The United Kingdom’s vibrant economy and rich cultural heritage have consistently drawn skilled professionals from every corner of the world. But to actually employ foreign skilled workers, UK companies must first acquire a sponsor licence.
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This article explores the UK work visa system, guiding employers through the process of obtaining and maintaining a sponsor licence. We’ll discuss the foundational requirements, the steps involved, and the responsibilities that come with it, offering a comprehensive roadmap for businesses eager to harness international talent within the UK’s dynamic professional landscape
The Basics of UK Work Visa Sponsorship
The UK work visa sponsorship system is designed to ensure that only eligible skilled workers from outside the UK get the opportunity to work within its borders.
For employers – the system requires employers in the UK to obtain a sponsorship licence. Once they have this licence, they can then assign certificates of sponsorship to migrant workers, who can then apply for a visa to work in the UK.
For employees – the most prevalent immigration route to enter the UK to work is under the skilled worker visa, previously the tier 2 visa. To be able to apply for this route, the candidate must have an employment offer from a company that has a sponsor license in the UK and meet specific conditions, including scoring 70 points in the UK immigration system.
How Can a UK Company Become a Sponsor
For a UK business to sponsor a skilled worker, it first needs to become a licensed sponsor. This involves a rigorous application process with the Home Office, ensuring that the business is legally compliant, genuine and capable of fulfilling its sponsorship duties.
There are 2 sponsor licence types: the licence for ‘Workers’ and the one for ‘Temporary Workers’. Before and application is made, a company must first determine which particular licence would be more suitable for their needs.
The ‘Workers’ licence is for hiring individuals from abroad on the Skilled Worker visa, Global Business Mobility Senior or Specialist Worker visa (previously recognised as the Intra-company Transfer visa), Minister of Religion, and International Sportsperson routes.
The more short-term ‘Temporary Worker’ licence is for employing individuals on the Scale-up Worker, Creative Worker, Charity Worker, Religious Worker, Government Trainees etc.
Eligibility Criteria for the Sponsorship
To obtain a sponsorship licence, UK companies must meet the following criteria:
- Genuine Business Requirement: The UK employer must prove that there’s a genuine need for the migrant worker and that the job offer aligns with the skill level of the visa route in question.
- No Adverse History: The company should not have any history of failing to comply with immigration rules. They mustn’t have had a licence voided in the last one year.
- Adequate System in Place: The employer must have systems to track and manage their sponsored workers. This includes using the HR system and sponsor management system provided by the UK Visas and Immigration department.
- Proof of UK Operations: The company must be operating legally within the UK, which could be demonstrated through a UK branch or UK offices.
- Ability to Comply with Sponsorship Duties: The employer must be able to fulfil their sponsorship requirements, which includes ensuring that the migrant worker has the right to work in the UK and reporting any changes in the worker’s circumstances to the Home Office.
- Compliance with UK Work Regulations: The offered role must adhere to UK minimum wage and working time regulations. Non-compliance may lead to the refusal of the worker’s visa application and potential revocation of the sponsor licence.
These are the primary eligibility requirements for UK visa sponsorship, but there can be more based on company types and factors. Consider consulting with an immigration lawyer to understand the criteria better.
Sponsorship Licence Application Process
The process of obtaining a sponsor licence is thorough, and it is designed to ensure that only genuine employers can bring skilled workers from outside the UK. Here’s a typical step of the application process:
- Preparation: Before starting the visa application, employers should gather all necessary sponsorship information. This includes details about the company, the roles they’re looking to fill, and evidence that they’ve been unable to find a suitable candidate from inside the UK.
- Online Application: Employers need to fill out the online sponsor licence application form available on the UK government’s official website. This form will ask for specifics about the company, the type of workers they’re looking to sponsor, and which specific visa routes they intend to use (e.g., the skilled worker visa, formerly tier 2).
- Pay the Fee: There’s a fee associated with the sponsor licence application. The exact amount differs based on the size of the business and the variation of licence they’re applying for.
- Provide Supporting Documents: Once the online application is submitted, employers need to send the necessary documents to the UK Visas and Immigration office. These documents provide evidence that the company is genuine and meets the necessary requirements for sponsorship.
- UKVI Assessment: The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) department will then assess the application. This includes reviewing the quality of the documents and potentially visiting the company’s UK premises.
Typically, decisions on sponsor licence applications are made within 8 weeks. However, this can differ based on the number of applications and any additional checks required. For a quicker outcome, you can consider applying for Priority Service, which gives you a decision within 10 working days.
Maintaining the Sponsor Licence
Once the employer has successfully obtained their sponsor licence, their responsibilities don’t end there. Maintaining this licence is an ongoing process, and there are several duties that sponsor licence holders must adhere to:
- Record Keeping: Employers must keep a record of all sponsored employees, including their contact details, a copy of their visa, and any changes in their employment status.
- Reporting Duties: Any significant changes in the sponsored employee’s status, such as a change in job role, termination of employment, or if they’re absent without cause for more than 10 consecutive working days, must be reported to the UKVI.
- Renewal: The sponsor licence is not indefinite. Employers need to renew it periodically. This often involves a reassessment of their eligibility and a review of their adherence to sponsorship duties.
- Compliance: UKVI can conduct random checks on the business to find out if they comply with their duties. This might include visits to the employer’s premises or requests for specific sponsorship information
The UK’s sponsorship system is one of the government’s commitments to providing the country with a diverse and skilled workforce. While the process might seem complicated and does come with certain risks, it’s designed to ensure that both employers and migrant workers have a transparent and fair system. As the landscape of work and immigration continues to change, staying informed and proactive is the key for the UK sponsors for seamless integration and growth.
Need Assistance with the Sponsor Licence Application?
Do you need to apply for a skilled worker sponsor licence but are struggling with the complicated application process? At Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, our business immigration lawyers are equipped with the expertise and experience to guide you through every twist and turn of the entire process.
From initial sponsor licence applications to ensuring compliance and handling visa appeals, we’re here to ensure your journey is smooth and compliant. Don’t let the complicated nature of such an application prevent you from your business expansion goals. Reach out to us today, and let’s chart a path to success together.
UK work visa sponsorship is a procedure where a business in the UK sponsors a foreign worker to work in the country. The employer must hold a valid sponsorship license issued by the UK government.
A certificate of sponsorship is a virtual document that contains information about the job role and the individual being sponsored. It is assigned to the sponsored individual by the employer and is used as a reference throughout the visa application process.
The duration of your stay in the UK on a visa depends on the visa you are on. Generally, the sponsored individual can remain in the UK if the visa remains valid and is not revoked.
In most cases, you cannot work in the UK without sponsorship from a UK-based employer who holds a valid sponsor license. However, there may be specific visa categories or schemes that allow individuals to work in the UK without sponsorship.
The sponsorship management roles involved in the sponsorship process include the authorising Officer, Key Contact, and Level 1 User. These roles have different responsibilities and permissions in managing the sponsorship license and visa application process.
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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.