UK businesses often find themselves in need of talent from outside the country. A sponsor licence is a crucial tool that allows businesses to tap into this international talent pool.
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This article will explore the process of obtaining a sponsor licence, its significance, the application process, and more. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of how your UK business can secure a sponsor licence and the benefits it brings.
What is a Sponsor Licence?
A sponsor licence is an official permission provided by the UK government, permitting businesses to hire individuals from outside the UK through various work visas. This licence demonstrates a business’s allegiance to UK immigration regulations. It’s a strategic tool allowing businesses to access a diverse array of skills, experiences, and worldviews. This diversity can significantly enhance innovation, productivity, and global outreach.
There are two variations of sponsor licence: Worker Licence and Temporary Worker Licence. The ‘Worker’ licence is for roles like the Skilled Worker (previously tier 2), who meets the requirements specified; the Senior or Specialist Worker visa for multinational company transfers; the Minister of Religion for religious roles; and the International Sportsperson for elite sports professionals.
Conversely, the ‘Temporary Worker’ licence is designed for short-term roles, including positions like the Creative Worker for the arts sector, Charity Worker for unpaid charity roles, and the Seasonal Worker for roles in horticulture and poultry. Each licence type is tailored to specific employment needs, ensuring a structured approach to the UK’s foreign employment system.
Why Does Your Business Need a Sponsor Licence?
The UK’s points-based immigration system ensures that only the most qualified and suitable individuals enter the country. A sponsor licence plays a crucial role in this system. It acts as a filter, ensuring businesses hire individuals based on genuine skill requirements. It aligns with the UK’s broader immigration objectives, ensuring that the inflow of foreign professionals complements the nation’s economic and social goals.
Benefits of having a sponsor licence include:
- Access to Global Talent: With a sponsor licence, businesses can reach out to an extensive pool of international professionals, bringing in fresh perspectives and expertise.
- Business Growth: Diverse teams often lead to enhanced creativity and innovation, driving business growth and expansion.
- Flexibility: In specific sectors with a domestic talent shortage, a sponsor licence offers the flexibility to hire skilled workers from abroad, ensuring business continuity.
Eligibility Criteria for Sponsor Licence UK
The eligibility criteria for obtaining a sponsor licence in the UK are inflexible. Here’s a detailed breakdown:
- Genuine Business Requirement: The business must demonstrate a genuine need to hire a non-UK resident. This could be due to a lack of specific skills within the domestic market or a strategic business decision to bring in international expertise.
- Operational Integrity: The business should be operating lawfully in the UK, adhering to all relevant laws and regulations.
- Robust HR Systems: The business must have robust HR systems in place to ensure compliance with sponsorship duties. This includes tracking the attendance and performance of sponsored employees and reporting any discrepancies to the Home Office.
- No Threat to Immigration Control: The employer shouldn’t be deemed a threat to immigration control. This means they must have a clean record of criminal activities, specifically free from immigration violations and serious offences like fraud or money laundering.
After submitting the sponsor licence application, the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will assess your submitted application and accompanying documents. They might conduct an on-site visit to your business to verify your credibility and ensure you can fulfil your responsibilities.
Required Documents for the Sponsorship Licence
Submitting the required documents is important to support your application for a sponsor licence and demonstrate your business’s eligibility and genuineness. Here’s a detailed list of the potential documents you might need:
- Proof of Business Operation: This could include bank statements, utility bills, or a lease agreement for your business premises, showcasing that you’re trading lawfully in the UK.
- HR Compliance Documents: These could include your HR system’s overview, showcasing how you track employee attendance, performance, and other relevant metrics.
- Evidence of Genuine Vacancy: This might include job advertisements, descriptions, and the recruitment process you used before deciding to sponsor an overseas worker.
- Financial Health Documents: These could be recent bank statements, balance sheets, or profit and loss accounts, showcasing your business’s financial stability.
- Proof of Registration: Depending on your business type, this could be a registration with the relevant regulatory body in the UK.
Remember that the required documentation can vary depending on the nature of your business and the sort of licence for which you are applying. It’s always advisable to consult the latest sponsor licence application guidance on the Home Office website or seek advice from a legal expert on UK immigration rules.
How to Apply for a Sponsor Licence
The application process might seem a bit tricky, but with the right guidance and understanding, it becomes manageable. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:
- Online Application via the Sponsorship Management System: The Sponsorship Management System is the primary portal for all sponsor licence applications. While the system is relatively straightforward, it’s essential to be cautious. While applying, applicants are advised to save their progress regularly to prevent data loss.
- Choose Licence Type: Depending on the nature of your business and the kind of workers you intend to sponsor, you’ll need to set the variation of licence type. This could range from skilled workers to Temporary workers for short-term employment needs.
- Enter Contact Details: This is a straightforward but crucial step. Ensure all details are accurate to enable smooth contact with the Home Office.
- Select Key Personnel: Every organisation applying for a sponsor licence must nominate individuals for specific roles related to the management of the licence and sponsored employees. These roles include the Key Contact, Authorising Officer (AO), and Level 1 User.
- List Supporting Documents: The Home Office requires a range of supporting documents to verify the authenticity of your application. These documents will differ based on the variation of licence you’re applying for and the nature of your business. List the document that you will be submitting.
- Payment of Application Fee: Upon completing the form, you’ll be prompted to pay the licence application fee. The cost varies based on business size and the type of licence.
After payment, the system will generate a submission sheet. This document must be signed by the Authorising Officer (AO) and sent to the Home Office, accompanied by the supporting document bundle.
