Acquiring a sponsor license is a crucial step for UK businesses looking to tap into international talent and expertise and hire from abroad.
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However, the path to acquiring a one can be filled with complicated legal terms and detailed documentation and often seems challenging for employers or companies who do not have dedicated legal and HR departments. At Gulbenkian Andonian, our business immigration team are here to advise you on the procedure and requirements so your experience of getting a sponsor licence is more straightforward.
This guide will discuss when a UK business might need a sponsor licence, the steps involved in acquiring one, common mistakes to avoid during the application, and the what to do if the your application faces an issue.
When Does a UK Business Might Need a Sponsor Licence?
The UK’s immigration system is designed to control the flow of individuals coming to work in the UK from other countries, ensuring that only eligible and qualified individuals can be employed. A sponsor licence is a vital part of this system, enabling UK employers to sponsor individuals for a work visa, thus facilitating their legal employment within the UK.
When a business seeks to sponsor a skilled worker who is a foreign national, whether on a temporary or permanent basis, making a sponsor licence application is typically the first step in the process. The licence demonstrates that the employer is eligible and complies with the UK immigration law and is qualified to hire from abroad and can issue potential employees with a certificate of sponsorship so they can complete their Skilled-Worker Visa Application.
Are there Different Types of Sponsor Licences?
Is it Hard to Obtain a Sponsor Licence?
Difficulties experienced in acquiring a sponsor licence often stems from how precise one needs to be during the application process. However, it doesn’t have to be hard if the requirements are met, and the correct steps are followed meticulously.
A well-prepared application is crucial to be successful in the process. Below we discuss the specific requirements.
Requirement to Get a Sponsor Licence
To obtain a sponsor licence, a UK business must meet several prerequisites designated by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Here are the key requirements detailed:
- The business must be operating legally in the UK.
- It should have no record of failing to maintain sponsorship obligations.
Genuine Business Test:
- UKVI must be convinced that the business is genuine and has a legitimate requirement for a sponsor licence.
- The business should provide evidence of a genuine vacancy that cannot be filled by the local workforce.
Appropriate Systems in Place:
- The business must have efficient human resources systems to monitor and manage sponsored employees.
- It should be able to comply with the immigration rules and sponsorship responsibilities.
- Assigning roles such as Key Contact, Authorising Officer, and Level 1 User to trustworthy and competent personnel.
- These individuals should not have any unspent criminal convictions or a history of non-compliance with the UKVI’s requirements.
Ability to Present Genuine Employment:
- The business should be able to present an authentic job that meets the Tier 2 (General) skill level and appropriate pay rates.
Minimum Salary Threshold:
- The job roles offered must meet the minimum salary threshold as set by the UK immigration rules.
- Maintain precise and up-to-date documents of the employees, including their contact details, visa status, and documentation proving their eligibility to work in the UK.
Process of Applying for a Sponsor Licence
The application for a sponsor licence involves several steps:
Assess the need for a sponsor licence and understand the type of licence needed based on the nature of employment and job roles. Also, review and understand the guidance for sponsors the UKVI provides.
2. Online Application:
Fill out the online sponsor licence application form available on the UKVI’s official website. Pay the relevant sponsor licence fee as per the scope of your business and the type of licence you are applying for.
3. Documentation Submission:
Prepare and submit all required supporting documents as specified in the sponsor guidance. Ensure that the records are precise, up-to-date, and reflect the genuineness of your business and the job vacancies.
4. Prepare for Home Office Compliance Visit:
Prepare for a potential visit from the Home Office to check the legitimacy of your application and your business operations. Ensure all documentation, processes, and premises are ready for inspection.
5. Review and Decision:
The UKVI will check the application and the presented documents. They may ask for further details or clarification if necessary.
6. Licence Approval:
Once approved, you’ll be granted a sponsor licence for a period of 4 years. In addition, you will be assigned a rating by the UKVI and access to the online Sponsor Management System (SMS), through which you can manage your sponsorship duties and assign certificates of sponsorship. Note that you will only be able to generate these certificates if you are presented with an A-rated licence.
