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PBS Licence (Employer FAQs)

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If you are a UK employer looking to sponsor a migrant worker from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you will need to apply for a sponsor licence under the UK points-based system (PBS). Our business immigration specialists answer some frequently asked questions from employers about applying for and maintaining a ‘PBS licence’.


What is a PBS licence?

A PBS licence is required by any UK employer looking to hire non-EEA migrant workers under Tier 2 and/or Tier 5 of the points-based system.

Tier 2 is the main immigration route for skilled non-EEA nationals, while Tier 5 is for skilled temporary work or an exchange scheme. The type of licence you need will depend on whether the workers you want to fill your jobs are skilled workers with short or long-term job offers, or skilled temporary workers. You can apply for a licence covering either tier or both.

The PBS licence is required to demonstrate the following:

  • Where appropriate, that the migrant will fill a genuine vacancy that cannot be filled by a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker.
  • That the sponsoring employer agrees to meet all of the duties and obligations associated with sponsoring a migrant.


Is my company eligible for a licence?

To be eligible for a PBS licence your organisation will need to be both genuine and operating lawfully within the UK. You will be required to provide various documents in support of these criteria from what’s known as Appendix A of the guidance for sponsors.

Further, when submitting the application for a sponsorship licence, you will be required to nominate key personnel to undertake the duties and obligations required under the licence. As such, these individuals must be honest, dependable and reliable, without any history of immigration violations or any unspent criminal convictions for a relevant offence.

You must also be able to show that the organisation has adequate human resource systems in place to meet the necessary sponsorship duties and obligations, for example, reporting any migrant activities.


How do you apply for a PBS licence?

You can apply for a PBS licence online, submitting all the necessary documentation in support within a period of five days.

You will need at least four supporting documents from Appendix A, although in many cases you will also require additional documents depending on the PBS category that you seek the licence for, for example, Tier 2 or 5.

In the event that you are unable to provide the necessary documentation to support your application for a sponsor licence, you risk your application being significantly delayed or even denied.


How much does it cost to apply for a PBS licence?

The cost of applying for a PBS licence can vary depending on the size of your organisation. For a small or charitable organisation, ie; with an annual turnover of less then £10.2 million and 50 or fewer employees, the fee is £536. For a medium sized or large organisation the fee is £1,476.

You can also sign up for what’s known as the premium sponsor scheme to receive enhanced support with a dedicated account manager. The fees here can range up to £25,000.


What is a certificate of sponsorship?

Having been granted a PBS licence you are able to assign individual certificates of sponsorship to each prospective worker. This is an electronic record and contains a unique reference number.

Whilst this certificate does not guarantee entry into the UK, the number is necessary to enable the worker to apply for the relevant PBS visa.

The cost of assigning certificates of sponsorship under a sponsorship licence is £199 for Tier 2 workers and £21 for Tier 5 workers. There is no charge to issue certificates of sponsorship for citizens of Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey.

You may also be liable to pay what’s known as the Immigration Skills Charge when you sponsor a Tier 2 migrant worker, although the level of charge here will again depend upon the size of your organisation.

The PBS licence and any certificate assigned under it, does not automatically permit a prospective migrant worker to enter the UK.

Having been assigned a certificate the worker must make an application for a PBS visa, satisfying all the relevant requirements, including the English language requirement and maintenance requirement, ie; have sufficient funds to support themselves on their arrival in the UK.

This can be way of savings in a bank account or a guarantee from you, as their new employer, that you will support them.


PBS licence compliance

There are various ongoing requirements under a sponsorship licence, mainly to ensure that the system is not abused. In particular, sponsoring employers are required to comply with the following duties:

  • Only assign certificates of sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship.
  • Check that any migrant workers have the necessary skills, qualifications or professional accreditations to do their jobs, and keep copies of documents showing this.
  • Keep up-to-date records of all migrant workers.
  • Report certain employee activities to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) if your workers are not complying with the conditions of their visa, such as non-attendance at work.
  • Carry out right to work checks on employees to ensure that they are entitled to be in the UK and undertake the job in question.

Any failure to comply with these duties can result in your sponsor licence being downgraded, suspended or revoked.


How long does a PBS licence last?

A PBS licence, save except where it is revoked or surrendered, will typically run for a period of four years.

If you fail to fulfil your duties under the sponsorship licence it may be downgraded, suspended or revoked. If your licence is downgraded, from an “A” to a “B” rating, you will need to pay for an action plan to help recover your initial status at a cost of £1,476.

In the event that your licence is due to expire, you will need to renew your licence by way of fresh application, paying the same fees as with the initial application.


What are the skill & salary requirements under a PBS licence?

Having applied for and been granted a PBS licence, any job role that is offered to a prospective non-EEA migrant worker must meet the relevant skill and salary requirements under the points-based system.

By way of example, for a Tier 2 (General) visa the job will usually need to be Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6 or above. In a creative sector occupation, or for a job that appears on the list of shortage occupations, the job must be skilled to RQF level 4.

In most cases the minimum salary requirement is at least £20,800 per annum for ‘new entrants’ or £30,000 for ‘experienced workers’ – or the appropriate rate for the particular job on offer, whichever is higher.

The appropriate rates of pay for each occupation are set out in Codes of Practice for skilled work under the Immigration Rules.

The certificate of sponsorship assigned under the PBS licence must confirm that the job is at the required skill level and that the migrant worker will be paid at or above the appropriate rate for the job.

You may also need to advertise the job you are offering if it does not appear on the shortage occupation list. This is known as carrying out the ‘resident labour market test’. Again, where appropriate, you must specify on the certificate of sponsorship where these requirements have been met.


Need help with a PBS licence application?

The provisions relating to PBS licences can be both complex and subject to change. By seeking expert legal advice from an immigration law specialist, you can feel confident that your application will not be subject to any unnecessary delay caused by errors or omissions.

As business immigration lawyers, DavidsonMorris can assist with your PBS licence application, with advice on supporting documentation and compliance with duties as a PBS licence holder.

For advice on PBS licence application or hiring under the Tier 2 visa route, contact us.


PBS licence FAQs


What is a Tier 2 visa?

The tier 2 visa is for eligible nationals of non-EEA countries who have been offered a qualifying skilled job in the UK by a licensed UK employer (‘sponsor’).

Does my company need a PBS licence?

If your organisation is looking to hire non-EEA nationals under the Tier 2 visa route, it must have been granted a PBS licence by the Home Office.

How long is a Tier 2 visa valid for?

The Tier 2 (General) visa is granted for a stay of up to 5 years and 14 days, or the time specified on the certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month, whichever is shorter.

How long does a PBS licence last?

A sponsor licence is issued for four years. To retain your organisation’s permission to lawfully hire PBS workers, you will need to apply to renew the licence in advance of its expiry.

How can DavidsonMorris help?

DavidsonMorris are a team of UK immigration lawyers specialising in helping employers meet their immigration needs. Providing expert guidance on PBS licence applications, we can support your organisation in making a compelling and comprehensive licence application to the Home Office, with advice on supporting documents and preparing for a site inspection.

Last updated: 7th January 2020

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