A temporary worker licence is a licence that allows you to sponsor workers to come to the UK from overseas to work for a short period of time, generally between 6 and 24 months.
Under the UK’s new points-based immigration system, a number of different types of temporary worker licence are available:
- Creative Worker – for a period up to two years;
- Sporting Worker – for a period of up to one year;
- Religious Worker – for a period up to two years;
- Charity Worker – for a period of up to one year;
- Government Exchange Worker – at work experience level, for a period of up to one year; at research or training level, for a period up to two years
- International Agreement Worker – there is more flexibility and it depends on the role;
- Seasonal Worker – for up to six months in any twelve month period.
The categories above are specific in what activities are permissible. If you wish to sponsor a worker for a different purpose to those permitted by the types of licence above, you would need to obtain a different sponsor licence relevant to the specific need, such an ICT or Skilled Worker licence.
Sponsor licence eligibility requirements
In order to be eligible to sponsor temporary workers in one of the seven categories listed above, you will need to fulfil some general requirements and some that are specific to your sector.
Your organisation must be a UK-based sporting body, sports club, events organiser or other organiser operating, or intending to operate, in the sporting sector. You must also be endorsed by the relevant, Home Office-approved sports governing body.
Creative worker sponsor
The Home Office has published a non-exhaustive list of the types of organisations that might qualify as a sponsor in this sector:
- national arts body
- an events organiser
- a producer
- a venue
- an agent
- a promoter or promotion company
- a production company
- a media organisation
Charity Worker sponsor
In order to qualify as a sponsor in this area you should be a registered, a excepted or a exempt UK charity in line with the relevant charity legislation in force in your part of the UK; or an ecclesiastical corporation (either corporation sole or body corporate) which has been established for charitable purposes.
Religious Worker sponsor
In order to sponsor a religious worker you must be a bona fide religious organisation which has charitable status.
Government Authorised Exchange Worker sponsor
In order to qualify as a sponsor your organisation must be either a government department or
a Higher Education Institution, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), or an organisation endorsed by UKRI in its Science, Research and Academia programme. Individual employers and organisations are not allowed to sponsor workers on this route.
International Agreement Worker sponsor
In order to qualify in this category you must:
- be able to and intend to sponsor private servants in diplomatic households or in households of officials;
- intend to sponsor a worker who will be working for recognised international organisations;
- intend to sponsor employees of an overseas government or international organisation; or
- intend to sponsor contractual service suppliers or independent professionals in a sector specified in the General Agreement on Trade in Services or another similar international agreement to which the UK is a signatory.
Seasonal Workers sponsor
In order to sponsor a seasonal worker you must be a scheme operator which is endorsed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to be an approved scheme operator, and licensed by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.
The UK government has expanded the number of visas available on this route for 2021 to 30,000. This means that DEFRA is actively recruiting for two more new scheme operators to participate in the Seasonal Worker programme. The existing two operators are Concordia and Pro-Force Limited.
Unless you apply directly to DEFRA, individual employers and organisations are not eligible for a sponsor licence on this route.
In order to be granted, and to retain, a sponsor licence by UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI), you must show that you have appointed the necessary people in your organisation to be responsible for the sponsorship management system (SMS). The SMS is the UKVI electronic system in which applications for Temporary Worker visas are administered.
You must appoint:
- an authorising officer;
- a key contact; and
- a level 1 user.
It is possible for one person to carry out all these roles.
This should be a manager as they have overall responsibility for the actions of staff members or representatives who use the SMS.
This should be the person who will act as the main point of contact with UKVI.
This is the person who will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of applications and the SMS.
Note that it is also possible to appoint level-2 users who carry out work within the SMS, but at a more restricted level than a level-1 user.
Anyone within your organisation who is going to be responsible for working on the sponsorship of temporary workers will be vetted by UKVI. Your application for a sponsor licence may be rejected if any of the following are true of those members of staff:
- they have an unspent criminal conviction;
- they have been fined by UKVI in the past 12 months;
- they have been reported to UKVI;
- they have broken the law;
- they have been a ‘key person’ at a sponsor that had its licence revoked in the last 12 months; or
- they have failed to pay VAT or other excise duty.
In addition, there are requirements that members of staff involved in sponsorship must meet:
- they must be based in the UK most of the time;
- they must not be subject to a bankruptcy order, or a debt relief order;
- they must not be a contractor; and
- they must not have a history of non-compliance with UKVI sponsorship requirements.
