How to apply for a Sponsor Licence – Frequently Asked Questions

With the UK’s new immigration system set to come into force from January 2021, the Government’s message has been very clear – organisations that envisage recruiting both EU and non-EU nationals from January 2021 onwards should apply now for a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence.

We take a look at some of the frequently asked questions regarding a Sponsor Licence and the sponsorship of foreign workers under the new points-based immigration system.

Q: What do I need to do to hire foreign workers under the new immigration system?

A: In order to sponsor migrants under the new points-based system, employers must first be registered with the Home Office and hold a sponsor licence.

This involves making an online application for a Sponsor Licence, paying the relevant fee and providing various corporate documentation with your application.

Q: What is a Sponsor Licence?

A: A sponsor licence is effectively approval from the Home Office for an organisation to sponsor foreign workers to work in the UK. Once granted, a sponsor licence is valid for 4 years, after which it will expire – unless a sponsor decides to pay the relevant fee and renew the licence for a further 4 years.

After the sponsor licence has been granted, the Home Office may visit an organisation (announced or unannounced) to ensure the organisation is abiding by its sponsorship obligations.

Q: How do I make a Sponsor Licence application?

A: Organisations must firstly demonstrate to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) that it is a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK. Furthermore, organisations must show they are aware of and capable of carrying out their visa sponsorship duties – this can be demonstrated by showing you have relevant HR and recruitment processes and systems in place and that you have a genuine need for a skilled worker sponsor licence.

UKVI will consider whether there is a genuine need for the organisation to have a sponsor licence. Organisations should be able to demonstrate their future recruitment plans – there may be a vacant position with specialist technical skills which organisation has struggled to recruit from within the UK labour market.

The Home Office’s guidance for Tier 2 and 5 sponsors states that organisations making an application for a sponsor licence will need to show they are able to offer genuine employment skilled to RQF Level 3 or above.

To make the application, you complete an online application, provide at least four corporate documents (from the specified list) and pay the relevant fee – £536 for small and charitable organisations or £1476 for large organisations.

Q: What type of documents must I send with the Sponsor Licence application?

A: An organisation must provide at least four documents to demonstrate that the organisation is genuine and trading in the UK – the full list of documents can be found in UKVI’s Appendix A – Sponsor Guidance.

An example of acceptable documents are:

  • Audited accounts.
  • Bank statements/letter from the bank.
  • Evidence of registration with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – National Insurance and PAYE.

Q: Will UK Visas and Immigration visit my office?

A: UKVI Compliance Officers can attend any of your UK offices, branches or sites at any time, either announced or unannounced. An announced visit involves UKVI providing advance notice to a sponsor of an intended visit whereas an unannounced visit involves Compliance Officers turning up at your registered office and requesting to speak with your Authorising Officer.

An organisation that has been trading for less than 18 months is more likely to have Compliance Officers visit them pre-licence (before the licence is granted). Certain business sectors may also be at risk of future visits (restaurants/hospitality) but in short, UKVI can visit any organisation at any time.

It is therefore important that organisations can demonstrate good HR and recruitment processes and systems are in place and all sponsored worker’s personnel file are updated in line with UKVI’s Appendix D guidance.

Q: Once my Sponsor Licence is approved – do I need to do anything further?

A: Once an application is approved, an organisation will be awarded an “A-rated” sponsorship status and access will be granted to an online Sponsor Management System (SMS). The online SMS is an organisation’s own secure portal which allows the organisation to assign Certificate of Sponsorships (CoS) to EU and non-EU workers – must satisfy the Skilled Worker requirements i.e. role must be at least RQF Level 3 or above and meet the minimum salary threshold.

Secondly, throughout the duration of being a sponsor, organisations must comply with their sponsor obligations. In determining whether an organisation meets its sponsorship obligations, UKVI will look at the following areas:

  1. Record keeping and recruitment practices – for each sponsored worker, sponsors should retain a personnel file consisting of their sponsorship records. Such documents will include CoS, role profile, pay-slips, evidence of the resident labour market test (if applicable).
  2. Monitoring immigration status: All employers must be performing right to work checks on all employees (on or before first day of employment). Employers should also be able to evidence they have systems in place to track the visa expiry date of non-EEA nationals who are on a time-limited visa.
  3. Monitoring/tracking migrant workers: Employers must be able to demonstrate they have systems/processes in place to track the whereabouts of their sponsored workers. This involves recording absences and annual leave requests for those employees. UKVI also expect to see organisations regularly reporting certain information via the SMS (usually within 10 working days of the event happening).
  4. Up to date contact details: Employers should be able to evidence they have a system in place which records contact details for sponsored workers – current and past details should be retained.

Our business immigration team are experienced in preparing sponsor licence applications and are proud to boast a 100% success record. We also work with employers to assess whether they have robust HR/recruitment systems and processes in place to ensure they are in a position to continue to meet their sponsorship obligations.

If your organisation requires legal assistance or you would just like to discuss your situation, please do not hesitate to contact our Head of Business Immigration, Sundeep Rathod.