The Sponsor Licence Application Fee
When applying for a licence, it’s essential to be aware of the associated fees. These fees vary depending on the licence type you’re seeking and the size of your organisation. Below is a breakdown of the fees:
- Worker Licence Fees:
- Small or Charitable Sponsors: £536
- Medium or Large Sponsors: £1,476
- Temporary Worker Licence Fees:
- Small or Charitable Sponsors: £536
- Medium or Large Sponsors: £536
These fees are always subject to change with UK immigration updates, so please always call our team of business immigration solicitors to know the most up-to-date fee structure.
Determining Your Organisation’s Category
To ascertain whether you qualify as a small or charitable sponsor, certain standards need to be met:
- Small Sponsor: You’re typically considered a small sponsor if a minimum of two of the below conditions apply:
- Annual turnover of £10.2 million or less.
- Assets in total worth equal to or less than £5,1 million.
- A workforce comprising 50 employees or fewer.
- Charitable Sponsor: You fall under this category if you are:
- A recorded charity in the United Kingdom. For Northern Ireland, if not registered, proof of charitable status for tax purposes from HMRC is required.
- An excepted, exempt, or ecclesiastical corporation established for charitable intentions.
If there’s any uncertainty regarding your business’s category, it’s advisable to contact us for clarity.
What’s Next After You Get a Sponsor Licence
Once your business has been granted a sponsor licence, the next crucial step is to understand how to sponsor a skilled migrant worker. This procedure requires a keen grasp of both the employer’s and the prospective employee’s responsibilities.
Skilled Worker Visa Application
The individual you’re looking to recruit might need to apply for a Skilled Worker visa or other relevant visas to come and work in the uk. If they’re already in the UK under a Skilled Worker visa but sponsored by a different employer, they’ll need to start a change of employment visa application.
Acquiring a Certificate of Sponsorship
Before the prospective employee can submit their visa application, you must acquire a Certificate of Sponsorship. This certificate serves as proof to the Home Office of the job offer to an individual, including job duties, salary, and other employment terms. It’s essential to note that the Certificate of Sponsorship is a virtual document, and there is no physical form of it.
Unique Reference Number
Once the Certificate of Sponsorship is generated, it will have a unique reference number. This number is key for the individual’s visa application. It acts as a bridge between the employer’s intent to sponsor and the individual’s intent to work under that sponsorship in the UK.
Sponsoring a skilled migrant worker is a systematic approach that demands thorough attention to detail. Both the employer and the prospective employee need to work together to ensure that all the steps are followed accurately.
Maintaining Your Licence
Once your business has successfully obtained a sponsor licence, the journey doesn’t end there. Maintaining the licence is as crucial as obtaining it. The Home Office wants all sponsor licence holders to adhere to specific duties and responsibilities to ensure the UK’s immigration system’s integrity.
Compliance and Monitoring
As a UK employer with a valid sponsor licence, you’re subject to periodic compliance checks by the Home Office. These checks ensure that you’re fulfilling your sponsor’s duties and responsibilities. It’s not uncommon for businesses to face unannounced audits. Being prepared is essential. Ensure that all records, especially those related to your sponsored employees, are up-to-date and easily accessible.
Moreover, any significant changes within your business, such as mergers, acquisitions, or changes in the nature of your business, must be reported. Similarly, if there are changes in the details of your sponsored employees – for instance if they switch roles or leave your employment – these too need to be communicated promptly.
Renewal and Revocation
A sponsor licence is not indefinite. Typically, the length of a sponsor licence is four years. As the expiry date approaches, you’ll need to apply for a renewal. The renewal process requires you to demonstrate that you’ve complied with all your sponsor duties and responsibilities during the licence’s tenure. It’s recommended to begin the renewal process well in advance to ensure continuity.
The Home Office can withdraw a sponsor licence if they believe the business is not complying with its duties or if the business poses a threat to immigration control. Common reasons include failing to report significant changes, not keeping accurate records, or not adhering to the broader UK immigration rules.
To avoid revocation, ensure that you’re always operating within the guidelines provided in the sponsor licence guidance and regularly update your knowledge, given the ever-evolving nature of immigration rules.
How Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors Can Help
Ready to become a sponsor but feeling overwhelmed by the requirements and processes of UK visa sponsorship? We get it. Securing a skilled worker sponsor licence can feel like a mountain to climb. But here’s the good news: with Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, you’re not climbing that mountain alone.
Whether you want to sponsor skilled workers from outside the UK or need guidance on the Tier 2 sponsor licence, we are ready to help you. Our team offers specific guidance for employers, ensuring you not only obtain but also maintain your UK sponsorship licence effectively.
Reach out to our dedicated team of UK immigration experts today, and let’s turn your sponsorship aspirations into reality.
A Certificate of Sponsorship is a unique reference number that shows that a specific person is eligible to be sponsored under the UK’s Skilled Worker visa. The sponsor must issue certificates of sponsorship to individuals they wish to sponsor.
A Sponsor Licence rating is a measure of the sponsor’s compliance with their sponsor duties. The rating is assigned by the Home Office and can be either A, B, or C. A higher rating indicates a higher level of compliance.
The GOV.UK website includes all the information you might require for the application. They offer detailed step-by-step instructions and up-to-date information to assist you through the application process.
Yes, you can apply for a Sponsor Licence online. The application process is done through the Sponsor Management System, which is an online platform provided by the UK government.
The documents needed for a Sponsor Licence application may differ based on the type of licence being applied for. To get a complete list of necessary documents, it is recommended to refer to the guidance provided by the UK government or consult a UK business solicitor.
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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.