For UK-based organisations looking to sponsor migrant workers, they will first need to be allocated a unique sponsor licence number before being able to assign Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to prospective new recruits. Equally, for migrant workers looking to work in sponsored job roles in the UK, they will first need to be assigned a unique CoS number by an approved licensed sponsor to enable them to make a valid visa application.
What is a sponsor licence number?
A sponsor licence number (SLN) is a unique number allocated by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to an approved sponsor licence holder. UKVI is the department of the Home Office responsible for decisions on both sponsor licence and visa applications.
Having made an application to UKVI for a sponsor licence, and provided that application is successful, UKVI will notify the applicant organisation in its decision letter of the maximum number of CoS the sponsor can assign to migrant workers, and their sponsor licence number. The sponsor licence number is unique to the sponsoring organisation.
When do you use a sponsor licence number?
A sponsor licence number must be quoted in all communications with UKVI, typically by either the Authorising Officer (AO) or Key Contact (KC). When applying for a sponsor licence, the applicant organisation will be required to nominate certain key personnel to manage the sponsorship process and liaise with UKVI, including an AO and KC.
The person nominated to the role of AO must be the most senior person in the applicant organisation responsible for the recruitment of migrant workers and for ensuring that the sponsor meets all of its duties. The KC is usually the person who acts as the main contact between the sponsoring organisation and UKVI, although UKVI may also contact the AO, if necessary, both before and after the grant of the licence. It is therefore important that both the AO and KC are aware of the sponsor licence number once the licence has been granted, and the need to quote this when corresponding with UKVI during the validity of the licence.
In many cases, the AO and KC will be one in the same person, although different people can be appointed to these roles, provided they are paid members of staff or office-holders, and meet the various other qualifying requirements under the specific rules for key personnel.
Once licensed, the organisation will be given access to the sponsorship management system (SMS), where the AO and/or KC may also be nominated as the initial SMS Level 1 User, although again a different person can be appointed to this role. The SMS is a secure online portal allowing the licence holder to carry out its day-to-day sponsor activities, including creating and assigning CoS to migrant workers, as well as managing and renewing its licence. This can also be used to report any changes to UKVI, such as a change of address or any change in the circumstances of migrant workers, including withdrawal of sponsorship.
Only the SMS Level 1 User named on the licence application will be granted access to the system at the outset. This individual can then appoint additional SMS users, including Level 1 and Level 2 Users, where Level 2 Users have fewer permissions when using the SMS. The AO and KC will not automatically be granted access to the SMS, where they will need to be set up as either a Level 1 or Level 2 User if they would like to use the online system.
How to get a sponsor licence number
To be eligible for a sponsor licence number, there are various general requirements that need to be met by the applicant organisation, together with several route-specific requirements, depending on the category of worker an employer is looking to recruit.
In most cases, the applicant organisation must be able to satisfy UKVI that it is a genuine business operating lawfully in the UK. In all cases, UKVI must also be satisfied that the applicant is both trustworthy and capable of carrying out its sponsorship duties.
UKVI will carefully consider the applicant’s history and background, including that of the key personnel named on the licence application and those involved with the day-to-day running of the business. This will include evidence of any criminal convictions and previous non-compliance with the UK’s Immigration Rules, not to mention any other evidence which may suggest that these individuals are not honest, dependable and reliable.
Additionally, UKVI may undertake a pre-licence site visit to assess the applicant’s recruitment practices and HR systems, typically if there are concerns over the adequacy of the applicant’s ability to comply with its sponsorship duties. Essentially, UKVI must be satisfied that the applicant will be able to monitor its migrant workforce, comply with its reporting and record-keeping obligations, and will not pose a threat to immigration control.
In addition to the general requirements for a sponsor licence, the applicant must be able to meet the requirements of the relevant route on which it is applying to be a sponsor. This includes being able to offer genuine employment for any route-specific role in the UK, where the role in question must meet any minimum skill and salary requirements.
How to apply for a sponsor licence number
To apply for a sponsor licence number, the applicant organisation must register its details with UKVI, before completing an online application form and paying the relevant fee.
Prior to applying, the applicant must ensure that the organisation is eligible for sponsorship under the relevant route in question and have in place a number of detailed documents, including those as set out in Appendix A of the online sponsor guidance. Government guidance on applying for a sponsor licence can be found under Part 1 of the guidance for Workers and Temporary Workers. Once an organisation is ready to sponsor migrant workers, they must then refer to Part 2 of the online guidance on sponsoring Worker and Temporary Workers, as well as the relevant route-specific guidance.
The AO will be responsible for managing the sponsor licence application, including signing and dating the end submission sheet. This sheet, together with all supporting documentation, must be emailed or posted to UKVI within 5 working days of submitting the online application.
Having completed the online application, paid the fee and submitted all documentation in support, UKVI will review the application. The standard processing time for sponsor licence applications is usually up to 8 weeks, although it can take longer for UKVI to make a decision if a pre-licence site visit is required or additional documentation is requested.
