covering at least the 12-month period before the date of application
  • Evidence you have a current corporate bank account with a bank registered by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority in the UK
  • VAT registration certificate
  • Franchise Agreement
  • Evidence of registration
  • Endorsement from a governing body
  • For religious worker sponsorship - details of your parent organisation and how you are connected to them, where applicable; a hierarchy chart, where applicable, that shows where you are in the hierarchy; the size of your adult congregation; the number of the clergy you currently employ, where applicable addresses of your regular meeting places; and your scheduled days and hours of worship.
  • Proof of connection to a qualifying overseas business by common ownership or control or through a joint venture agreement
  • Evidence of your graduate training programme
  • Proof of your UK ‘footprint’
  • Evidence of your overseas trading presence
  • Evidence of your planned expansion to the UK

Sponsor licence costs

The sponsor licence application fees are as follows:

Type of licence

Small or charitable sponsors

Medium or large sponsors

Worker licence

£536

£1,476

Temporary Worker licence

£536

£536

Worker and Temporary Worker licence

£536

£ 1,476

Adding a Worker licence to an existing Temporary Worker licence

No cost

£940

Adding a Temporary Worker licence to an existing Worker licence

No cost

No cost

To be classed as a small or charitable sponsor, your business must meet at least two of the following criteria:

  • Have an annual turnover of £10.2 million or less
  • Have total assets of £5.1 million or less
  • Have 50 employees or less

For more information about the cost, please see our article: UK Work Visa Sponsorship Costs for Employers

Certificate of Sponsorship

A sponsor licence number is a unique reference number included on a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) used by an overseas worker when applying for a work visa. A CoS is an electronic document containing important information about the job offer, including the type of job and the duration of the employment.

A nominated person within your organisation can apply for CoS using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). If approved by the Home Office (typically within 1 day), the CoS can then be issued to the overseas Worker to prove they have been offered a job, which they can then use to apply for a work visa.

A CoS costs between £21 and £199 depending on the type of licence held.

Sponsor licence application refused

There are several reasons why a sponsor licence may be refused, including:

  • Not meeting the sponsor licence compliance requirements
  • Failure to respond in a timely manner to the Home Office’s enquiries
  • Concerns that your application is not genuine
  • Unspent criminal convictions
  • Providing incorrect or false information
  • Cooling-off period following a sponsor licence application refusal

If your sponsor licence is refused, contact our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at info@reissedwards.co.uk.

References

1 GOV.UK: Online application for Sponsor licence

2 GOV.UK: Supporting documents for sponsor licence

Frequently Asked Questions

  • In most cases, sponsor licence applications are processed within 2 months. If you require a faster decision, you may be able to pay £500 for a decision within 10 working days. The Home Office limits the number of these priority applications (a limited number are made available each day and are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis). Once you have submitted your application, you will be advised if you can use the priority application service and how to do so.
  • Sponsor licences are issued for a period of 4 years, at which point employers need to apply for renewal.
  • An employer's sponsor licence can be rated either 'A' or 'B'. Businesses granted a new employer sponsorship licence will be A-rated. Later, where the Home Office has concerns that a business is not adhering to its sponsorship duties, it may downgrade a sponsor to a B rating. This means that they are unable to issue any new Certificates of Sponsorship and need to demonstrate to the Home Office that they have made any improvements requested before their A-rating can be regained. If a sponsor licence holder is downgraded to a B-rating and they do not prove to the Home Office that all compliance issues have been addressed, they may have their licence revoked entirely. In this situation, any sponsored workers would have their leave curtailed (shortened). It is imperative to engage the services of an immigration Solicitor who can help you to regain your sponsor licence.

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