Skilled Worker Sponsorship Licence

Employers in the UK who want to hire skilled foreign migrant workers are required to obtain a UK Sponsorship Licence under the points-based system.

Sponsors are required to ensure that they have efficient procedures and reliable HR practices in place, and the Home Office is required to carefully examine all sponsorship applications as per UK immigration rules and guidance.

In order to ensure that your organisation is fully compliant with the requirements and to help you build a strong and persuasive case, our experienced advisors are available to support you throughout the entire sponsorship licence application process.

What is a Sponsorship Licence?

Before hiring temporary or permanent foreign workers, UK businesses must have the appropriate sponsorship licence from UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI). Without one, UK businesses are unable to hire new people, extend an existing work visa, or sponsor the worker at the ILR stage.

After receiving a sponsorship licence, the business will receive a licence rating. This will enable them to begin issuing Certificates of Sponsorship, which are necessary for each applicant’s immigration application under the points-based system’s Skilled Worker route. 

A sponsorship licence comes with important obligations for the licence holder. The business will have to demonstrate that all the obligations and responsibilities expected of them as a sponsor are recognised and fulfilled. The sponsorship licence is granted for an initial period of 4 years and may be extended if the company wishes to continue to sponsor any migrant workers.

Alternatively, a sponsor’s licence may be downgraded, suspended, or revoked if it fails to fulfil its responsibilities. Companies applying for sponsorship licences might also be visited by UKVI, which will determine whether or not your organisation qualifies for a sponsorship licence.

What are the employer’s responsibilities?

Businesses must meet the requirements outlined in the Immigration rules in order to be eligible to apply for a sponsorship licence. These requirements are in place to make sure that the immigration system is not abused and that employers who have reliable systems in place fulfil their obligations.

Companies must be legitimate businesses operating legally in the UK, only assign CoS to employees when the position qualifies for sponsorship, and make sure their HR processes are in place to monitor the immigration status and attendance of the migrant workers. Additional responsibilities include updating the Home Office on any significant changes. Before applying for a Skilled Worker sponsorship licence, employers should also ensure that they can offer employment which will be paid in line with the salary rates for the Skilled Worker route as set out in the Immigration Rules and sponsors guidance.

Skilled Worker Sponsorship Licence application process

  • An online licence application must be submitted by the nominated authorising officer. The organisation must provide supporting documentation to meet the necessary evidentiary requirements, which can be found in the Sponsor Guidance Appendix A. 
  • The fee for submitting a sponsor licence application must be paid, and this will vary depending on the size of your organisation.
  • The supporting documents must be submitted within five working days of the online application being submitted. If all required documents are not submitted, this will result in a delayed or rejected application, with further costs incurred.
  • Preparation and submission of all necessary documents and forms for sponsorship licence, which grants permission for employers to hire foreign and migrant workers.
  • An organisation can decide whether to add other categories to its licence.

Appointing Key Personnel to your Sponsorship Management System

Once you are satisfied that you will be able to meet the above-mentioned sponsorship requirements of the Skilled Worker route, you should appoint an Authorising Officer to manage your sponsorship licence, a Key Contact to act as the main contact between your business and the Home Office and nominate at least one Level 1 User to carry out day-to-day sponsorship activities using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

  • Authorising Officer – Usually someone senior within the company or organisation, who is involved with recruitment and/or HR. This person will be ultimately responsible for the licence and ensuring that Sponsor Licence duties are met. 
  • Key Contact – The primary point of contact for the Home Office. A legal representative can undertake this role for you, and 
  • Level 1 User – This person will be responsible for all day-to-day management of the Sponsor Licence through an online portal known as the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). This person must be an employee at the time of application; however, once the Sponsor Licence has been assigned, others, including legal representatives, can be set up as Level 1 Users or Level 2 Users who are able to undertake certain limited tasks on the SMS. 

These key personnel will need to be in place when you apply for your Skilled Worker sponsor licence. The roles can be filled by the same person or a combination of different people. 

Each of your Key Personnel must be based in the UK for the period they will fill the role you have appointed them to, not have any unspent criminal convictions, civil penalties, or other adverse history (including adverse immigration history) and be a paid member of your staff or engaged by you as an ‘office holder’ (unless an exception applies).

Skilled Worker Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

Once the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) has been issued, the prospective employee will be able to apply for a visa to join the company or apply for leave to join the company from within the UK. A defined or undefined Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) should be obtained to enable employees to be taken on immediately after the business has been registered as a licenced sponsor:

  • A Defined CoS should be used when the applicant is applying for a Skilled Worker visa and they are making their application from outside the UK. 
  • An Undefined CoS should be used where the applicant is applying for a Skilled Worker visa from within the UK or is applying for any other type of visa which requires a CoS.
  • When a company applies for a licence, they will need to estimate how many Skilled Worker certificates are required. They will then be granted fixed allocations of undefined CoS annually as part of their sponsorship licence. 

In addition, employers may have to pay a CoS issue fee and Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) each time they assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to a worker on the Skilled Worker route. 

Why Work With An Immigration Adviser for Your Sponsorship Licence Application

We assess your business’ eligibility and provide consultancy on the requirements before submitting your application. Providing the necessary information and documentation when applying can save you time and help the Home Office process your case faster.

Our experienced advisers will make sure you understand the relevant guidance and procedures and provide all the required information at once.

Working with a licenced immigration adviser for your Sponsorship Licence application offers numerous advantages, ensuring a smooth and successful process for our clients. We offer our expertise in preparing and managing the application. 

When choosing an immigration adviser, it’s crucial to select a licenced and reputable professional or firm. We are proud to offer our clients reliable and top-tier assistance, making the Sponsorship Licence application process as smooth and efficient as possible.

Let’s look at the highlights

Application process

An online application form should be completed. Information regarding your business, why you are in need of a licence and details of key personal and Level 1 users should be entered. When completing the application form, the application fee, depending on the size of your business, should be paid. To complete the application, all supporting documents should be prepared and sent for evaluation. The sponsorship licence is granted for an initial period of 4 years and may be extended if the company wishes to continue to sponsor any migrant workers.

Application cost

The current application fee for small or charitable sponsors is £536. Small or charitable sponsor includes if your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less, your total assets are worth £5.1 million or less, and you have 50 employees or fewer. For medium or large sponsored Workers, the current fee is £1,476.

Application waiting times

Most applications are dealt with in less than 8 weeks. UKVI may need to visit your business. You may be able to pay an extra £500 to get a decision within 10 working days. This service is limited to a small number of applications every working day. Faster decisions are allocated in the order that requests arrive (first come, first served).

Frequently Asked Questions

If your application for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence is accepted, you will be given an “A” rating on the published register of licensed sponsors. The Home Office may downgrade you to a B-rating if they believe that you are unable to fulfil your sponsor obligations or otherwise act appropriately during the period that your sponsor licence is in effect. In such a case, you have to comply with a time-limited sponsorship action plan that outlines the steps you must take to get your rating back to an A. Your sponsor licence could be revoked if you don’t follow the guidelines in your action plan.

Your licence will be valid for 4 years if your sponsor licence application is approved.  You must apply to renew your sponsor licence before it expires if you want to continue sponsoring skilled workers after the initial 4-year period.

The home office may impose a “cooling-off period” prohibiting you from applying for or holding a licence for the duration specified in the decision letter if your licence has recently been refused, withdrawn, or revoked. Depending on the Home Office’s decision and the circumstances, the time frame can be between six and twelve months and, in some cases, five years.

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