Sponsor Licence Renewal

To retain permission to sponsor foreign workers, you have to renew your licence after 4 years. Through the sponsor licence renewal process, your organisation will be subject to Home Office scrutiny.

Safeguard your permission to sponsor migrant workers.

Sponsor licence renewal

Sponsorship licences are valid for four years. To maintain your permission to sponsor foreign workers beyond this time, you have to make a sponsor licence renewal application to UKVI.

Without a valid sponsor licence, your organisation is not allowed to sponsor foreign workers. This means that even if you do not intend to hire more sponsored workers, you have to have a valid licence to be able to continue to employ your existing sponsored workers.

An expired licence or refused licence renewal can bring serious consequences for businesses. While unlicensed, you will no longer be lawfully employing your sponsored workers and as illegal workers, their visas risk being curtailed.

In practice, sponsor licence renewal applications can attract more attention from the Home Office than initial licence applications. This is because the organisation is expected to have complied with its sponsor duties while it has held the licence.

As such, immigration officials take this opportunity to fully investigate an organisation’s immigration compliance processes, procedures and documentation and to verify the lawful status of the organisation’s migrant workers.


We can help

DavidsonMorris’ team of specialist UK immigration lawyers provide clients with a complete employer sponsorship licence renewal application service.

We bring substantial experience both as lawyers and former Home Office personnel, supporting your organisation in taking a proactive approach to the renewal process. We understand the importance of the licence to business operations and the commercial imperative to avoid issues with the Home Office.

We can work in support of your in-house HR team or manage the entire process on your behalf to ensure that licence management to date has been compliant and that the application for renewal is accurate, timely and effective.

As part of the sponsor licence renewal process, the UKVI reserves a right to undertake compliance visit to sponsor companies and request corporate documentation as deemed necessary. We will support with renewal preparation to ensure the organisation is match-fit for a site visit.

We can assist with:

  • Auditing your HR systems, procedures and records including certificates of sponsorship and your SMS, to identify areas of risk and non-compliance
  • Making recommendations to meet sponsor licence duties
  • Implementing necessary changes to your sponsor licence before an extension application is submitted
    Guidance on notification, monitoring and record-keeping duties
  • Deliver training for in-house teams including SMS key personnel
  • Preparation for site visits
  • Follow up support following site visits
  • Ongoing immigration and sponsor licence compliance advice

Our team of UK immigration specialists is well versed in all the document and evidentiary requirements that can be vital to a prompt and successful renewal application. 

We also have specialist expertise in complex renewal applications, for example where the employer has received a civil penalty for illegal working, where the expiry date is imminent or where the sponsor licence has expired but the sponsor wishes to retain their licence.

In such cases we can advise on the options open to you, including any remedial measures that should be taken, how best to approach dealings with the Home Office and the information and evidence that will be required, and whether a new licence application may be necessary in the circumstances.


When do you renew your sponsor licence?

Sponsor licences are granted for four years. Your licence will automatically expire at the end of this period unless it is successfully renewed.

UKVI advises that renewal applications can be submitted at least three months prior to the current licence expiry date. You can check the earliest date you can submit your renewal application on the organisation’s Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

However, as it’s not possible to prevent the licence from expiring past its expiry date, we advise sponsors to start preparing for the renewal process well in advance. This will allow you to identify and deal with any issues in good time before you need to make the renewal submission and and ensure continued coverage and validity of the licence.

You do not need to have been granted the licence renewal by the expiry date; you just need to have made your submission on the SMS for the Home Office to process.


How can you check your sponsor licence expiry date?

The licence application date is viewable on the SMS.

This date should be diarised and shared among the licence key personnel to avoid being missed.


How long does the sponsor licence renewal process take?

A sponsor licence renewal usually takes 8 weeks to process. This is assuming there are no issues with the application and that the Home office does not conduct an onsite compliance inspection.

Sponsors should be prepared for the Home Office to be extremely thorough in vetting the organisation and its sponsorship compliance to determine the renewal application.

