What Are the Eligibility Requirements for a Sponsor Licence?

sponsor licence

Securing a sponsor licence is essential for UK employers aiming to recruit skilled workers from outside the UK. This licence authorises employers to sponsor non-UK residents, ensuring compliance with UK immigration laws. Prospective organisations need to understand the requirements properly before applying for it. 

In this article, we will explore the benefits of having a sponsor licence and the eligibility criteria set out by the Home Office that an organisation must fulfil to obtain the licence. Let’s get started.

Benefits of Having a Sponsor Licence

Holding a sponsor licence offers numerous advantages to UK employers, particularly those looking to enhance their workforce with diverse and skilled talents worldwide. Here are the primary benefits of acquiring a sponsor licence:

Access to Global Talent

Sponsor licence holder organisations can recruit highly skilled professionals beyond the UK’s borders. This access is crucial for industries experiencing local talent shortages or requiring specialised skills not readily available in the domestic market.

Competitive Edge

Employers with the ability to sponsor international workers are often seen as attractive workplaces. This capability can significantly improve an employer’s brand, making it easier to attract top talent worldwide, thus maintaining a competitive edge in the market.

Compliance and Credibility

Obtaining a sponsor licence demonstrates an employer’s commitment to compliance with UK immigration laws. This commitment not only helps maintain legal operations but also enhances the business’s credibility among stakeholders, including clients, investors, and other partners.

Business Growth

Infusing international talent can lead to new ideas, perspectives, and innovations within the company. These contributions are invaluable for driving business growth and improving operational efficiency.

A sponsor licence, therefore, not only enables the recruitment of global talents but also contributes significantly to the overall strategic development of a business.

Eligibility Requirements for a Sponsor Licence

Acquiring a sponsor licence requires businesses to meet specific legal and operational standards defined by UK immigration laws. Engaging with UK Sponsor Licence Lawyers can guide businesses to meet these criteria, ensuring only qualified, legitimate entities hire international workers.

The requirements include: 

Genuine and Lawfully Operating/Trading Organisation

Businesses seeking a sponsor licence must establish their legitimacy and lawful operation within the UK. This includes proving their registration as a legitimate business entity such as a public limited company (PLC), limited company (Ltd), limited liability partnership (LLP), or as a sole trader, with appropriate documentation from Companies House or similar regulatory bodies.

Additionally, these businesses must demonstrate a concrete physical presence in the UK. This is typically verified through evidence of operating premises that comply with local planning permissions or have the necessary consent from the Local Planning Authority. 

For newer businesses, including startups that have been operational for less than 18 months, the requirements include proving active business operations through the submission of evidence like a current corporate bank account held with a UK bank regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).

Genuine Business Needs

A central component of the sponsor licence application is demonstrating a real need to hire from the international labour market. Applicants must pass the ‘genuineness test’, which assesses whether the roles they intend to fill with overseas workers are indispensable and align with the company’s operational needs.

To satisfy this requirement, the business must illustrate that the job positions are genuine and necessary for their operations and that they meet the skill and salary thresholds outlined by UK immigration regulations. Businesses need to show that the resident workforce cannot readily fill these roles.

Although it is not compulsory to provide exhaustive details of past recruitment efforts, sharing this information can bolster the application. Detailing unsuccessful attempts to recruit locally can serve as strong evidence of the need for international recruitment, thereby supporting the genuine nature of the business’s request for a sponsor licence.

Suitability Requirements

To be considered for a sponsor licence, businesses must demonstrate that they are trustworthy and capable of fulfilling their responsibilities under the sponsorship system. This entails proving they have robust HR systems to monitor sponsored employees and ensure compliance with immigration laws.

These systems are critical for tracking and managing employees’ immigration status and right to work, thus ensuring that the business can effectively support its sponsorship duties.

Additionally, businesses must be prepared for compliance visits from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), which can be announced or unannounced. This readiness indicates the business’s commitment to maintaining standards aligned with its sponsor obligations.

A clean legal record is also essential. Businesses applying for a sponsor licence must not have unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or financial misconduct, such as tax evasion.

Furthermore, a history of compliance with previous sponsorship licences (if there is any) is required. Businesses with sponsor licences revoked within the last year are typically ineligible to apply.

Key Personnel Requirements

The sponsor licence application process also scrutinises the integrity and qualifications of the business’s key personnel in managing sponsorship duties. These individuals play crucial roles and must meet specific criteria to ensure they can be trusted to uphold the responsibilities that come with the licence.

