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Sponsor Licence

Why do you need a lawyer for Business Immigration Services?

Many businesses in sectors such as agriculture, technology, hospitality, and finance must be able to attract talent from abroad to satisfy customers, realise new projects, and expand. As a result of Brexit, many UK employers may require a sponsor licence.

It is wise to employ immigration specialists you can trust to assist you with your sponsor licence duties and obligations and to keep you informed of any alterations to applicable laws.

The requirements for obtaining a licence, as well as the documents you must submit, vary greatly depending on the type of business you have and the roles you need to fill. Suppose an error is made on your Application. In that case, the Home Office may impose a six-month waiting period to prevent you from making another application, which may hinder or delay your business plans.

Our legal team can offer comprehensive assistance and personalised advice to your business so that you can stay compliant and give you peace of mind.

What is a Sponsor Licence?

A UK-based company can receive a sponsor licence to employ skilled workers from outside the UK or from inside the UK.

The licence will be valid for four years after approval and can be renewed afterwards.

The Eligibility requirements for a Sponsor Licence

Your organisation must have a UK presence and be operating or trading legally in the country to apply for a sponsor licence. If you have more than one UK branch, you can either apply for one licence to cover all of them or get separate licences for each one, depending on the situation.

You may need to provide evidence that you are registered with the necessary statutory body to operate in the UK legally and proof that you have the required planning permission or consent from the local planning authority to run your business at your location.

The Home Office will need to be convinced that you can offer genuine employment in a skilled occupation and that you will pay the appropriate wage rate, as determined by the Home Office.

In your licence application, you are committing to fulfil all obligations that come with being a sponsor licence holder.

Individuals are usually not allowed to be sponsors, except for sole traders who want to sponsor someone to work in their business.

If you need help with any UK immigration matters, our team has extensive experience with Sponsor Licence applications and is dedicated to getting the results you need. Get in touch today!

Incorporating a Business and Applying for a Sponsorship licence from abroad

This is a way to apply to live and work in the UK for your own business without the need of a UK Sponsor. This can result in permanent residency and British citizenship for you and your family.

This option is for your if you have identified a business opportunity or have a great business idea in the UK, you wish to pursue it as a successful businessperson, and you are ready to own and manage a UK based business. By far this is the best choice for those with entrepreneurial ambition who have researched the UK market and identified an opportunity to launch a new business here.

To be sponsored by a company, you must first obtain a Sponsor Licence. This can be done in three stages, you start by incorporation a new business company, you will use this company to apply for a Sponsor Licence; you will prepare your human resources department and receive a Certificate of Sponsorship as a skilled worker from your UK based company.

The cost of a sponsor licence application

The cost of obtaining a sponsor licence is determined by the size and type of organisation and must be paid each time the licence is renewed (every four years). The Home Office reviews and updates the fees annually and posts them on its website.

Organisations which do not qualify as “small” must pay a sponsor licence fee of £1,476, regardless of whether they are classified as “medium” or “large”.

A small sponsor is usually considered to be an organisation that meets two of the criteria:

  • having an annual turnover of £10.2 million or less,
  • total assets of £5.1 million or less,
  • 50 employees or less.

Organisations classified as "small" sponsors (including Registered Charities) must pay a fee of £536 for a sponsor licence.

What is the Rating of the Sponsor?

There are two ratings for companies granted Sponsor Licence:

  • A-rating
  • B-rating

If you are successful in your sponsor licence application, you will receive the highest rating of A from the Home Office, indicating that you have the proper systems to fulfil the sponsor duties.

To maintain an A rating, sponsors must keep their systems and policies up to date. The Home Office may conduct compliance visits at any time to evaluate whether an organisation meets the criteria for an A rating.

If the Home Office discovers that a business is not following sponsor duties, they may downgrade them to a B-rating. The B-rated sponsor then needs to meet a predetermined action plan in the allocated time to return to an A-rating. Their licence will be cancelled unless the plan's requirements are met within the allotted time.

The Home Office has the power to bypass the B-rating and immediately suspend/revoke a licence if the breaches that have been identified are deemed to be serious. The decision of which action to take will be based on the severity of the violations.

What is the process for my organisation to obtain a sponsor licence?

A company must submit an application form and a minimum of four specified supporting documents, accompanied by a covering letter, to apply for a sponsor licence. These documents are required to demonstrate the company's trading presence in the UK.

The Home Office may occasionally ask for extra documents, such as evidence of the company's HR systems, to ensure the sponsorship requirements and duties are met. They may also do a compliance visit at the company's premises when assessing the licence application.

We can perform a simulated audit of your HR practices before you submit your official request to identify potential flaws and create a plan of action to address them.

Which documents are required to apply for a sponsor licence?

You must typically provide at least four required documents for a Skilled Worker licence application. The documents needed will vary depending on whether you represent a public body, start-up, franchise, or small and medium-sized enterprise (SME).

The following is an indicative list with the documents required:

  • recent bank statement for your business
  • A minimum of £5 million in employer's liability insurance coverage from an authorised insurer
  • VAT registration certificate
  • Proof of being registered with HMRC as an employer, including the PAYE and Accounts Office Reference Number.
  • Evidence of ownership or leasing of business property or rental contract.
  • Proof of ownership or a lease agreement for business premises or a rental agreement.
  • Evidence of your registration with the relevant regulatory body if you are required to be registered and/or inspected/monitored to operate lawfully in the UK.

To be eligible for the Intra-Company Transfer sponsor licence subcategory, you must provide evidence of joint ownership between the company in the UK and the overseas entity.

Our experts can help you identify the type of sponsor licence you need to apply for and provide a list of documents you must submit with your Application.

