In order to employ skilled workers from outside the EU, UK employers must first apply to UK Visas and Immigration for a Tier 2 and/or Tier 5 sponsor licence. Employers who do not have a sponsor licence will be unable to hire new workers from outside the EU.

Types of Sponsor Licence

The licence you need depends on whether the workers you want to fill your jobs are:

Tier 2 – skilled workers with long-term job offers

Tier 5 – skilled temporary workers

You can apply for a licence covering either of the Tiers or both.

Sponsor Licence application

Through the application process, the UKVI will go through a vetting process of your company by way of the supporting evidence provided to get a better understanding of your company structure to show the duties and responsibilities required for managing the Sponsor Licence can be met.

In addition, the UKVI will consider:

  • You must be a genuine organisation (such as a corporation or a limited liability partnership), or a sole trader;

  • And operating legally in the United Kingdom;

  • You are honest, dependable and reliable and any key personnel have not been subject to any civil or criminal proceedings;

  • You must nominate at least three staff members to fulfil the immigration-related roles in your organisation: an Authorising Officer, a Key Contact and a Level 1 User;

  • You are capable of carrying out your sponsor duties and evidencing your compliance in an appropriate timeframe and manner;

  • If you are applying under Tier 2 (General), you can offer genuine employment that meets the Tier 2 (General) skill level and appropriate rates of pay.

  • They will undertake a genuineness approach to the role that is being filled by the foreign national migrant, on how it fits within your organisation as a whole.

The application process

You will complete an online licence application and provide supporting documentation, which must be provided within five days of the initial application.

Failure to submit the required documents may result in an application being delayed, rejected or refused. If your application is refused there is no right of appeal and there is a 6 month cooling off period which means you cannot reapply for a Sponsor Licence until the 6 months have elapsed from the refusal date.

Following the receipt of these documents, you may be subject to a compliance visit from UKVI, who will assess through a fact finding process on whether or not to grant the sponsorship licence.

Companies will also be required to comply with the illegal working requirements which states that all non-EU 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.

A successful sponsor licence application will enable your organisation to lawfully employ skilled migrant workers.

If your sponsor licence application is successful, your company will be placed on the list of registered sponsors and you will be permitted to assign Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to qualifying candidates, enabling them to make their visa application to the Home Office.

Sponsor Licence approval  

Once your application has been approved, you will be granted an A-rated sponsor licence, following which you can start assigning Certificates of Sponsorship to migrants who wish to work for you, and you will be listed under the register of sponsors.

You will be given access to the Sponsor Management System (SMS). This is an online portal where you can manage your licence. You must also use the system to report certain events, such as if a migrant fails to report to work.

A sponsor licence is valid for 4 years, after which you will need to apply for a Sponsor Licence Renewal.

If you fail to meet your sponsorship responsibilities, you could lose your licence or be downgraded to a B-rating, which means you will be unable to recruit migrant workers from outside of the UK until such time you have had you’re a-rating reinstated.

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