What is a sponsor licence and how do I obtain one?

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UK employers need a sponsor licence to employ someone from outside the UK. This now includes citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020.

UK employers that do not have a valid sponsor licence will be unable to employ migrant workers or extend the visas of current sponsored employees.

How do I apply for a sponsor licence?

To apply for a sponsor licence, employers must meet the following requirements:

  • The organisation must be genuine and have a trading presence in the UK
  • The organisation must have HR and recruitment systems in place
  • The organisation must be able to offer genuine employment that meets the salary and skill level criteria

To make the application, employers are required to submit an online application and provide supporting documents. The supporting documents will depend on the type and size of the organisation, their trading activities and how long they have traded for. The supporting documents must be provided within five working days of the online application.

Once the application has been submitted and documents have been provided, the organisation may be subject to a compliance visit. If this happens, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will assess whether the organisation meets the eligibility and suitability requirements for a sponsor licence.

How long does it take?

Sponsor licence applications are usually dealt with in less than 8 weeks. If the UKVI decides to visit the organisation for compliance, the licence application will take around 12 weeks to process.

Employers also have the option of priority processing which costs £500 per application. If they choose this service, a decision will be made within 10 working days.

Sponsor Licence Management and Sponsor Duties

If the application is successful, the sponsor licence will be valid for 4 years.

The Immigration Rules and UKVI impose a set of sponsor duties and compliance responsibilities on organisations with sponsor licences. Key duties include record keeping, reporting and compliance with immigration laws and wider UK law.

Sponsors are required to keep certain documents and information for each worker they sponsor for a certain period and must provide this information when asked by the UKVI.

Sponsors are also required to report certain information or events to the UKVI within 10 or 20 working days, depending on the type of the event occurring. This must be done through the Sponsor Management System.

What are the consequences of non – compliance?

If the sponsors fail to comply with their sponsor duties, the UKVI may take action against them. This can include:

  • Reducing Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) allocation
  • Downgrading licence rating
  • Suspending or revoking licence

How can we help?

We can support your organisation with all aspects of the UK sponsor licence.

Our sponsor licence services include:

  • Assisting with initial considerations as to the most appropriate type of sponsor application and suitable key personnel
  • Drafting your online sponsor licence application
  • Advising in relation to the appropriate supporting documents
  • Auditing your HR and recruitment systems and procedures in preparation for a UKVI visit
  • Briefing or training staff on their compliance duties and responsibilities
  • Advising on the UKVI ‘genuineness’ test and assessing whether a prospective employee satisfies the points criteria before the sponsor issues a certificate of sponsorship
  • Guidance on sponsorship-related fees, both for the application and ongoing
  • Advice on assigning COS to workers
  • Advising on the alternatives available to you if you decide not to make a sponsor licence application
  • Licence renewal applications
  • Dealing with sponsor licence suspensions and revocations