If the necessary criteria are fulfilled and the relevant documentation is supplied, it is possible to apply for several sponsor licences simultaneously.

What are the categories of licenses for Skilled Workers?

Skilled Worker

This route, known as the Skilled Worker route, is for people from outside the UK who are offered a job here to come and work. It is the primary method of immigration for those with specialised skills.

EEA and Swiss nationals looking to work in the UK must follow the route specified unless they have been granted pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or have a valid frontier worker permit or another visa allowing them to work in the UK.

Intra-company Transfer (ICT)

Those who have been offered a temporary job in the UK from their overseas organisation to work in the UK office must take the ICT route. Additionally, they must have been employed by the firm for at least 12 months or have evidenced a salary package over £73,900.

Unless the salary package is higher than £73,900, the maximum time a person can stay on this route is five years out of every six years.

Can I get ILR based on the Intra-company Transfer visa?

Unlike the Skilled Worker visa route, this route does not lead to Settlement. To be eligible, the job must be at the graduate level or higher, meaning it must be at least at RFQ level 6.

What is the Intra-company Graduate Trainee route?

It may be possible to bring an overseas employee to the UK through the Intra-company Graduate Trainee route. This option is intended for those who need to come to the UK to gain experience in a managerial or specialist role as part of a graduate training programme. The Applicant must have worked for the overseas company for a minimum of three months before the date of the Application and must be offered a payment of at least £23,000 a year in the UK.

Ministers of Religion

A Minister of Religion licence is needed for those who have been offered a job in a spiritual organisation, such as a minister or missionary. This licence is only granted if the position is not senior and involves mainly pastoral activities.

Under the Minister of Religion route, certain occupations such as teaching, media production, or administration within a religious organisation may not be eligible for Sponsorship. In this case, the organisation may need to apply for a Skilled Worker licence instead.


Professional athletes and certified coaches cannot receive a Skilled Worker visa but must instead be sponsored through the Sportsperson visa category.

How can I get a Certificate of Sponsorship?

After the Sponsor licence is approved, the employer can produce a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) using the Sponsor Management System (SMS).

To sponsor a migrant worker, the company must obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship from the Home Office via the Sponsor Management System (SMS). After the certificate has been granted, they must allocate it to the migrant worker they are sponsoring to create a unique reference number to be used on the visa application.

The employer can issue two types of Certificates of Sponsorship, Defined or Undefined.

A Defined Certificate of Sponsorship allows the Applicant from outside the UK to apply for a Skilled Worker visa.

Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship can be requested by the Sponsor Licence holder if they anticipate the need to extend the visas of an existing employee or for someone already in the UK, “switching” from another type of visa into a Skilled Worker visa.

What are the benefits of having a sponsor licence?

Once an organisation holds a sponsor licence, they are officially recognised by the Home Office as a sponsor. They can start to provide Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to foreign workers who meet the criteria.

For many businesses, the ability to recruit overseas talent is critical to their success and development. This is especially true now that the UK has left the EU and freedom of movement has ended, resulting in large part of the UK workforce being required to obtain a sponsorship to remain in the UK after January 2021 if they don't secure their status before the deadline.

We have a wealth of knowledge in assisting firms in securing and keeping up their Skilled Worker sponsor licenses.

What are my options if my Application for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence is refused?

If the Home Office's assessment of the Application were correct, a six-month restriction would generally be imposed from the date of the refusal. This is known as the “cooling-off” period. The length of the “cooling-off” period depends on the circumstances of the refusal.

You can not submit another application for a sponsor licence during the cooling-off period.

What is the process for obtaining a Sponsor Licence?

Briefly, these are the steps in an application for a Sponsor Licence:

  • Verify that your business meets the eligibility requirements, including providing the necessary documents to demonstrate that your firm is genuinely functioning in the UK.
  • Identify what type of Sponsor License you need.
  • Organise your company’s Human Resources department and decide who will be actively involved in operating the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). You must identify who will be acting as Authorising Officer and your level 1 user. Authorising Officer is usually responsible for recruitment in your company, and they will ensure that licence conditions are followed. A level 1 user is responsible for reporting the changes within the organisation and requesting Certificates of Sponsorship.
  • Make your Application online and pay the fee for the Sponsorship Licence. The amount for the Sponsorship licence depends on the size of your organisation; for a small organisation or charitable entity, you will pay £536, and the fee for large organisations is £1,476.
  • The processing time for a Sponsor Licence is usually eight weeks, and the Home Office may visit you for a compliance check.
  • If your application is approved, your organisation will be granted a Sponsor Licence for four years. You may apply for a Sponsor Licence renewal before the end of four years.
  • If the Home Office thinks you failed to comply with the Sponsor Licence conditions, they may suspend or cancel the licence.

What are the reasons why a sponsor licence application may be refused?

During the Application for a sponsor licence, the Home Office may visit your company for a compliance audit. If you fail the compliance audit, your Application for a sponsor licence will likely be refused.

One common reason for failing the compliance audit during the sponsor licence application is insufficient procedures and policies to ensure that the company will meet the sponsorship duties.

The Home Office may refuse a sponsor licence if your company fails to provide adequate and timely replies to the Home Office’s enquiries.

The Home Office may deem your business as “not genuine”; your Application for a sponsor licence will likely be refused.

These are some of the most frequent reasons for refusing a sponsor licence application.

Guidance for sponsoring a skilled worker

To obtain a licence, sponsors must adhere to immigration regulations and the laws of the UK. It must be understood that Sponsorship is a privilege, not a guarantee. The Home Office will not licence any organisation that could be detrimental to the public. If the sponsor is found to be acting in a way that is not beneficial to the public, the Home Office will take the necessary steps to ensure compliance.

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