Sponsoring skilled overseas workers can provide your business with significant benefits, not least being able to widen the pool of talent from which to recruit the best and brightest from around the world. However, there are various costs associated with the sponsorship process that need to be factored into your overall budget when it comes to recruitment.
The following guide looks at the costs associated with applying for and managing a sponsor licence, including the sponsor licence application fee and the fees for assigning Certificates of Sponsorship to sponsored workers, together with the immigration skills charge, where applicable. We also look at the fees for the optional premium services on offer to employers.
How much is the sponsor licence fee?
The sponsor licence fee will depend on the type of licence that you are applying for, as well as the size and charitable status of your UK-based organisation. For sponsor licence fee purposes, there are two types of licence: a ‘Worker’ and ‘Temporary Worker’ licence.
The ‘Worker’ sponsor licence will allow you to recruit migrant workers in various different types of skilled employment in the UK, typically in long-term roles, such as the Skilled Worker route, as well as the Senior or Specialist Worker route under the Global Business Mobility (GBM) umbrella. In contrast, the ‘Temporary Worker’ licence is to sponsor workers in more short-term roles, including the remaining four GBM routes which, for sponsor licence fee purposes, are classed as ‘Temporary Worker’ routes. However you can apply for both types of licence at the same time or apply to add the other type to an existing licence.
When applying for a ‘Temporary Worker’ licence, the sponsor licence fee is £536, regardless of what type of organisation you are. The fee for a ‘Worker’ licence is £536 for small or charitable sponsors and £1,476 for medium or large sponsors. The cost to apply for both types of sponsor licence at the same time also depends on the size and charitable status of your business, so £536 or £1,476 respectively. There is no sponsor licence fee for a small or charitable sponsor to add a ‘Worker’ licence to an existing ‘Temporary Worker’ licence, with a £940 fee for medium or large sponsors. However, there is no fee for an applicant of any size to add a ‘Temporary Worker’ licence to an existing ‘Worker’ licence.
You will usually be classed as a small sponsor if at least two of the following apply:
- the annual turnover of your business is £10.2 million or less
- the total assets of your business are worth £5.1 million or less
- your business has 50 employees or fewer.
You will be classed as a charitable sponsor if you are:
- a registered charity in England, Wales, Scotland or N.Ireland, where you must provide proof from HMRC of your charitable status for tax purposes unless you are on the register
- an excepted or exempt charity
- an ecclesiastical corporation established for charitable purposes.
The responsibility to pay the correct type of sponsor licence fee rests entirely with you as the applicant, where you risk your application being rejected if you underpay.
Fast-tracked sponsor licence fee
Most sponsor licence applications are dealt with by the UK Home Office in a period of less than 8 weeks, although this can be delayed if a compliance visit to your business premises is considered necessary before reaching a decision on your application.
You may be able to pay an extra £500 to get a decision within 10 working days, although this service does not necessarily guarantee a quicker turnaround time, especially where a compliance visit is needed, and nor does it guarantee a positive outcome. It is also worth noting that this service is limited to a small number of applications every working day, where faster decisions are allocated in the order that requests arrive, so on a first come, first served basis. You will be told how to ask for a faster decision after you apply.
Certificate of sponsorship fee
In addition to the sponsor licence fee, there will be a fee to assign each Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to a migrant worker on any given route. The CoS will contain a unique reference number which any prospective recruit will need to be able to apply for entry clearance or permission to stay in the UK and to work in the job role set out in their CoS.
The fee to assign each CoS to a migrant worker on any one of the ‘Temporary Worker’ routes will be £25, while the fee to assign an CoS to a worker on one of the ‘Worker’ routes will be £239. The only exception is where an CoS is assigned to an applicant for 12 months or less on the International Sportsperson route, a ‘Worker’ route, where the fee will be just £25. These extra sponsor licence costs will apply for each and every CoS, including where a worker is applying to extend their stay in the UK under the same route.
Optional sponsor licence premium service fees
Having been granted either a ‘Worker’ and/or ‘Temporary Worker’ sponsor licence, you will be given the option to pay for a premium customer service. For medium or large sponsors, the cost for 12 months is £25,000, reduced to £8,000 for small or charitable sponsors, where this service offers an enhanced level of support for organisations employing migrant workers. Each premium customer will have their own dedicated account manager, providing tailored guidance and support to meet the immigration needs of their business.
As a sponsor of ‘Workers’ or ‘Temporary Workers’, you can also pay £200 for the expedited processing of a sponsorship management request. This priority change of circumstances service allows sponsors to fast-track certain administrative changes in relation to their sponsor licence, such as requesting additional CoS allocation or changing any of the key personnel originally nominated in the sponsor licence application. When using this service, you will usually receive a decision on your request within 5 working days where, under standard processing times, requests can take up to 18 weeks to process.
How much is the immigration skills charge?
The immigration skills charge (ISC) is an additional cost that you may have to pay when assigning CoS to new recruits on the Skilled Worker and the Senior or Specialist Worker routes. Unless this charge is paid, the sponsorship certificate will not be treated as valid, where the migrant worker will not be able to make a visa application until this is paid.
