Sponsorship Licence

To hire non-UK resident workers, your organisation must hold a valid sponsorship licence.

We are specialists in sponsor licence applications & compliance.

Sponsorship licence

UK employers have to be granted a sponsorship licence by the Home Office before they can employ non-UK resident workers under the new points-based visa system and routes such as the Skilled Worker visa, Scale Up visa and Global Business Mobility routes.

Employers who do not hold a valid sponsorship licence are unable to sponsor migrant workers.

All sponsors have to be fully aware of their immigration duties and have processes and systems in place to both meet these requirements and to maintain records as evidence of their compliance.

If applying for your first licence, your application will need to show you can meet these duties from day one. If the Home Office has concerns about your ability to comply, your application could be refused and you may lose your application fee.

Licence holders can be subject to Home Office investigation at any time. Where there are allegations of compliance breaches, the Home Office has powers to downgrade, suspend or revoke sponsor licences, impacting your ability to hire skilled migrant workers and impacting your sponsored workers’ permission to stay and work in the UK.


Applying for a sponsorship licence

To apply for a sponsorship licence, employers must prove they are a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK. You have to show you are aware of and capable of carrying out your visa sponsorship duties, with the appropriate HR and recruitment systems and practices in place.

Your key personnel as named on your sponsor application must be honest, dependable and reliable. The Home Office will conduct background checks on all nominated individuals to verify their eligibility for the roles.

If you are applying for a skilled worker sponsorship licence you will also have to show you are offering genuine employment that meets the required skill level and appropriate rates of pay.

To make the application, you complete an online licence application and provide supporting documentation to meet the necessary evidentiary requirements. This must be supplied within five days of the initial application.

Failure to submit all required documents may result in an application being delayed or rejected and further costs being incurred.

Following the receipt of these documents, the organisation may then be subject to a compliance visit from UKVI, who will assess whether or not to grant the sponsorship licence.

Companies will also be required to comply with the illegal working requirements which states that employees are required to provide documentation that proves their right to work before being employed by a UK company and copies of this information must also be retained by the employer.

Sponsorship licence applications typically take 8 weeks to process, or around 12 weeks if a pre-licence compliance visit is made, although processing times can vary depending on Home Office caseload and other factors such as COVID backlogs.

Expedited sponsorship licence processing may be available for an additional £500. Under the Sponsor Licence Application Priority Service, licence applications are decided in ten working days.


Sponsorship licence compliance & management

If you are successful in your application, focus will need to shift to managing the sponsor licence. It is an ongoing demand to ensure all of the compliance duties are met and you are not at risk of breaching the rules and of Home Office penalties.

Key duties will include record keeping, both in relation to the organisation and to all sponsored workers.

Across all visa types, a licence holder must keep a photocopy or electronic copy of the relevant pages of the sponsored migrant’s passport, including those pages which contain personal identity details, leave stamps, immigration status and the period of leave to remain; a record of the employee’s absences; and the employee’s biometric residence permit, contract of employment, National Insurance number, current and historic contact details and any other document required for the visa type.

In addition to record keeping, sponsors are also under a positive duty to act and notify the Home Office of certain changes in circumstances.

In most cases this means updating the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) within specified timeframes. The SMS is the Home Office’s primary source of information relating to your licence, and as such it is expected that the SMS is kept up to date to provide a real-time snap shot of the organisation’s licence and all of its sponsored workers.

For example, employers must update the SMS within 10 working days if a sponsored employee does not turn up to work on their first day, a sponsored employee’s contract is terminated early, a sponsored employee is absent from work for 10 of more days, without permission or there are significant changes in a sponsored contract of employment.

Changes to an organisation’s circumstances must be reported within 20 days, including where a business becomes insolvent, changes the nature of their operations or following a reorganisation or merger. Any changes to a business address or key personnel must also be reported.


How we can help

DavidsonMorris’ business immigration specialists can support your organisation with all aspects of the UK sponsorship licence.

Wherever you are in the lifecycle of the sponsor licence – whether you are looking to apply for your first sponsor licence, wanting to renew an existing licence, have been refused a licence application or are looking for ongoing support with managing your compliance duties, we can help.

As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office personnel, we can work in support of your in-house HR team or take care of the entire licence application and management on your behalf, across all types of sponsorship licence.

Our sponsorship licence services include:

  • Assisting with initial considerations as to the most appropriate type of sponsorship application and suitable key personnel
  • Drafting your online sponsor licence application
  • Helping you to collate the appropriate supporting documentation
  • Auditing your HR and recruitment systems and procedures in preparation for a UKVI visit
  • Briefing or training staff on their compliance duties and responsibilities
  • Advising on the UKVI ‘genuineness’ test and assessing whether a prospective employee satisfies the points criteria before the sponsor issues a certificate of sponsorship
  • Guidance on sponsorship-related fees, both for the application and ongoing
  • Advice on assigning Certificates of Sponsorship to skilled visa workers
  • Advising on the alternatives available to you if you decide not to make a sponsor licence application
  • Licence renewal applications
  • Dealing with sponsor licence suspensions and revocations

Sponsorship licence FAQs

What is a sponsorship licence?

A sponsor licence grants permission to a UK organisation by the Home Office to lawfully employ non-UK resident workers in certain eligible roles. The organisation must make an application and if granted, will assume a number of compliance duties in respect of managing the licence and monitoring its sponsored workers.

What is a Certificate of Sponsorship?

A Certificate of Sponsorship is a reference number assigned to a non-EEA national from their UK sponsor, enabling them to make an application for their visa to work in Britain.

How do I apply for a sponsor licence?

To apply for sponsor a licence you will need to submit an application form with supporting documents to the Home Office. The application will be assessed against the licence eligibility criteria and whether the organisation has shown it can meet the ongoing sponsor licence compliance duties.

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