If the application is successful, a sponsor licence number will be allocated. The licence-holder will then be able to issue CoS if it has jobs that are suitable for sponsorship. The licence will last for 4 years, unless revoked, where the licence will need to be renewed prior to its expiry if the organisation wishes to continue sponsoring migrant workers.
How do you check an organisation’s sponsor licence number?
It will not generally be possible to check an organisation’s sponsor licence number, although those looking for sponsored job roles can search the online register of sponsors at GOV.UK. This is a list of organisations licensed to sponsor migrant workers in the UK, where an organisation will be added to this list having been approved for a sponsor licence.
The online list of approved sponsors includes the name of the organisation and where they are based. It also includes information about the category of workers they are licensed to sponsor in the UK, on both the Worker and Temporary Worker immigration routes. The Worker routes include the Skilled Worker, T2 Minister of Religion and International Sportsperson routes. For sponsor licence purposes, the Worker route also includes the Senior or Specialist Worker route under the Global Business Mobility (GBM) umbrella. This route replaced the Intra-Company Transfer route from 11 April 2022.
In contrast, the Temporary Worker routes are for several different short-term roles across a range of industry sectors. These include the Creative Worker, Charity Worker, Religious Worker, Government Authorised Exchange Worker, International Agreement Worker and Seasonal Worker routes. The Temporary Worker routes also include the remaining immigration routes under the GBM umbrella, including the Graduate Trainee, UK Expansion Worker, Service Supplier and Secondment Worker routes, as well as the Scale-up route.
Is a sponsor licence number the same as an CoS number?
A sponsor licence number is not the same as an CoS number. The sponsor licence number is the unique number allocated to an organisation as an approved sponsor. In contrast, an CoS number is the unique reference number set out in the electronic certificate assigned to each migrant worker by their sponsor. This is the number that each individual worker will need to use when making an online application for a visa having been offered a sponsored role.
To be assigned a valid CoS number, a prospective new recruit must be offered a suitable job role that meets the specific requirements for the route in question. For example, when applying as a Skilled Worker, the sponsor (via the SMS-user responsible for creating and assigning the CoS) must be satisfied that the role meets the minimum skill and salary requirements for that route. They must also be satisfied that the migrant worker is suitably qualified for that role. Under the guidance for sponsoring Skilled Workers, to be valid, an CoS must not only confirm the applicant’s name, but that they are being sponsored as a Skilled Worker, as well as details of the job and salary the sponsor is offering them.
Having been assigned a valid CoS number, the migrant worker must use this number to apply for a visa within 3 months. In addition to having been assigned a valid sponsorship certificate, the migrant worker applying for a visa will also need to meet a number of route-specific requirements to be eligible for a visa on their chosen route.
How do you find a UK employer with a sponsor licence number?
To find a UK-based employer with a valid sponsor licence number, a search can easily be undertaken of the online ‘Register of licensed sponsors: workers’ at GOV.UK. When it comes to the type of sponsor sought, whether this is a sponsor on the Worker or Temporary Worker routes will depend on the nature of the job role. However, in addition to setting out which categories of worker an organisation is licensed to sponsor, including Workers or Temporary Workers, it also includes the employer’s current sponsorship rating.
When an employer is assigned a sponsor licence, they will be given a sponsorship rating. In most cases this will be an A-rating, although their licence can be downgraded to a B-rating during the validity of the licence if the employer has failed to discharge their sponsorship duties. As these sponsors will be required to comply with an UKVI action plan before being upgraded, and may be at risk of losing their licence if they fail to comply with the steps set out in that plan, it is best to avoid these sponsors when searching for work in the UK.
In any event, a B-rated sponsor is not allowed to assign CoS while they are subject to an UKVI action plan. For example, under the official online guidance for the Skilled Worker route, it states that a sponsor must be authorised by UKVI to sponsor the job in question under that route. The sponsor must also be listed as A-rated on the register of licensed sponsors, unless the applicant was last granted permission as a Skilled Worker and is applying to continue working for the same sponsor as in their last permission.
DavidsonMorris are UK sponsor licence specialists. We provide expert advice and support to organisations when applying for, and managing, their sponsor licence, and meeting their compliance duties. For specialist guidance, contact us.
Sponsor licence number FAQs
How do I find out if a company has a sponsor licence?
To establish if a company has a sponsor licence, you will need to search the online ‘Register of licensed sponsors: workers’. This is a list of organisations licensed to sponsor workers on the UK’s Worker and Temporary Worker immigration routes.
What is sponsor licence?
A sponsor licence is the permission needed from for a UK organisation to sponsor certain categories of migrant workers.
What is a sponsor licence number?
Having been granted a sponsor licence by the Home Office, the sponsor will be allocated a unique sponsor licence number.
What is the sponsor license number CAS?
An CAS stands for Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies, where the ‘sponsor licence number CAS’ typically refers to the unique reference number that can be found on the CAS used by overseas students when applying for a study visa.
How do I get a certificate of sponsorship UK?
To obtain a certificate of sponsorship to enable you to make a valid visa application to work in a sponsored job role in the UK, you will first need to be offered a suitable role by an approved licensed sponsor.
Last updated: 12 October 2023