You are allowed to engage third party HR providers to carry out some level 1 and level 2 sponsorship work. However, at least one level 1 user must be your employee.
You are also allowed to hire an external UK-based legal representative to carry out your sponsorship work. However, the authorising officer role must still be done by an employee of yours.
Temporary worker sponsor licence application process
You apply online. Once you have submitted your application, you will be given an email address to which you must send your submission sheet and supporting documents. In most cases you will need to send four documents. They should cover matters such as company registration, tax and regulatory compliance in your sector, for example the Financial Conduct Authority for businesses operating in finance or insurance.
If you intend to sponsor sportspeople under your Temporary Worker Licence then you will need to send the endorsement from the governing body for your sport, which will have to have been approved by the UK Home Office.
If you are applying for a Government Authorised Exchange Worker licence, the relevant government department will already have endorsed and authorised the scheme. Accordingly, you are only obliged to provide three documents.
If you are applying to sponsor an International Agreement Worker then you will need to provide evidence that you have granted a contract for services for a period of 12 months of less through an open tender procedure. You will also need to provide a signed letter from the head of your organisation stating that they agree to the application being made, confirm their intention to sponsor a worker on this route and undertake to abide by the sponsorship requirements.
If you are an ecclesiastical corporation applying to sponsor religious workers, you need to provide details of the faith to which belong and the parent organisation, including a hierarchy chart of the organisation, the size of your adult congregation, the number of ministers you employ and your regular meeting places.
How much does a Temporary Worker Licence cost?
The cost of a temporary worker sponsor licence depends on the size of your business.
You will be classed as a small business if two of the following are true:
- your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less;
- your total assets are worth £5.1 million or less;
- you have 50 employees or fewer.
You are classed as a charitable sponsor if you are a registered, excepted or exempt charity, or if you are an ecclesiastical corporation established for charitable purposes.
The fee for small or charitable sponsors for a temporary worker licence is £536.
The fee for medium or large sponsors is also £536.
If you already have a Worker Licence and you want to have a Temporary Worker licence as well then you will not be charged a fee.
If you already have a Temporary Worker Licence and you want to add a Worker Licence, this is free for small sponsors and charitable sponsors, but medium or large sponsors will have to pay £940.
It costs £21 for each Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) that you assign to a Temporary Worker. However, the CoS is free if the worker is from an EU country or Turkey.
If you are successful in obtaining a sponsor licence, then you will automatically be given ‘A’ rated status. If you are downgraded to a ‘B’ level sponsor and want to get back to an ‘A’ rating then you will need to follow an action plan set by the UKVI. The action plan costs £1,476. If you do not pay this fee within 10 working days of being told about your downgrade, then you will lose the sponsor licence altogether.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. We work with UK employers to support their talent mobility needs, including hiring workers from overseas under all UK immigration routes.
Temporary Worker Sponsor Licence FAQs
How do you get a sponsorship licence?
You get a sponsorship licence to enable you to sponsor Temporary Workers to come to the UK by applying to UK Visas and Immigration online here: https://www.gov.uk/apply-sponsor-licence Depending on the type of temporary worker you intend to sponsor, you will need to provide some additional information to support the application. You will also need to pay the appropriate fee and appoint members of staff within your organisation who will be responsible and accountable for administering the sponsorship process.
How much does a sponsorship Licence cost?
A sponsorship Licence for an organisation to be able to sponsor Temporary Workers to come to the UK costs £536. This is the same regardless of the size of your organisation. Depending on whether your temporary worker is from the within the EU and Turkey or not, you will also have to pay a fee of £21 for each Certificate of Sponsorship that you issue to a worker.
What is a licensed sponsor?
A licensed sponsor is a business or charity that is licensed by UK Visas and Immigration to sponsor Temporary or Skilled Workers to come to the UK to work for a fixed period of time. The sponsor must have completed their application and paid the fee in order to obtain the licence. In order to retain the licence the sponsor must comply with the requirement to appoint a member of staff to oversee the sponsorship system and ensure the sponsor’s compliance with immigration rules.
Do UK companies sponsor work permits?
Yes, UK companies are allowed to sponsor workers on various types of work permits, including Temporary Worker visas and Skilled Worker visas. In order to be able to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to an overseas worker, the company must itself have a licence from UK Visas and Immigration. Any company can apply for such a licence, as long as they comply with the application requirements and pay the requisite fee.
Last updated: 26 January 2021