As with the sponsor licence fees, the immigration skills charge will depend on the size or charitable status of your organisation, as well as the length of stay for which your new recruit will be coming to work in the UK. This charge is set at £364 for small or charitable sponsors for the first 12 months, plus £182 for every additional 6 months, and £1,000 for medium or large sponsors for the first 12 months, plus £500 for every additional 6 months.
As the sponsor of Skilled and/or Senior or Specialist Workers you will have to pay the immigration skills charge if prospective migrant workers are applying for a visa from overseas to work in the UK for 6 months or more, or inside the UK for any length of time.
The ISC must be paid by the employer.
How much is the sponsor licence renewal fee?
Sponsor licence costs are not limited to a single one-off payment. This is because a sponsor licence will only usually last for 4 years, at which stage you will need to apply to renew your licence and pay a further sponsor licence application fee at this stage.
However, you may not always be eligible to renew your sponsor licence, where there are certain exceptions, such as when sponsoring a migrant worker under the UK Expansion Worker route. The purpose of this route is to enable an overseas business to expand to the UK, where you will be expected to establish a full trading presence in the UK within 2 years. At the end of this 2-year period, you will no longer be able to sponsor applications from new or existing workers on this route, although you will be able to apply to add other routes to your licence, for example, to sponsor workers on the Skilled Worker route.
Equally, you cannot renew your sponsor licence on the Scale-up route beyond 4 years. If you would like to sponsor new migrant workers once your licence runs out, you will again need to apply to be licensed on another route, such as the Skilled Worker route. However, your responsibilities as a sponsor of any existing Scale-up Workers will automatically end after 6 months. A Scale-up Worker can apply to continue working for you indefinitely, without being assigned a new CoS and without payment of the fee associated with this.
Cost of upgrading a sponsor licence
When you are approved for a sponsor licence, you will usually be granted a licence with an A-rating, although your licence may be downgraded to a B-rating if you fail to meet your sponsorship duties during its period of validity. Your duties as a licensed sponsor include keeping appropriate records for your sponsored workers and informing the UK Home Office if any of these workers are not complying with the main conditions of their visa.
If a decision is made by the Home Office to downgrade your sponsor licence, although you will still be able to assign CoS to existing workers looking to extend their permission to stay in the UK, you will not be able to issue new sponsorship certificates until you have made the necessary improvements and upgraded back to an A-rating. To be able to upgrade your licence you will need to follow a Home Office action plan at a cost of £1,476.
The only exception to being granted an A-rating is on the UK Expansion Worker route. If the Authorising Officer (AO) named in your licence application is based outside the UK, you will be given a provisional licence rating and will only be allocated one CoS which must be assigned to the AO to enable them to apply for entry clearance. It is only once your AO has successfully been granted a visa to come to the UK that they can up-rate your licence.
Ongoing sponsor licence costs
In addition to the sponsor licence fee and other costs associated with the sponsorship process, there are various minimum salary requirements that must also be met to be able to sponsor a migrant worker on certain routes and that must be factored into your budget.
For the Skilled Worker route for example, you can only issue a CoS if you have job roles that meet the route-specific requirements, including a minimum salary requirement. This means that the proposed salary for your new overseas recruit must meet the general salary threshold, or the ‘going rate’ for the selected occupation, which is higher. Each occupation code has its own annual going rate, where you can check the going rates at GOV.UK under Appendix Skilled Occupations.
As a sponsor of migrant workers, you may also elect to take responsibility for the costs to the worker associated with applying for a visa, having been assigned an CoS. These will include a visa application fee, any premium processing fee to pay for a faster decision and an annual healthcare surcharge to enable them to access the NHS during their stay.
The fee to apply for the different types of work visas vary, depending on the applicant’s circumstances, and are in addition to the healthcare surcharge.
In some cases, it may be possible to pay for a faster decision for an additional fee under premium processing service. For example, if the applicant is applying to switch to a work route from the UK, the cost for the priority and super priority service will be an extra £500 and £800 respectively.
DavidsonMorris offers a complete employer sponsorship licence application service, with our team of UK immigration specialists highly experienced in all the documentary and evidentiary requirements vital to a prompt and stress-free process when applying for a sponsor licence. We also provide guidance on best practice in managing the licence and avoiding enforcement issues. For guidance on applying for a sponsor licence, contact us.
Sponsor licence fee FAQs
How much is a sponsor license in the UK?
The sponsor licence application fee will be £536 for a ‘Temporary Worker’ licence while, for a ‘Worker’ licence, the fee will be £536 for small or charitable sponsors and £1,476 for medium or large sponsors.
How much is sponsorship licence fees?
Sponsor licence fees for a ‘Worker’ licence vary, depending on the size and charitable status of an organisation. For small and charitable sponsors, the fee will be £536, while for medium and large sponsors the fee will be £1,476.
How much do UK companies pay to sponsor?
The cost to UK companies of sponsorship include a sponsor licence fee, a fee to assign each sponsorship certificate to migrant workers and, where applicable, an immigration skills charge.
How much does sponsorship cost for a company?
There are various costs associated with sponsorship, where much will depend on the type of licence sought and the category of worker the company is looking to sponsor, as well as the size and type of the company itself. You will also have to pay costs such as assigning Certificates of Sponsorship to each sponsored worker.
Last updated: 24 December 2023