If you are looking to recruit a foreign national from outside the European Economic Union (EEA) or Switzerland to come to work for you in Britain, they will need to hold a valid UK sponsorship visa. As their prospective employer, you will only be eligible to employ a non-EEA migrant worker if you have applied for, and been granted, a sponsorship licence.

One of the key considerations for employers when embarking on the process of hiring a non-EEA worker and applying for a UK sponsorship visa licence will be the costs that will be incurred.

What are the fees for a UK sponsorship visa licence?

When applying for a licence to hire workers with a UK sponsorship visa, you will need to factor in fees both at the initial application and recruitment stage, as well as ongoing licence management costs.

These include:

Initial applications for a sponsor licence
The level of fee for a UK sponsorship visa licence will depend on the size of your organisation. In some circumstances, you may be eligible to pay the small sponsor licence fee.

The fee for medium or large sponsors is currently £1,476 (as of 2019), while the fee for small or charitable sponsors is £536. You will usually be classed as a small business if your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less and you have 50 employees or fewer.

Employers also have the option to sign up for what’s known as the premium sponsor scheme. The fee for the premium service can range rom £2,000 to £25,000, again depending on the size of your organisation and the length of time you sign up for.

Under this scheme you will receive an enhanced level of support with your own dedicated account manager.

Applying to renew an existing sponsor licence
A UK sponsorship visa licence is valid for four years, after which it will expire. The only exceptions are if it is revoked or surrendered before it expires, for example, where you fail to fulfil your duties as a UK sponsor.

You must renew your licence in the event that you wish to continue to employ Tier 2 or Tier 5 migrant workers. Further, when applying to renew your UK sponsorship visa licence, the cost of doing so will be the same as if you were applying for a licence for the first time.

Applying to extend the scope of an existing licence
When applying to extend your UK sponsorship visa licence, for example, by adding a Tier 2 to an existing Tier 5, or vice versa, you may need to pay an additional fee.

If you are a small or charitable sponsor there will be no fee to extend the scope of your licence in this way. There is also no fee for medium or large sponsors when adding a Tier 5 to an existing Tier 2. There is, however, a fee of £940 when adding a Tier 2 to an existing Tier 5 licence.

Assigning each Certificate of Sponsorship
You must assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to each foreign worker you employ. This is an electronic record, not a physical document, and contains a unique number that the worker can use to apply for a visa.

When assigning certificates of sponsorship under your UK sponsorship visa licence you will need to pay a fee of £199 for any certificate issued to a Tier 2 worker, and £21 for any certificate issued to a Tier 5 worker.

Please note, certificates are free for citizens of Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey.

What other costs are associated with a UK sponsorship visa licence?

Under the Immigration Skills Charge Regulations 2017 you may also be liable to pay what’s known as the Immigration Skills Charge each time you sponsor a non-EEA worker. You will need to pay this charge when you assign the CoS.

Typically, this charge will apply to a Tier 2 worker assigned a certificate of sponsorship on or after the 6 April 2017 under the General or Intra-Company Transfer routes.

If you are a small or charitable organisation, you will pay the ‘small’ charge, that is £364 for any stated period of employment up to 12 months, plus £182 for each subsequent 6-month period stated on the certificate.

In all other cases, you must pay the ‘large’ charge, that is £1,000 for any stated period of employment up to 12 months, plus £500 for each subsequent 6-month period stated on the certificate.

Unless an exception applies, you must pay the charge each time you assign a certificate of sponsorship to a non-EEA national and that worker is either:

  • Applying from outside the UK for entry clearance to work in the UK for 6 months or more, or
  • Applying from within the UK for leave to remain of any duration, including for less than 6 months.

In accordance with your reporting duties, you must let the Home Office know as soon as possible, and in any case within 10 working days, if the size or type of your business changes, as this will affect the amount you must pay for each certificate of sponsorship and skills charge.

If you fail to inform the Home Office within this time limit, they may take action against you, including downgrading, suspending or revoking your UK sponsorship visa licence.

What is the cost of maintaining your licence?

If your application for a UK sponsorship visa licence is successful you will be granted a licence with an “A” licence rating. This will allow you to assign certificates of sponsorship to each foreign worker you employ.

However, in the event that you fail to comply with your sponsorship duties, for example, failing to carry out right to work checks on any non-EEA workers, this could result in your rating being downgraded, or even your licence being suspended or revoked.

If your licence rating is downgraded, you will be required to pay for a sponsor action plan at a cost of £1,476 to help you reinstate your “A” licence rating.

Proceeding with you application for a UK sponsorship licence

To obtain a UK sponsorship visa licence you must submit your application online via the government web portal. Any supporting documentation required to validate your application will need to be submitted within five working days of the initial application.

You will need to provide at least four supporting documents to verify your organisation, although the documentary requirements can vary depending on the nature of your organisation and the vacancies you are looking to fill.

If you fail to provide the necessary documentation in support of your application for a UK sponsorship visa licence, you risk your application being significantly delayed or even denied.

The Home Office will write to you to inform you as to whether your application for a sponsorship licence has been approved, or giving reasons where your application has been refused. If refused, you will then need to wait at least further six months before re-applying.

Given the upfront investment required to make a sponsor licence application – time spent building the submission and finding the employment, fees and costs of making the application etc – taking professional advice can help ensure you are following the process as required, that your submission aligns to the eligibilty criteria and that any delays are avoided in processing your application.

Do you need advice on a UK sponsorship visa or licence?

For advice on sponsorship licences and hiring a UK sponsorship visa worker, contact us.