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United Kingdom:Sponsor Licence for work and study

Securing a sponsor licence in the United Kingdom 

As the UK economy continues to recover from the effects of COVID-19, many companies are feeling the pressure of an increasingly competitive recruitment market when it comes to filling roles within their business.

If your business is planning a recruitment drive in 2022, or you simply wish to refine your recruitment strategy and prepare your business to bring in skilled workers from anywhere in the world, a sponsor licence could be your key to success.

Your business’ll usually need a sponsor licence to employ someone to work for you from outside the UK. This includes citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020. This includes unpaid work, like running a charity.

Your business will not need a licence to sponsor certain groups, for example:

  • Irish citizens
  • those with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • those with indefinite leave to remain in the UK

Types of sponsor licence

A sponsor licence is a permission given by the Home Office to an organisation to employ foreign nationals or to enrol international students on work or study visas.

There are three types of sponsor licence:

  • Worker licence (previously known as a Tier 2 licence), allows your business to ‘sponsor’ migrant workers on skilled work immigration routes such as the Skilled Worker visa or the Intra-Company Transfer visa.
  •  Temporary Worker licence (previously known as Tier 5) will let you sponsor people on a temporary basis, including for volunteering and job-shadowing.
  • Student sponsor licence (previously known as Tier 4) is for educational providers sponsoring international students.

It should be noted that sponsors can apply to be licenced under more than one tier. For example, a company who wishes to hire migrant workers to fill permanent roles but also offers seasonal work could apply to be licenced as a Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsor.

Most businesses wishing to hire workers from overseas should apply for a Tier 2 ‘Worker’ licence. 

Who can apply for a sponsor licence?

Before applying for a sponsor licence, you must ensure your business meets the Home Office’s eligibility and suitability criteria.

Your business must:

  • Have an established business presence in the UK
  • Be able to offer genuine employment that meets the skill and salary thresholds for the routes you are applying to be licensed for
  • Have the appropriate human resource and recruitment systems in place to enable you to meet your sponsor duties
  • Have a suitable employee to nominate as the ‘Authorising Officer’. This person will take on overall responsibility for the Sponsor Licence.

You cannot apply for a sponsor licence if you have any unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes such as fraud or money laundering, or if you have had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months.

Applying for a sponsor licence

The sponsor licence application process includes:

  • Completion of the online application form
  • Submission of supporting documentation (such as latest annual accounts, corporate bank account statement, employers’ liability insurance certificate and VAT registration certificate).
  • Payment of the application fee. The cost of a Sponsor Licence is £536 for small or charitable sponsors, or £1.476 for medium or large sponsors.

Once you have applied for a sponsor licence and submitted all necessary information, you should receive a decision from the Home Office within 8 weeks.

Maintaining compliance

Once you have applied for and successfully secured a sponsor licence for your business, it is important to keep on top of your ongoing sponsor duties to avoid adverse action being taken against you.

Failure to comply with your legal obligations as a licensed sponsor could result in your licence being downgraded, suspended or revoked. Each of these actions will have different consequences for your business, and the type of action the Home Office decides to take against you will depend on the individual circumstances and the severity of your non-compliance. The action of revoking a sponsor licence is generally reserved for the most serious breaches, and means that your sponsor licence will be cancelled entirely.

Support with sponsorship

If you are considering applying for a UK business sponsor licence, Visa Lounge can assist in collaboration with our immigration partner in the United Kingdom who are OISC registered.