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Sponsor Licence Guidance for Employers

Sponsor licence guidance for employers hiring non-EEA citizens.

To employ skilled personnel from outside the EU, UK employers must first apply to UKVI for a sponsor licence.

Hiring from overseas is a business decision that is rarely taken lightly. UK immigration rules are complex and demanding on employers of foreign workers. Non-compliance with employer duties will result in harsh penalties, designed to impact business operations.

The Home Office uses the sponsor licence application process to ensure your organisation is genuine in its need and motivation to hire from overseas.

However – 15% of sponsor licence applications are refused.

Here are some key sponsor licence guidance tips for employers looking to make an application to UKVI to employ foreign workers.

Sponsor licence guidance stage 1: Documentation 

As an initial phase in your application, you will have to satisfy certain informational requirements.

There are a number of company-related documents which will need to be collated and submitted to evidence that you are a genuine organisation.

You will also need to present information concerning your business activities in the UK, number of existing employees and details of how your organisation intends to comply with the licence requirements.

We can advise on the full extent of documentation requirements specific to your organisation.

Sponsor licence guidance stage 2: Make your case

In addition to the company information, you will be required to present a business case to UKVI illustrating why you are seeking to secure a sponsor licence.

You will need to include details of your company, the sector you occupy and why you need to apply for a sponsor licence.

It is critical to your application that you present a compelling case, and cover areas which will support the genuine nature of your application.

Importantly, decisions about sponsor licence applications and the criteria used to assess them are not black and white. There is a strong element of subjectivity applied to your case using the ‘genuineness test’.

Under the genuineness test, UKVI will look at the role(s) you are looking to recruit foreign nationals for, and how these roles fit with your organisation as a whole.

Applications commonly fall foul of the genuineness test, resulting in a refused licence application.

You must convince the Home Office:

  • That the role meets the requirements of the Tier 2 category.
  • That the role ‘fits’ with your organisation. In other words that it seems reasonable that a business or organisation of your type, operating in your sector, should need that ‘kind’ of role.
  • If you have already identified an individual who you wish to appoint to the role, that their previous employment or training ‘fits’ with this new role – i.e that you won’t be paying an individual an extra £10k a year to deliver the same role simply to meet the requirements of the Tier 2 category.

If you do not have a specific role in mind but want to apply for a sponsor licence because you know that having one might and will be useful in the future, you can do this.

However, the Home Office will still have many of the same questions about the type of role you plan to recruit for in the future. And then they will make the same assessment as to whether this role ‘fits’ with the organisation as a whole.

If you can present convincing business reasons as to why you need a licence and a particular role, the application will meet the ‘genuineness test’ and most likely be granted.

Sponsor licence guidance stage 3: Resident Labour Market Test 

Your submission to the Home Office must also include evidence of compliance with the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT).

Through the RLMT, UKVI are looking for proof that you have exhausted the domestic market to ensure the position you would like to fill with an overseas worker cannot be filled locally, and also to confirm the position is skilled and meets the requirements to warrant a visa being issued for an individual to come to the UK to carry out the role.

This exercise needs to be carried out for a total of 28 days.

The timeframes surrounding RLMT are strict, and must be considered as a priority in the context of your application.

UKVI decision-making 

According to the latest Home Office figures, currently 8 out of 10 applications are being processed within less than 8 weeks.

UKVI will consider your application on the basis of your submission, supporting documentation and the RLMT.

In addition, they will also assess your organisation’s ability to comply in full with their regulations over the four years the licence is live.

We are also seeing UKVI conducting an increasing number of application site inspections, to determine whether you will be granted the licence.

This will raise questions around the suitability of your immigration policies and procedures, and whether internal knowledge gaps exist as a result of the new and stringent compliance duties your organisation will be operating under.

As part of your application, a mock audit and review of your immigration documentation will be a beneficial exercise in identifying areas of weakness and non-compliance, providing recommendations to ensure you meet your duties as a sponsor licence holder throughout the life of the licence.

Sponsor licence guidance – ongoing management

If you are successful in your application, you will be under a duty to meet all aspects of sponsor licence compliance on an ongoing basis, including managing Tier 2 visa applications as and when you are recruiting, and renewing the licence after four years.

Should you wish to renew your licence after the four years, in addition to the renewal application documentation, you should also expect to be visited and audited by UKVI who will be looking to ensure you have operated in line with your duties.

We are highly experienced in managing the sponsor licence process on behalf of UK employers looking to hire foreign personnel. If you have a query about a sponsor licence application or require any form of sponsor licence guidance, please contact us.


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