To avoid delays in processing, you should ensure HR and personnel systems, records, and processes are fully compliant and that the renewal submission and supporting documents are complete and correct.


How many times can you renew your licence?

There are no restrictions on how many times your organisation can renew its sponsor licence. Provided an organisation continues to be eligible and meet the sponsor requirements, it can continue renew its licence and permission to sponsored foreign workers.


How much is the sponsor licence renewal fee?

The fee to renew your sponsor licence will depend on whether your organisation is classed as a small or charitable sponsor or a medium or large sponsor.

Type of sponsor licenceSmall or charitable sponsors licence renewal feeMedium or large sponsors licence renewal fee
Temporary Worker£536£536
Worker and Temporary Worker£536£ 1,476

Under the Home Office guidance, an organisation is classed as a small company if the following apply:

  • Annual turnover of no more than £10.2 million
  • A balance sheet total of no more than £5.1 million
  • No more than 50 employees on average


What if your sponsor licence has already expired?

Without a valid sponsor licence, your organisation will be removed from the Register of Licensed Sponsors, you will not be able to assign Certificate of Sponsorship to new sponsored workers and your existing sponsored workers face having their leave curtailed.

If a sponsor licence has been left to expire but you still need permission to sponsor foreign workers, you will need to act quickly to determine your next steps.

In some cases, you may be able to make a renewal application, while in other circumstances you may have to apply for a new licence. Taking advice on the specific case will help you determine your options and best course of action to minimise cost and disruption for your organisation.


How to prepare for your sponsor licence renewal

From experience, we advise diarising to look at the renewal six months before the expiry date. This will give you time to carry out a full audit and identify areas of risk and potential non-compliance to be rectified before making your submission and opening the organisation up to Home Office scrutiny. 

Being prepared and submitting your application as soon as the window opens also means that if there are any issues, delays or even a refusal, there is likely to be time to address the problems before the licence expires. 


Sponsor licence renewal process

Sponsors must apply to renew their licence by submitting an application using their SMS account and paying the appropriate fee online.

Step 1: Level 1 user logs on to SMS 

To make the renewal application, a nominated Level 1 User will need to log onto the SMS. On the Licence summary, applications and services screen, go to Licence renewal.

Step 2: Select the size of organisation 

You then need to select the appropriate renewal fee i.e. small or charitable sponsors or medium or large sponsors.

Step 3: Complete the sponsor declaration 

On the Licence renewal declaration screen, input the date, your name, and your position in the organisation, and tick the declaration box.

Step 4: Pay the correct renewal fee

On the Licence renewal payment screen, complete the payment process

You have to pay the appropriate application fee. The rate differs by the size of organisation and you should check your classification as at the date of renewal application as this may have changed in the four years since making the previous licence application. 

Step 5: Submit the renewal 

Complete the submission sheet, which you should also print off for your organisation’s records. 


What is the streamlined sponsor licence renewal application process?

Some employers may qualify for the ‘streamlined’ sponsor licence renewal procedure, for faster processing. 

Under this process, if the organisation has previously been successful with at least two sponsor licence renewal applications, the Home Office caseworker is permitted to conduct fewer checks before making a decision to grant the renewal application. 

The following checks will not needed to be carried out: 

  • Company and insolvency checks 
  • Reviewing your certificate of sponsorship usage 
  • Looking at the licence structure 
  • Assessing sponsor management system visit history and any outstanding change requests 
  • Reviewing risk profiles and checking accreditation and registration details and any other trading checks 
  • If necessary, undergoing a compliance visit from a Home Office official 


What happens after the renewal has been submitted?

Once the renewal application is received, the Home Office will start the process of verifying that the organisation continues to meet the licence requirements, ie that is still operates legally in the UK, is still suitable to be a licensed sponsor and is able to meet its duties to the required standards. UKVI will cross-reference the information provided with data held by the Home Office and other bodies such as Companies House. 

In addition, as part of the renewal application process, all certificates of sponsorship assigned by the organisation under the licence will be reviewed, as well as the organisation’s continued need for a sponsor licence.