To maintain the sponsorship, be sure to continue to comply with the UK immigration law and sponsor duties. Keep accurate records of your sponsored employees and report any changes to the UKVI through the Sponsor Management System (SMS). Failing to fulfil the sponsorship duties may have your licence revoked.
Mistakes to Avoid While Applying for a Sponsor Licence
Even minor oversights can lead to delays or refusals of sponsorship licences. Below are common mistakes and how to avoid them, ensuring a smoother journey towards obtaining a sponsor licence:
1. Overlooking Required Documentation
Missing out on providing all necessary documents or submitting outdated or inaccurate ones can lead to application delays or outright refusal. Ensure that all records are concurrent, accurate, and comply with the guidelines provided in the sponsor guidance document.
2. Failing the ‘Genuineness’ Test
It’s imperative to convincingly demonstrate the genuine need for a sponsor licence. Ensure that the need for overseas talent is well-documented and justified in line with the business requirements.
3. Unsuitable Key Personnel
Selecting individuals who might not pass the Home Office’s background checks can be a roadblock. It’s essential to choose responsible and reputable individuals as your key personnel.
4. Not Preparing for Home Office Visits
Unpreparedness for Home Office visits can cause a refusal. Ensure that all records, processes, and premises are in compliance with the UK immigration law and ready for inspection.
5. Neglecting Previous Non-Compliance
Ignoring past compliance issues or revocations might hinder the new application. Address any previous non-compliance and showcase the steps taken to rectify the issues.
6. Inadequate HR Compliance and Record Keeping
Not understanding or implementing mandatory HR activities and documentation requirements can lead to problems. Ensure your HR systems are robust and comply with the sponsor licence commitments.
7. Not Verifying the Validity of Legal Documentation
Overlooking the expiry dates and validity of key legal documents can cause application delays. Ensure all legal documents are valid and in line with the UKVI requirements.
What to do If Your Licence is Rejected
A rejection is not the end of the road. Understanding the reasons behind the refusal and addressing those issues is crucial. You may be eligible to re-apply or appeal against the decision, depending on the circumstances.
It might also be beneficial to seek professional advice from UK immigration specialists to understand the nuances and ensure a successful sponsor licence application in the future.
Adhering to the guidelines, being thorough with the documentation, and understanding the common pitfalls can significantly smoothen the sponsor licence application process.
With a well-prepared application and a structured approach towards compliance, obtaining a sponsor licence can be a straightforward task, paving the way for businesses to tap into a global talent pool, thereby fostering growth and innovation.
Need Assistance with Your Sponsorship Licence Application?
Successfully getting a sponsorship licence can give your business clear benefits, but the process of getting an application approved can be complex and time-consuming. At Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, we excel in simplifying this process for you. Our team of UK immigration specialists is well-versed in UK immigration law and has a proven track record of successful sponsor licence applications.
We don’t just guide you through the process; we become your partner in ensuring that the application is prepared to meet the UKVI’s strict requirements. Reach out to Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors today, and let’s simplify the complex together, propelling your business to new heights with the global talent it needs.
A Sponsor Licence is typically valid for 4 years from the approval date. Towards the end of this period, a business can apply for a renewal. The renewal procedure requires submitting an application through the SMS system, similar to the initial application. It’s advisable to start the renewal process well in advance to ensure continuity of sponsorship abilities.
The type of sponsor licence required varies based on the classification of your company and the type of workers you intend to sponsor. A detailed analysis of your business needs, the roles you aim to fill, and consultation with immigration experts can help determine the appropriate licence variation.
Non-compliance with sponsorship duties can have serious repercussions. The UKVI may downgrade, suspend, or revoke the sponsor licence. It may also impact the ability to sponsor individuals in the future. Moreover, there could be legal and financial penalties imposed on the business.
A ‘genuine vacancy’ is a position that requires a qualification, skills, and experience appropriate to the job. It should not be created merely to facilitate the entry of a particular individual to the UK. The UKVI assesses whether a vacancy is genuine during the sponsor licence application process and may request additional information to substantiate the genuineness of the vacancy.
Sponsor licences are not transferrable. If a business undergoes a change, such as a merger, acquisition, or other structural changes, the new legal entity must apply for a new sponsor licence. It’s essential to notify the UKVI of such changes to ensure compliance with the immigration rules.
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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.