Employers in the United Kingdom must have a Sponsor Licence to hire skilled foreign nationals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. Under the new UK immigration points-based system, the sponsor licence is issued by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
UKVI may provide a sponsor licence to UK companies under the Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa classifications, allowing them to hire and sponsor non-EEA migrants. Tier 2 Sponsor Licence will be the focus of this article since Tier 5 has been severely limited in scope in recent years. Employers may provide Certificates of Sponsorship to foreign migrants once the Tier 2 Sponsor Licence application is approved.
However, applying for a Sponsor Licence is a lengthy procedure that requires submitting the appropriate documents and evidence to meet UKVI criteria. Data from previous years shows that the UKVI rejects more than 15% of sponsorship licence applications. Since there is no right of appeal for failed applications (though you may seek reconsideration), you will have to wait a certain amount of time and reapply at full cost.
You may apply for a sponsor licence that enables you to sponsor migrants in Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa categories of the UK immigration points-based system, depending on the employment criteria you're looking to fulfil.
The Tier 2 Sponsor Licence is the most frequent application, allowing you to hire skilled workers permanently, although you may apply for both if necessary.
Your company must have a UK presence and be operating or dealing legally in the UK to be eligible to apply for a sponsor licence. If you have several UK branches, you may apply for a single licence that covers all of your connected UK entities, or you can apply for individual licences for each branch, depending on your needs.
You must provide evidence that you (and any branches covered by the licence) are registered with the relevant authority if you are required to be registered with or inspected/monitored by a statutory authority to operate legally in the UK. You may also be required to provide evidence that you have the necessary planning permit or consent from the local planning authority to operate your kind of company at your trading address.
The Home Office must be convinced that you can provide real work in a skilled profession and that you will pay the proper wage rate as set by the Home Office.
As part of your licence application, you agree to accept all of the responsibilities that come with holding a sponsor licence.
The fee of a sponsor licence is determined by the size and nature of the organisation. This application cost is due each time the sponsor's licence is renewed (every four years). The Home Office typically reviews fees once a year and publishes the results on its website.
Sponsor licence fees of £1,476 are required of organisations categorised as "medium" and "large." All organisations that do not fit the criteria of a "small" sponsor would be charged this fee.
If two of the following conditions are met, an organisation is considered a small sponsor.
There are two types of sponsor licences:
If your sponsor licence application is approved, you will get an A-rating. The highest rating, given by the Home Office to trustworthy organisations who have shown that they have the procedures in place to meet sponsor obligations.
To maintain an A-rating, a sponsor must keep its systems and procedures up to date. The Home Office has the authority to re-evaluate at any time, and these compliance visits will decide whether or not an organisation still fulfills the requirements for an A-rating.
If the Home Office discovers that a company is not fulfilling its sponsor obligations, it may be demoted to a B-rating. To recover their A-rating, a B-rated sponsor must follow a time-limited action plan. The licence will be withdrawn if they fail to fulfill the action plan's criteria within the given period.
It's worth noting that the Home Office may suspend or cancel a licence without first downgrading it to a B-rating. The Home Office's course of action will be determined by the severity of the violations that have been identified.
A company must submit an online application form along with at least four specified supporting documents as proof of its professional presence in the UK, as well as a covering letter to provide background information about the company, in order to apply for a sponsor licence (formerly known as Tier 2 sponsor licence).
The Home Office may sometimes request additional documents, such as proof of the company's HR processes, in order to determine whether compliance and sponsorship obligations will be met. The Home Office may perform a compliance visit at the company's premises as part of its evaluation of the licence application.
With the Skilled Worker (previously Tier 2 General) licence application, you will typically be required to provide a minimum of four mandatory documents. The number of documents you'll have to submit varies depending on whether you're representing a government body, a startup, a franchise, or a small business. Documents that are easy to obtain include:
If you're applying for a sponsor licence under the Intra-Company Transfer subcategory, you'll additionally need to provide proof of shared ownership between the UK and the overseas company.
There are many types of sponsor licences, each with its own set of supporting documents that must be submitted.
It is possible to apply for several subcategories of sponsor licence at the same time if the criteria are fulfilled and the appropriate evidence is provided.
*These prices are subject to change in the future.