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Sponsor Licences

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, like running a charity.
Sponsoring someone doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be allowed to come to or stay in the UK.

Please note: Sponsor licences are only available to bonafide companies who meet strict criteria. You cannot use this route to sponsor another individual if you are not an established employer in the UK.

UK immigration Solicitors do not assist in sourcing /matching sponsors with employers. We only assist organisations to obtain sponsor licences and employees to obtain a work permit which will allow them to work for an existing sponsor licence holder who is willing to employ them.

Speak to our assessment team now to confirm your eligibility and options for free on 0203 384 4389.

Further Information

Eligibility

To get a licence, you can’t have:

  • unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering
  • any history of failing to carry out your sponsorship duties

You’ll need appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will review your application form and supporting documents. They may visit your business to make sure you’re trustworthy and capable of carrying out your duties.

Types of 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 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 multinational 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, for example 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, for example employees of overseas governments

Sponsorship Management Roles

You need to appoint people within your business to manage the sponsorship process when you apply for a licence. The main tool they’ll use is the sponsorship management system (SMS). The roles are:

  • authorising officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the SMS
  • key contact – your main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
  • level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS

These roles can be filled by the same person or different people. You can also appoint an optional level 2 user once you have your licence. This is an SMS user with more restricted access than a level 1 user, for example they can’t withdraw a certificate of sponsorship.

Suitability checks

You and your staff will be checked to make sure you’re suitable for these roles. You may not get your licence if anyone involved in sponsorship has:

  • an unspent criminal conviction
  • been fined by UKVI in the past 12 months
  • been reported to UKVI
  • broken the law
  • been a ‘key person’ at a sponsor that had its licence revoked in the last 12 months
  • failed to pay VAT or other excise duty

You and your allocated staff must also:

  • be based in the UK most of the time
  • not be a contractor or consultant contracted for a specific project
  • not be subject to a bankruptcy restriction order or undertaking, or a debt relief restriction order or undertaking
  • not have a history of non-compliance with sponsor requirements

Your allocated staff must usually be paid members of staff, or office holders. Read the full guidance on appointing ‘key personnel’.

HR contractors and agency staff

You must have at least one level 1 user who is your employee. You can have other level 1 or level 2 users employed by third-party organisations contracted to provide you with HR services. Your level 2 user can be a temporary member of staff supplied by an agency.

UK-based legal representatives

You can allocate any of the roles to a UK-based legal representative, apart from the authorising officer role. Your representative must be qualified to give immigration advice or services.

Your licence rating

You’ll get an A-rated licence if your application is approved.

A-rating – full sponsor licence

An A-rated licence lets you start assigning certificates of sponsorship. Your business will be listed in the register of sponsors.

Downgrading to B-rating

Your A-rated licence may be downgraded to a B-rating at a later stage if you don’t continue to meet your sponsor duties. If this happens, you won’t be able to issue new certificates of sponsorship until you’ve made improvements and upgraded back to an A-rating. You’ll still be able to issue certificates to workers you already employ who want to extend, or who are switching from a Work Permit.

Upgrade to an A-rating

You need to follow an ‘action plan’ provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to upgrade your licence. You have to pay £1,476 for an action plan. You must pay the fee within 10 working days of the dateUKVItells you about the downgrade. If you don’t, you’ll lose your licence.

At the end of the action plan

You’ll be upgraded to an A-rating if you complete all the steps and there’s nothing else you need to improve. You’ll lose your licence if you don’t complete all the steps. If you need to make other improvements, you’ll be given another B-rating and will have to follow a new action plan. You’ll have to pay the fee again.

If you get a second B-rating

You can only have 2 B-ratings in the 4 years that your licence is valid. You’ll lose your licence if you still need to make improvements after your second action plan.

How to reapply

You can’t appeal if your application is unsuccessful, but you can reapply. You may have to wait before reapplying – the time will depend on your circumstances. You need to start a new application. You have to wait up to 12 months before reapplying if you’ve been fined for employing illegal workers and you lost your licence.

Sponsorship Certificates

You must assign a certificate of sponsorship to 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 assigned.

Unrestricted certificates

When you apply for your licence you’ll be asked to estimate how many Tier 2 and Tier 5 certificates you’ll need. These are called unrestricted certificates because you can get as many as your business needs. You’ll need to give evidence that you need the amount of certificates that you’ve asked for.

Restricted certificates

These are for:

  • Tier 2 (General) workers currently abroad who’ll be paid less than £159,600 a year and aren’t in an inward investment post
  • family members (dependants) of Tier 4 migrants who are switching to a Tier 2 visa

You must apply for restricted certificates for these workers through the sponsorship management system (SMS). You’ll get access to this when you get your licence. There’s a limited number of restricted certificates available each month. Each application is assessed using a points system.

When you get the certificate

Applications are considered on the first working day after the 10th day of the month. This is called the ‘allocation date’. If you apply after the 5th day of the month then your application will be held until the next month’s allocation date. Your application may also be held until the next month’s allocation date so that the details of your application can be checked. Your restricted certificate will appear in your SMSaccount on the allocation date if your application has been approved. You can then assign a certificate to a worker. You can apply again if your application isn’t approved.

Immigration Skills Charge

You might have to pay an additional charge for each foreign worker you employ. This is called the ‘immigration skills charge’. You must pay this if they’re applying for a visa to work in the UK for 6 months or more under either a:

  • Tier 2 (General) visa
  • Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa

If the worker has applied for their visa from within the UK, you must pay the charge even if they’re applying for less than 6 months.

When you don’t need to pay

You won’t pay the immigration skills charge if the worker you’re sponsoring:

  • has a Tier 4 (Student) visa and is switching to a Tier 2 (General) visa
  • has a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Graduate Trainee visa
  • will do a job with a PhD-level standard occupational classification (SOC) code

You won’t need to pay the charge for any of the worker’s dependants, for example their partner or child.

Job Suitability

You can sponsor a worker if the job they’re going to do has a suitable rate of pay and skill level. If your worker has a Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa, the job will usually need to be Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 6 or above.

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. This is known as carrying out the ‘resident labour market test’. You must advertise any job you offer to a worker in the following categories:

You must place at least 2 adverts. Follow the rules in the ‘How to carry out the resident labour market test’ section of the guidance for sponsors. The adverts make sure that there are no suitable workers already living permanently in the UK. It must be a genuine vacancy.

How long to advertise the job for

Each advert must run in the UK for 28 days in most cases, either continuously or in 2 stages. If you advertise in 2 stages, each 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.

Sponsoring under-18s

You can’t sponsor a foreign worker under 18 for:

  • a Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa
  • a Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – International Agreement) visa – if they’ll be working as a private servant in a diplomatic household or in the household of an employee of an international organisation

You can’t sponsor a child under 16 for a Tier 2 visa.

Your responsibilities

You must:

  • check that your foreign workers have the necessary skills, 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, for example if 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, like your address or 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 giving consent to the care arrangements. You must get a Disclosure and Barring Service check on any of your workers who need it. You’ll lose your licence if you don’t do this.

Children under 16

You must get a licence from the local education authority in the area where the child will work.

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