If you are a UK-based employer who wants to hire skilled workers from outside the UK, you may need to apply for a sponsor licence.
What is a sponsor licence?
A sponsor licence is a permission granted by the Home Office that allows you to sponsor foreign workers to come and work in the UK under certain visa categories.
When does an employer require a sponsor licence?
A sponsor licence is required for most employers who want to employ EEA and Swiss citizens who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020, as well as non-EEA nationals, under the ‘Skilled Worker’, ‘Senior or Specialist Worker’ (Global Business Mobility), ‘Minister of Religion’ or ‘International Sportsperson’ visa routes. A sponsor licence is also required for employers who want to hire workers under the ‘Temporary Worker’ routes, such as ‘UK Expansion Worker’, ‘Secondment Worker’, ‘Service Supplier’ or ‘Graduate Trainee’ for example.
When is a sponsor licence not required?
A sponsor licence is not required for employers who want to hire workers under the ‘Youth Mobility Scheme’, which is open to young people from certain countries who want to live and work in the UK for up to two years.
A sponsor licence is also not required for employers who want to hire workers who already have the right to work in the UK, such as British citizens, Irish citizens, EEA and Swiss citizens who have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, other migrants with Permanent Residence (also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain) or those who have other visas that allow them to work for any employer, such as spouses of British citizens, dependants of working visa holders, students, etc.
What are the key eligibility criteria for obtaining a sponsor licence?
- You must be a genuine organisation with a legal presence and operation in the UK.
- You must not pose a threat to immigration control or have a history of non-compliance with immigration law.
- You must have key personnel who are honest and dependable.
- You must have appropriate systems and processes in place to monitor and report on your sponsored workers or students.
Are there any additional requirements?
- Depending on the type of sponsor licence you are applying for, you may also need to meet additional requirements, such as;
- Having a genuine need to recruit workers or students from outside the UK
- Offering roles that meet the minimum skill and salary levels for sponsored workers
- Having enough funds to cover the costs of sponsorship
How do you apply for a sponsor licence?
Applying for a sponsor licence can be a complex and lengthy process, and it requires you to meet certain criteria and obligations. To apply for a sponsor licence, you will need to complete an online application form and pay the relevant fee. You will also need to provide various documents and evidence to support your application.
By engaging an experienced lawyer such as 3CS, you can save time and money, avoid common mistakes and pitfalls, and increase your chances of obtaining your sponsor licence.
What happens once the application is approved, rejected or refused?
If your application is approved, you will be granted a sponsor licence with an A-rating. An A-rating means you can start sponsoring workers or students immediately. You will also be given access to an online system called the Sponsorship Management System (SMS), where you can manage your sponsor licence and issue certificates of sponsorship (CoS) to your sponsored workers or students.
If your application is rejected, it means you have not met the eligibility criteria or provided sufficient evidence for your application. You can reapply for a sponsor licence after addressing the reasons for rejection.
If your application is refused, it means you have submitted an invalid application or have serious issues that prevent you from being a sponsor. You cannot reapply for a sponsor licence for six months after refusal.
How long does it take to get a sponsor licence?
The process of applying for a sponsor licence can take several weeks or months, depending on various factors, such as the type of licence you are applying for, the size and nature of your organisation, the availability of supporting documents and evidence, the demand and capacity of the Home Office, and the possible need for a compliance visit by the Home Office.
The Home Office aims to process most applications within eight weeks, but some applications may take longer, especially if they are complex or incomplete. You may be able to pay an extra £500 for the pre-licence priority services to get a decision within 10 working days, but this service is limited and subject to availability. In our experience, the Home Office availability is often limited and clients are advised not to rely upon the readiness of this service.
How 3CS can help
We can support you on all aspects of sponsor licences including:
- Advising you on the eligibility and suitability criteria for sponsorship
- Helping you prepare and submit your online application form
- Assisting you with gathering and sending your supporting documents and evidence
- Liaising with the Home Office on your behalf
- Representing you in case of any queries, issues or challenges
- Supporting you with managing your sponsorship duties and responsibilities
- Acting as your appointed Level 1 User
- Helping you renew your licence before it expires (usually after four years).