In the global business landscape, recruiting talented international employees is a growing necessity for many companies. However, to legally hire non-UK residents, British businesses need to navigate the complexities of immigration law and secure a sponsor licence.
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This blog post will explain what a sponsor licence is, why your company might require one, how to obtain one and keep it current, and how getting expert help can help you through this process. Let’s get started without further delay!
What is Sponsor Licence in the UK?
A sponsor licence is essentially a permit that allows UK-based employers to recruit workers from overseas. It serves as a formal acknowledgement from the UK government that your business can issue Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to eligible international workers, thus paving their way to work in the UK legally. Sponsor licences are also a requirement for educational establishments that want to enlist international students.
Acquiring a UK sponsor licence is a challenging process; it requires meeting specific eligibility criteria set by the Home Office. Your business needs to be operating and trading lawfully in the UK, have trustworthy key personnel, and maintain adequate HR systems to fulfil your obligations as a licensed sponsor.
When recruiting overseas talent, it’s essential to understand the variation of sponsor licences available. They come in different categories and are tailored to suit the unique employment needs of various organisations. Primarily, there are two kinds of sponsor licences – worker licences and temporary worker licences.
The ‘Worker’ licence is for UK-based businesses planning to hire international employees for long-term roles. The categories under this licence include Skilled Workers, Intra-company Transfers, Sportspeople and Ministers of Religion. The ‘Skilled Workers’ licence replaces the previous Tier 2 (General) worker category, allowing businesses to employ individuals in specific skilled roles.
Temporary Worker Licences
The ‘Temporary Worker’ licence allows UK-based organisations to recruit international employees for short-term roles, including voluntary positions. The categories under this licence include Religious Workers, Charity Workers, Creative Workers, and Government Authorised Exchange, among others.
Several other subcategories exist under both ‘Worker’ and ‘Temporary Worker’ licences. Based on the prerequisites and the nature of the roles to be filled, businesses can apply for the relevant licence type.
Eligibility Requirements for a Sponsorship Licence
UK immigration solicitors advise that applying for a UK sponsorship licence requires careful planning and preparation. The UK Home Office has strict eligibility criteria to ensure only genuine organisations can sponsor overseas workers. Meeting these criteria is crucial for your application to be considered. Here’s an overview of the key eligibility requirements:
- Genuine Organisation: The applying entity should be a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the United Kingdom. This includes charities and educational establishments intending to sponsor students.
- No Threat to Immigration Control: The organisation must not present any threat to immigration control. If the Home Office has any explanation to think that granting a sponsorship licence may lead to non-compliance with immigration rules, the application may be refused.
- Appropriate Systems in Place: The organisation should have appropriate systems in place to manage sponsorship duties. This includes robust HR and recruitment procedures that allow for the tracking and monitoring of sponsored employees.
- Key Personnel: The organisation must appoint an Authorising Officer, a Level 1 User and a Key Contact – each being a different person. These personnel will be responsible for various tasks such as applying for the licence, reporting duties, and day-to-day management of the licence. The persons cannot have any pending convictions for offences related to immigration or other specific crimes.
- HR Systems: The organisation should be able to demonstrate robust HR systems to track and monitor the activity of sponsored employees, ensuring they are complying with the terms of their visas.
- Genuine Vacancy: The organisation should offer a genuine vacancy or role which meets the skill level and salary threshold as defined by the Home Office. The role should be created more than just facilitating the entry of an individual to the UK.
- Compliance: The organisation must be able to prove that they can comply with the law and all sponsor duties and cooperate with the Home Office at all times.
The Home Office assesses these requirements during an extensive pre-licence audit process that includes a review of your HR systems, interviews with key personnel, and inspection of supporting documentation. Therefore, understanding these requirements is essential to ensure a successful sponsor licence application.
Remember that these are general eligibility criteria, and more requirements might apply based on the specific type of licence you’re applying for. So, be sure to familiarise yourself with these requirements or seek professional advice to ensure you meet all criteria before applying for a sponsorship licence.
Documents Required for a Sponsor Licence
You must provide several supporting documents proving your company’s eligibility to apply for a Sponsor Licence in the UK. They are used to validate that the information you provided in your application is valid and that your business is legitimately functioning in the UK. Some of the crucial documents you might need to submit are listed below:
- Proof of Registration: If your company must be legally registered, present the necessary registration documentation. A document attesting to your company’s registration with Companies House or a VAT registration certificate, for instance.
- Copies of Contracts: These should cover goods or services for at least the 12-month period before the date of your application.
- Proof of a Corporate Bank Account: You’ll need to show that you have a current corporate bank account with a bank registered by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority in the UK.
- Proof of Connection to an Overseas Business: If your business is tied to a qualifying overseas business through common ownership, control, or a joint venture agreement, evidence of this connection will be required.
- Franchise Agreement: If applicable, your franchise agreement can further establish your business’s operations.
- Endorsement from a Governing Body: If relevant, this can support your application.
Keep in mind that the documents needed can differ based on your unique business situation and the type of Sponsor Licence you’re looking for. Also, if your documents are not in Welsh or English, they must be submitted with a certified translation.
Additionally, the UK Home Office has the right to ask for extra documents or data as necessary during the application evaluation process. As a result, keeping open lines of communication with the Home Office can aid in the smooth processing of Sponsor Licence applications.
The Application Process
Embarking on the sponsor licence application journey can be a daunting task, but we’re here to guide you through it. The immediate step is specifying which type of licence – worker or temporary worker – fits your business needs. Once you’ve made this decision, assess your eligibility against the criteria set by the Home Office.
