Sponsor Licence Applications – Everything you need to know

Legally reviewed by: Nisha Leel In: Immigration

All United Kingdom (‘UK’) based employers who intend to recruit foreign workers under the new points-based visa system must apply for a UK Visas and Immigration (‘UKVI’) sponsor licence.

What is a Sponsor Licence?

In essence, a sponsor licence is permission given to companies in the UK from UKVI to legally employ foreign workers.

However, it is worth noting that there are two types of sponsor licences which an organisation can apply for. They are the ‘Worker’ route (formally known as Tier 2 routes), and the ‘Temporary Worker’ route (formally known as Tier 5 routes):

The ‘Worker’ routes consist of the following:

  • Skilled worker
  • Intra-Company Transfer route
  • T2 Sportsperson
  • T2 Minister of Religion

The ‘Temporary Worker’ routes consist of the following:

  • Charity Worker
  • Creative or Sporting Worker
  • Government Authorised Exchange Worker
  • International Agreement Worker
  • Religious Worker
  • Seasonal Worker

How a company satisfy the sponsor licence criteria?

As part of the application, UKVI will assess whether the company satisfies both the ‘eligibility’ requirements and the ‘suitability’ requirements.

Eligibility requirements

  • Is the company a genuine organisation?

To satisfy this requirement, the company must provide supporting documents to establish that it is a genuine organisation, e.g. HMRC documents, company accounts, business bank statements, business lease agreement etc.

  • Is the company honest and reliable?

To establish this point, UKVI will look at the company’s history and background, the key personnel named on the application and any other key persons involved in the day-to-day running of the business.

UKVI will also conduct background checks on all nominated individuals to verify their eligibility for the roles.

Suitability requirements

  • Is the company capable of carrying out sponsor duties e.g. does the company have the relevant HR and recruitment processes in place?

As part of the application process, UKVI may decide to visit the company’s premises to review its HR processes for compliance purposes prior to granting a sponsor license e.g.  UKVI may conduct a review of the company’s existing filing of employee identification records and right to work checks, etc.

After the compliance visit has been conducted, if UKVI feel that the correct employment compliance procedures are not in place, the application will be refused.

It is also worth noting that failure to adhere to strict compliance and due diligence obligations set out by UKVI in the recruitment of foreign workers could not only result in the sponsor licence application being refused, but also the possibility of the company facing civil or criminal repercussions, e.g. a large fine or imprisonment.

  • Can the company offer a genuine vacancy and rates of pay?

The required vacancy must satisfy the relevant skilled worker threshold e.g. RQF Level 3 and above, and also offer the minimum rate of pay for the particular role.

In order to meet the strict criteria as mentioned above, the company will also be required to provide detailed reasons explaining why a sponsor licence should be granted in order to recruit skilled migrant workers from outside of the UK.

It is therefore crucial to provide all the required information and supporting documents as part of the sponsor licence application.

How long is a sponsor licence valid for?

A sponsor licence is valid for 4 years and the validity will run from the date that the licence is granted.

If the sponsor licence application is granted, the company will be able to assign Certificate of Sponsorships (‘CoS’) to their prospective employees under the worker routes or the temporary worker routes.

How to apply for a licence?

The application must be submitted online via the UKVI website with a fee payable of £536.00 for a small company and £1,476.00 for a medium or large company.

You’re usually a small business if:

  • your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less
  • you have 50 employees or fewer.

However, the fee for a medium or large company will remain at £536.00 in relation to a ‘temporary worker’ sponsor licence application.

Once the online application has been submitted, supporting documents will have to be sent to UKVI within 5 days.

Failure to submit all the required supporting documents will result in the application being delayed or rejected. This could also result in further unnecessary costs for the business.

UKVI have recently introduced an expedited sponsor licence processing service for an additional fee of £500.00. Under this new priority service, sponsor licence applications will be decided within ten working days.

The company must submit the application themselves. We can however assist in the full preparation and the completion of the application.

What happens if the Sponsor Licence application is refused?

If the initial sponsor licence application is refused, the company may not be able to submit another application for at least 6 months after the date of the UKVI decision refusing the application, also known as the ‘cooling off period’.

The length of the ‘cooling-off period’ will depend on each company’s circumstances.

It is therefore extremely important that the application and supporting documents are correctly submitted from the outset.

Furthermore, there is no right of appeal for sponsor licence refusals.

What happens if the company fails to comply with UKVI sponsor licence duties?

If UKVI believe that a company is breaching its duties and pose a threat to immigration control, UKVI may suspend, downgrade or revoke the company’s sponsor licence.

The company must keep records of all workers that they sponsor, including up-to-date contact details and a copy of their Biometric Residence Permits (‘BRP’) and any other relevant identity documents.

UKVI will continually monitor the company’s ability and willingness in complying with the duties as required.

If an existing sponsor licence is suspended or revoked, it could have severe implications for both the employees and the company.

How we can help?

In light with the governments recent changes to the Points Based System for workers and temporary workers, complying with UKVI sponsor licence duties and responsibilities throughout the sponsor licence period could be extremely complicated for employers and HR personnel.

Our business immigration experts at Cartwright King Solicitors have substantial experience and knowledge in advising businesses in relation to complying with UKVI sponsor licence duties and obtaining sponsor licences.

If your organisation is interested in applying and require further advice, please contact our business immigration expert, Mr Mohammed Hafejee, or complete your details and one of our lawyers from our business Immigration team will promptly contact you.

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.