Under extant Immigration Rules and the Points Based System in the UK, businesses/employers must make a Sponsor Licence application before they can employ non-UK workers. Businesses/Employers who do not have a sponsor licence will be unable to hire new workers from outside the UK or extend work permits for current migrant employees. A Sponsor Licence is granted for an initial period of 4 years following which it needs to be renewed periodically.

Businesses that already have sponsor licences in place prior to the change in rules, will have their licences upgraded automatically to the relevant categories under the new system. They are not required to submit a fresh application. E.g., A company holding a Tier 2 Licence will not be required to submit a fresh application and their licence category will be automatically changed to a Skilled Worker category.

Who may apply for a Sponsor Licence?

Virtually any business can become a registered Sponsor Licence holder and sponsor an overseas worker.

If you consider applying for a sponsorship licence, you will need to demonstrate that you have:

  • a genuine business,
  • a genuine need for the sponsor licence, and
  • a suitable system for prevention of illegal working and UKVI compliance
  • a robust HR system for monitoring and record keeping practices.

This is not much and most business would expect to be successful provided they have the right procedures in place.

What type of sponsor licence do you need?

There are essentially two categories of Sponsor Licence:

  • Workers and,
  • Temporary Workers

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

  • ‘Workers’ – for those with long-term job offers.
  • ‘Temporary workers’

You can apply for a licence covering one or both types of worker.

Worker licence

A ‘Worker’ licence will let you employ people long-term or permanently. It is split into:

  • Skilled Worker – the role must meet the job suitability requirements.
  • Global Business Mobility – Senior or Specialist Worker: this is for senior managers or specialist employees being transferred by their overseas employer to a branch in the UK; it has replaced the Intra-Company Transfer route
  • Minister of Religion – for people coming to work for a religious organisation.
  • Sportsperson – for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK.
Temporary Worker licence

A ‘Temporary Worker’ licence will let you employ people on a temporary basis. It is split into:

  • Charity Worker: this is for a person who wants to come to the UK to do voluntary work with a charitable organisation for no more than 12 months
  • Creative Worker: this is for a person who wants to work within the creative sector (for example, as an artist, dancer, musician or entertainer, or as a model in the fashion industry) in the UK for up to 12 months (with the possibility to extend for up to a maximum of 24 months if working for the same sponsor)
  • Global Business Mobility (GBM) routes:

a) Graduate Trainee: it has replaced the Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route

b) UK Expansion Worker: it has replaced the (unsponsored) sole representative provisions of the Representative of an Overseas Business route

c) Service Supplier: it has replaced the provisions for contractual service suppliers and independent professionals on the International Agreement route

d) Secondment Worker: this is a new route

  • Government Authorised Exchange: this is for a person who wants to come to the UK on an approved scheme for a period of no more than 12 or 24 months (depending on the scheme)
  • International Agreement: this for a person who wants to come to the UK to provide a service covered under international law, such as private servants in diplomatic households or employees of overseas governments and international organisations – workers sponsored on this route can stay in the UK for a maximum period of 2 years
  • Religious Worker: this for a person who wants to support the activities of religious institutions in the UK by conducting religious work, such as working in a religious order or undertaking non-pastoral work for a religious organisation, for a maximum of 2 years.
  • Seasonal Worker: this is for workers in the horticulture sector doing seasonal work in the UK with a sponsor (who must be an approved scheme operator) for up to 6 months in any 12-month period.

Please be aware that each class would have its own compliance and documentation requirements and therefore a prospective applicant should be clear that it has adequate systems in place to ensure that it can meet the sponsorship compliance requirements.

Sponsor Licence Application

The application for a Sponsor Licence is made online by the employer. Once the application is submitted, the employer has five days to post supporting documents to the Home Office. There should be at least four documents, prepared and presented in the right format. The documents are aimed at demonstrating that the application is made on behalf of a genuine business.

In a Sponsor License application, an organisation must evidence within their application that:

  • They are a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK.
  • Their key personnel named on the application are honest, dependable, and reliable.
  • They are aware of and capable of carrying out their sponsor duties i.e., they have appropriate human resources and recruitment systems and practices in place.
  • They are offering genuine employment that meets the Tier 2 (General) skill level and appropriate rates of pay.
Supporting Documents

As part of the application process, certain supporting documents are required to be submitted. These documents need to be submitted within 5 days from the date of submission of the Application for the Sponsor License.

Organisations that want to apply for a sponsor licence must provide all the relevant supporting documents as maybe required under Appendix A of the sponsor guidance. It is an appendix to the full policy guidance on sponsoring a worker or student. It lists the documents you must provide to support your application for a sponsor licence.

In most cases, you must provide at least 4 documents. You may not need to send 4 documents if you are a:

  • public body recognised by the UK Government, such as a local authority.
  • company listed on the London Stock Exchange Main Market

The documents must be the originals or certified copies. If you send certified copies, we reserve the right to ask for the original document. Any documents not in English or Welsh must be accompanied by a certified translation.

Examples of accepted documents may include:

  • the VAT registration certificate, a licence for the business premises,
  • HMRC issued documents,
  • employer liability insurance
  • Etc

The Home Office has strict requirements regarding authentication of documents that cannot be submitted in the original and failure to follow the authentication requirements may lead to the rejection of the document and refusal of the application.

For a complete list of the acceptable documents please refer to the following link: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/878155/2020-04-03_Sponsor-guidance_Appendix-A_04-2020_v1.0.pdf

Post Submission Process

Following the receipt of the supporting documents, the company may then be subject to a compliance visit from UK Visas and Immigration, who will assess whether or not to grant the licence.

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

Once the assessment has been completed, the UKVI may then either grant or refuse the application. There is generally no right of appeal if the application is refused but the decision can be challenged by way of a Judicial Review.

It is therefore important that professional advice is sought to avoid any unwarranted decision which results in expenses and delay.

We at KTS Legal are highly experienced in helping employers with sponsor licence applications and renewals. We can manage the process on your behalf and deal with any questions you have relating to sponsor licence supporting documents to help you avoid delay or refusal of your application.