Submitting the sponsor licence application process involves filling out an online form available on the government’s official website. It’s crucial to compile the necessary supporting documents that substantiate your application, including proof of your business’s active operation, registration certificates, accounts, contracts, and more.
It’s also important to decide whether you’re applying through your head office or individual branches, as this could affect the scope of your sponsor licence.
Note that obtaining a sponsor licence isn’t an overnight process. On average, it can take around eight weeks for the Home Office to coordinate your application. However, this timeline can be extended if additional inspections are deemed necessary.
Upon submission, your application will be rated by the Home Office. If successful, your business will be granted an A-rated licence, signifying you’ve met all necessary obligations and requirements.
However, bear in mind that sponsor licence applications can be refused for a range causes. These can include not meeting the compliance requirements, failing to respond to the Home Office’s enquiries promptly, having unspent criminal convictions, or submitting incorrect or false information.
Sponsor Licence Management and Compliance
As a sponsor licence holder, your responsibilities extend beyond recruiting overseas talent. You have a legal responsibility to stick to immigration rules established by the Home Office. This includes reporting relevant changes in your organisation, such as restructuring, changes to sponsored employees’ circumstances, and more, within stipulated time frames.
Additionally, you must keep accurate records of all sponsored workers, such as their immigration status, contact details, and employment history. Regular checks and updates of these records are crucial to ensure continued compliance with your sponsor duties. Learn more about how to pass Home Office compliance visits.
Validity and Renewal
Sponsor licences usually only remain valid for 4 years. This involves a similar process to the initial application, with a review of your compliance to sponsor duties during the licence period. The Home Office typically sends out reminders three months before the due date.
If, however, there’s evidence of noncompliance or breach of your sponsor duties, your licence could be downgraded to a B-rating or, in extreme cases, revoked entirely. This could adversely impact your ability to sponsor overseas workers and carry significant financial and reputational risks for your business.
How Gulbenkian Andonian Can Help You Secure Your Sponsor Licence
Navigating the sophistication of sponsor licences, immigration rules, and compliance requirements can be an uphill task, especially when you have a business to run. From understanding the different types of licences to the strict eligibility criteria, collating the appropriate documents, to managing the application process, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors is a well-recognised law firm in the UK with a wealth of experience and a proven track record in handling all aspects of UK immigration law, including Sponsor Licences. Our expert team of business immigration lawyers is proficient at taking the stress and uncertainty out of the Sponsor Licence application process, ensuring your business is compliant and you are positioned for success.
When you engage Gulbenkian Andonian to manage your Sponsor Licence application, here’s what you can expect:
- Tailored Guidance: We recognise that each company is distinct, with its own requirements and difficulties. We take the time to understand your business, providing personalised advice to help you select the most suitable type of Sponsor Licence.
- Comprehensive Document Support: Our team assists in identifying and compiling the necessary documents required for your application, ensuring they meet the Home Office’s requirements. We help to reduce the risk of delays or refusals due to incomplete or incorrect documentation.
- Application Management: We handle the entire application process on your behalf, liaising with the Home Office and keeping you informed at every step. This allows you to focus on running your business with the confidence that your Sponsor Licence application is in expert hands.
- Ongoing Compliance Support: Securing a Sponsor Licence is just the first step. We also help you understand and navigate your ongoing responsibilities as a licence holder, ensuring you maintain compliance with the UK immigration rules.
- Appeals and Challenges: Should your application face any setbacks, we are well-equipped to challenge Sponsor Licence refusals, leveraging our deep understanding of immigration law to present compelling arguments in your favour.
With Gulbenkian Andonian by your side, securing a Sponsor Licence becomes easier and far less daunting. We’re dedicated to helping you bring in the international talent your business needs to thrive and grow. Let’s take this journey together, transforming the challenges of immigration law into opportunities for your business’s success.
Depending on the size of your organisation and the type of licence needed, there are different application fees for Sponsor Licences. As per the Home Office website, for a small or charitable organisation, the fee is £536, and for a medium or large organisation, the fee was £1,476 to obtain a Worker Licence”. It’s £536 for all types of organisations when it comes to “Temporary Worker Licence”
Typically, after the Home Office receives a complete application for a Sponsor Licence, it can take around 8 weeks for a decision. However, this time can vary depending on the complexity of the application, if additional information is needed, or due to processing delays.
A sponsor licence rating refers to the grade given to a Sponsor Licence holder by the Home Office. It signifies the sponsor’s adherence to the duties and obligations associated with the licence. An ‘A rating’ indicates full compliance, whereas a ‘B rating’ indicates that the sponsor needs to improve.
The required time for the processing of the sponsor licence is approximately 8 weeks from the date of submission. This period may extend if the Home Office decides to conduct an extensive review of the application or if there are outstanding compliance issues that need resolution.
Employing migrant workers without a valid Sponsor Licence is considered a breach of the UK immigration rules and can result in severe penalties. These can include hefty fines (up to £20,000 per worker), imprisonment, and a potential ban on hiring migrant workers in the future.
If your Sponsor Licence has been downgraded to a ‘B rating’, you’ll be required to follow a Home Office action plan to improve your compliance. This will involve addressing the areas where your organisation fell short, along with an additional fee. After improvements, you can apply for an ‘A rating’ again.
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At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.
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Dr Bernard Andonian – the Co-Founder of Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, is an experienced Immigration Solicitor, former Judge, and recipient of a PhD in Law from the University of West London. He has over four decades of experience practising UK Immigration, Human Rights and Civil Litigation Law. He has served on the Law Society Immigration Law Panel, achieved numerous groundbreaking decisions in higher courts and is featured in the Legal 500’s Hall of Fame.