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Sponsor Licence Application for Employers

If your Business wishes to apply for a Sponsor Licence then our team at Hunter Stone Law will be able to guide and assist you throughout every step of the process. In order to obtain a Sponsor Licence you and your business would have to meet the requirement of the relevant rules to obtain a Sponsor Licence. However we have attempted to simplify the requirements below.

You might need a sponsor licence to employ someone from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland to work for you in the UK.  This includes unpaid work, eg if you run a charity.

What is a Sponsor Licence?

A sponsorship licence under Tier 2 allows employers to employ foreign and migrant workers. It allows them to offer them a Tier 2 certificate, which is a form of work permit.

Immigration lawyers and immigration solicitors are permitted to assist employers to get their licences.

The licence allows employers to be on the UKVI’s register of sponsors. This is a public list of all the employers and employing organisations that UKVI has licensed to employ foreign employees. Therefore if you are an employer who wants to employ workers and undertake a sponsorship role, you will need a sponsor licence.

The requirements for applying for a sponsor licence are strictly enforced – they fall into 3 major categories:

  • The employer will be asked to prove that they are a genuine business functioning under all relevant UK laws;
  • The sponsoring employer must show that provide no threat to immigration procedures and controls; and
  • The employer requesting a sponsor licence must also show that it can manage its employees and meet all of its prescribed sponsorship duties.

Once a licence is obtained, the number of certificates to be issued (which is the number of employees to be employed) can be increased through application.

How to obtain a sponsor licence

  • Check your business is eligible.
  • Choose the type of licence you want to apply for - this will depend on what type of worker you want to sponsor.
  • Decide who will manage sponsorship within your business.
  • Apply online and pay the fee.

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 tier or both.

Tier 2

Tier 2 is for skilled workers who you want to employ long-term or permanently. It’s split into:

  • General - the role must meet the job suitability requirements
  • Intra-Company Transfer - for multi-national companies which need to transfer employees to the UK
  • Minister of Religion - for people coming to work for a religious organisation (for up to 3 years)
  • Sportsperson - for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK

Tier 5

Tier 5 is for skilled workers you want to employ on a temporary basis. It’s split into:

  • Creative and Sporting - to work as a sportsperson (up to 1 year), entertainer or artist (up to 2 years)
  • Charity Worker - for unpaid workers (up to 1 year)
  • Religious Worker - for those doing preaching, pastoral and non-pastoral work (2 years)
  • Government Authorised Exchange - work experience (1 year), research projects or training, eg practical medical or scientific training (2 years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge
  • International Agreement - where the worker is coming to do a job which is covered by international law, eg employees of overseas governments

You need a certificate of sponsorship for each foreign worker you employ. This is an electronic record, not a physical document. Each certificate has its own number which a worker can use to apply for a visa.

Certificates must be used within 3 months from when they’re issued.

Unrestricted certificates

When you apply for your licence you’ll be asked to estimate how many of each Tier 2 and Tier 5 certificate you’ll need. These are called unrestricted certificates because there’s no limit on how many you can get.

Restricted certificates

These are for:

  • Tier 2 (General) workers currently abroad who’ll be paid less than £153,500 a year
  • family members (‘dependants’) of Tier 4 migrants

You must apply for restricted certificates for these workers through the sponsorship management system (SMS) which is an online system that you’ll use to assign certificates - you’ll get access when you get your licence.

There’s a limited number of restricted certificates available each month.

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may visit your business to check it’s suitable.

After you apply

You’ll be given a licence rating if your application is successful.

You’ll be able to issue certificates of sponsorship if you’ve jobs that are suitable for sponsorship. Your licence will be valid for 4 years.

Job suitability

You can sponsor a worker if the tier 2 or tier 5 job they’re going to do has a suitable rate of pay and skill level.

Offering a skilled job in Scotland

If you want to offer someone a skilled job, it must be Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF)     level 9 or above for both Tier 2 (General) and Intra-Company Transfer.

Creative jobs

There are separate rates of pay and skill levels for:

  • ballet dancers and other dancers
  • film and TV performers
  • theatre and opera performers
  • film and TV workers

Advertising the job

You may need to advertise the job you’re offering if it’s not on the shortage occupation list.

You’ll need to advertise any job you offer to a worker in the following categories:

  • Tier 2 (General)
  • Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) or Tier 5 (Religious Workers) unless it’s a non-essential position or involves living within a religious order (eg as a monk or nun)
  • Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting) in the creative and entertainment sector, unless you can explain why the job can’t be done by a settled worker

The advert (known as the ‘resident labour market test’) makes sure that there are no suitable workers already living permanently in the UK.

How long to advertise the job for

The advert must run in the UK for 28 days in most cases, either continuously or in 2 stages. If you advertise in 2 stages, your advert still needs to run for a total of 28 days and neither stage can be less than 7 days.  You must be able to show that you didn’t find a suitable worker.

Your responsibilities as sponsor licence holder

You must:

  • check that your foreign workers have the necessary qualifications or professional accreditations to do their jobs, and keep copies of documents showing this
  • only assign certificates of sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship
  • tell UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) if your sponsored workers are not complying with the conditions of their visa

Your licence may be downgraded, suspended or withdrawn if you don’t meet them.

Monitoring employees

You must have HR systems in place that let you:

  • monitor your employees’ immigration status
  • keep copies of relevant documents for each employee, including passport and right to work information
  • track and record employees’ attendance
  • keep employee contact details up to date
  • report to UKVI if there is a problem, eg your employee stops coming to work

Changes to your business

You must report any significant changes in your own circumstances within 20 working days, for example if you:

  • stop trading or become insolvent
  • substantially change the nature of your business
  • are involved in a merger or take-over

You must also tell UKVI if you’re changing your details, eg your address or your allocated roles.

Sponsoring under-18s

You must make sure that foreign workers under 18 have suitable care arrangements for their:

  • travel to the UK
  • arrival in the UK
  • living arrangements in the UK

You must also get a letter from their parents stating their consent to the care arrangements.

You’ll lose your licence if you don’t do this.