  • Authorising Officer: The authorising officer is a senior organisation member responsible for the sponsorship licence and related immigration matters. This individual must ensure that all sponsorship duties are adhered to and must be able to oversee the legal aspects of immigration as it pertains to the business.
  • Key Contact: This is the main point of contact between the business and the Home Office. The key contact handles all communications related to the sponsor licence, promptly addressing any queries or issues.
  • Level 1 & 2 Users: Level 1 and Level 2 users are responsible for the day-to-day management of the Sponsor Management System (SMS). These roles require meticulous attention to detail and integrity as they directly handle sensitive information and compliance-related tasks.

The individuals must be the company’s employees and on its payroll for all key personnel roles. They should be British or settled in the UK and must have a clean criminal record with no unspent convictions. Additionally, these personnel should not be related to any candidates or employees they are sponsoring to prevent conflicts of interest.

Sponsor Licence Duties

Securing a sponsor licence brings a suite of obligations that organisations must adhere to, such as maintaining compliance with UK immigration laws and preventing unlawful employment practices. These include:


Effective record-keeping is crucial for sponsors. Organisations must maintain accurate and current records of all sponsored foreign workers. This documentation includes copies of passports, right-to-work information, immigration status documents, and, where applicable, National Insurance numbers.

Additionally, employment contracts must be kept on file, and any changes in the sponsored workers’ contact details must be promptly updated. This level of diligence helps ensure that all employment is legally compliant and verifiable.

Monitoring & Reporting

Sponsors are required to establish robust systems to monitor their sponsored employees. This duty includes reporting any significant changes in employment circumstances to the Home Office within ten working days.

Important changes that must be reported include early contract terminations, unauthorised absences, or changes in the worker’s immigration status, such as transitioning from a skilled worker visa to a different category. Timely communication with the Home Office is crucial to maintaining a valid and compliant sponsor licence.

Notifying Changes to the Home Office

The sponsor is also responsible for informing the Home Office of any significant alterations that could affect their sponsor’s licence. This includes changes to key personnel, modifications in the company’s address, or any changes in the operational status of the company’s UK or overseas branches. 

Absence Monitoring

Another critical duty for sponsors is to monitor and authorise all forms of absence for their sponsored employees, including sickness, annual leave, and travel. Sponsors must have a reliable system to track these absences and ensure all sponsored workers comply with their visa conditions.

Immigration Compliance Audit

Organisations should conduct regular immigration compliance audits to ensure continuous compliance with sponsor duties and avoid potential violations that could jeopardise their licence. These audits assess and enhance the HR systems to fully comply with the sponsorship duties.

Performing an internal audit before applying for a sponsor licence can help identify and address any compliance issues, thus reducing the risk of application refusal or complications in maintaining an existing licence.

Let Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors Help You

Securing a sponsor licence involves complex legal processes and adherence to strict compliance standards. Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors are specialists in UK immigration law, equipped to guide you through acquiring and managing a sponsor licence.

Our experienced team provides detailed assistance, from application preparation and application to maintaining the licence. Whether you are a startup or a well-established entity, we can help you to achieve the sponsor licence. 

Contact us today to learn how we can support your success in securing and upholding a sponsor licence.


A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is an electronic document that must be issued by an authorised sponsor to every foreign worker they intend to hire. This document includes information about the job and the worker’s personal details, confirming that the position is suitable for a visa application under the sponsor licence.

There are mainly two types of sponsor licences: worker licence and temporary worker licence. Within these categories, specific subcategories address different needs, such as Skilled Worker, Minister of Religion, Sportsperson, etc.

To apply for a visa to work in the UK, you first need a job offer (visa sponsorship) from a licensed sponsor who will provide you with a Certificate of Sponsorship. With this certificate, you can then complete the visa application form online, pay the required fee, and submit the necessary supporting documents.

Applying for a sponsor more efficiently involves filling out an online application form through the UK government’s official website. You must provide details about your business, the types of workers you intend to sponsor, and evidence that you meet all the requirements. You must also pay the sponsor licence fee, which varies depending on the licence type and company size. 

After a sponsor licence is granted, the sponsor must adhere to various compliance duties, including keeping accurate records of sponsored employees, reporting significant changes to their circumstances, and ensuring they are legally allowed to work in the UK.

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