Supporting documents for the renewal application

In some cases, the Home Office may send a request to the sponsor for further documents about the organisation, as listed in Appendix A of the sponsor guidance or any other information or paperwork related to the business. 

These documents should be readily available as part of the organisation’s ongoing sponsor compliance procedures. 

You will need to act quickly and respond to the request within five days. Failure to meet this deadline could result in the sponsor’s Certificate of Sponsorship allocation being reduced, or the licence being downgraded, suspended or revoked.


Sponsor licence renewal requirements

The renewal application is used by the Home Office to verify that sponsors are continually compliant throughout the duration of their licence.

When preparing the renewal application, try not to make any assumptions about the requirements or your eligibility. 

Approach the renewal as a new application. Check that the licence requirements and rules you are working to are the most recent, as the Home Office regularly makes changes to the official sponsorship guidance. 

You should also double check the information you are submitting to ensure it is up to date and representative of your organisation, for example, do you still qualify as a small employer? 


Renewal applications & compliance visits

Compliance visits remain a common feature of the renewal process. 

The Home Office has powers to visit and inspect a sponsor’s premises before making a decision on a renewal application. 

In particular, if an organisation has not previously been subject to an onsite inspection, particularly during the initial licence application, it is advisable to prepare for an inspection at the renewal stage. 

The objective of a compliance inspection is to assess whether the organisation’s systems and processes for sponsorship are adequate and meet the requirements and obligations of a licensed sponsor. The immigration official will be looking to:

  • Assess your HR and personnel policies, procedures and documentation. 
  • Determine if you are following the correct compliance processes such as Right to Work checks 
  • Check you are carrying out your reporting duties. 

During the inspection, Home Office officials can request to see personnel and HR documents and systems. 

They can also interview your sponsored workers to cross-reference information on their CoS relating for example to salary, working hours, working locations and duties.

If the Home Office officials identify any compliance concerns or breaches during the inspection, they may refuse the licence application.  



What if your licence renewal is approved?

If your licence is approved, the organisation will be able to sponsor new and existing foreign workers, provided you continue to meet the ongoing compliance requirements. 


What if your licence renewal is refused?

It can be daunting if you have made a sponsor renewal application and the Home Office has decided to refuse the application. 

Taking professional advice will help you to understand the options in your circumstances and decide the best way forward. 

Your next steps could include:

  • Making a request for a review of the decision. This option would only be appropriate if you can show grounds for review. For example, you believe the case office has made a mistake resulting in the refusal, such as not taking a specific document into account when making the decision.  
  • Making a new application. This option would be suitable if you ar enot able to request a review, and if there are grounds or errors that can be corrected in a new application.


How to avoid a refused sponsor licence renewal

As licence renewals are rarely straightforward, sponsors should ensure they take proactive steps to avoid common grounds for refused renewals. 

These include: 

  • Failure to retain and keep the required documentation on sponsored workers
  • Failure to pay the correct renewal application fee 
  • Failure to have advised UKVI of significant changes to company structure and personnel
  • Failure to provide requested information or documentation to UKVI on time 
  • Failure to respond to UKVI’s enquiries in a timely manner
  • Failure to have passed the genuineness test
  • Failure to comply with UKVI security standards
  • Failure to pass a UKVI compliance audit and site visit
  • Failure to meet reporting duties

Given what is at stake in maintaining your ability to employ skilled non-UK resident workers, approaching your renewal will take time and effort to get the application right. For help and advice with your sponsor licence renewal, please contact us.

Sponsor licence renewal FAQs

How do I renew my sponsor licence?

You can renew your sponsor licence on your SMS, by paying the fee and submitting the supporting documents.

How long is a sponsor licence valid for?

A UK sponsor licence is valid for 4 years. To retain your status beyond this period, you have to apply to renew the licence before it expires.

What happens when a certificate of sponsorship expires?

If a defined CoS has not been assigned to a worker within 3 months, it will expire and the sponsor will have to make a request for a new CoS.

How long does a Tier 2 sponsorship licence last?

The sponsorship licence lasts for 4 years.

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