In certain industries there is a real skill shortage in the UK, which means that organisations have no choice but to look into recruiting employees from outside of the UK. This gap in skill shortages has been furthered following Brexit.
If a non-British worker wishes to come to the UK for purposes of work, they are not simply able to apply for a visa without sponsorship (work permit/job offer) from an employer. The potential employee is required to have a job offer from an organisation willing to employ them before they can apply.
If an employer wishes to recruit worker(s) from outside of the UK, they are required to have a Sponsor Licence. This enables them to issue “certificates of sponsorship” (virtual work permits) to potential employees so they can get their visa. This is also now applicable to recruiting employees from the European Union.
An organisation can apply for a sponsor licence for work visas under the following categories:
- Skilled worker
- Intra company transfer
- Ministers of Religion/temporary worker – religious
- Sports person visa
- Temporary worker – charity
- Temporary worker – government authorised exchange
- Temporary worker – international agreement
- Temporary worker – seasonal
In this article we will focus on applying for a Sponsor Licence for a skilled worker. We are, however, able to assist you in deciding which category is suitable for your business. Please contact one of our Immigration Solicitors for information on the other categories.
To apply for a Sponsor Licence, an employer must submit evidence to show that it is a genuine employer with a lawful trading presence in the UK. The Home Office will look at whether the organisation is “honest, dependable, reliable” and capable of meeting the responsibilities that it expects from sponsors.
They will check the following:
- That the sponsor has the human resource and recruitment systems in place to meet, or continue to meet their sponsor duties — the Home Office will judge this by either visiting the sponsor before or after the licence is granted
- That the Home Office are able to visit and conduct checks to ensure that the sponsor duties are being complied with on an immediate, unannounced basis; this includes checks at any physical addresses where the sponsored employees would carry out their employment duties
- That the sponsor can offer a genuine vacancy which meets the criteria of the category the sponsor is applying to be licensed for. This means that the vacancy is required to meet the skill and salary threshold of worker route being applied for.
- If any of the key personnel within the business have an unspent criminal conviction for a relevant offence
- Any evidence of previous non-compliance by the sponsor
The Home Office will assess whether a business truly needs the role they are wishing to sponsor, by examining the business type and the people they already employ to see if the sponsored role makes sense within their current structure.
When submitting the application, the sponsor is required to accumulate and submit several documents to support their application. The documents required can vary from your Employers Liability Insurance certificate to evidence of registration as an employer with HM Revenue and Custom. The documents required for each sponsor may differ, please contact our Immigration Solicitors to discuss what is required for your application.
The Home Office requires the organisation to nominate certain individuals to take on roles in respect of the sponsor licence. The people nominated must be primarily based in the UK.
The main roles are:
- Authorising Officer – Ideally it should be someone who has some involvement with recruitment and/or HR as they will be ultimately responsible for the sponsor licence and to ensure that the sponsor licence duties are met.
- Key Contact – this person is the main point of contact with the Home Office. A legal representative can undertake this role, and it is recommended we do so as we can chase the application on your behalf if needs be.
- Level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of the licence via access to an online portal, the sponsorship management system (SMS). At the application stage this has to be an employee but once the sponsorship licence is secured, others, including representatives, can be set up as level 1 users, or level 2 users who are able to undertake certain limited tasks on the SMS.
It is important to carefully consider whether anyone nominated has a criminal record or previous adverse involvement with the Home Office. Applications for sponsor licences can be refused due to the character and past behaviour of the key personnel. The Home Office can and will run its own checks on nominees.
The Home Office will also want to know that the organisation has the HR or recruitment systems in place to meet the sponsorship duties that an employer effectively signs up to when they become a sponsor.
Sponsorship duties include reporting certain information about sponsored workers via the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). The report must be made within ten working days of the event occurring. Reportable events include a delay in a start date or change in work location for a Skilled Worker.
They also include keeping detailed records on sponsored workers, such as contracts of employment, salary details and evidence that a vacancy is genuine.
The Home Office can visit organisations as part of the Sponsor Licence application process to check that their systems are robust enough. This will usually occur if the application is deemed high risk in some way, or if the sponsoring company is newly formed. If an organisation has not received a visit during the application process, a sponsor can be inspected by the Home Office at any point while they remain a sponsor licence holder.
During a visit the inspector will want to check the sponsor’s HR systems and speak to the authorising officer. They can also request to interview sponsored employees to ensure that the vacancy they have filled is a genuine one.
If the Home Office finds evidence that the employer is not meeting their duties, their licence can be suspended or even revoked — meaning their sponsored workers will have their visas curtailed. This puts the worker at risk of losing their job and their right to remain in the UK. Additionally, this will have operational impact and reputation damage for the employer.
Submitting the sponsor application?
The Sponsor Licence application must be completed online. We at RKB Law will assist you in completing your application, which then has to be submitted by you, the sponsor. Once the online form is submitted, a fee is paid depending on the size of the organisation: £536 for a small company or a charity and £1,476 for a medium or large company.
The organisation then has five working days from the point of submission to send their supporting evidence to the Home Office.
Getting a decision
Decisions can take up to eight weeks to come through. The Home Office has recently introduced a service to expedite a Sponsor Licence application for an extra fee of £500 which will ensure an application is decided within 10 working days.
The sponsor will be emailed with the result of the application and if successful they will be granted a licence valid for four years from the date of decision. This will usually be an “A-rated licence” which means they will be granted access to the sponsor management system via login details for the nominated user. The organisation can then start sponsoring workers.
If the application is refused, there is no right of appeal against this decision and a six-month cooling-off period will kick in. This prevents the sponsor from making another application during this time period.
We at RKB Law understand the Sponsor Licence process and will assist you in deciding the appropriate licence type required by you. We will provide advice of eligibility requirements, sponsorship licence costs, compliance duties and required action plan to ensure your application is successful. We will assist you in completing the skilled worker sponsor licence application online and work with the authorising officer to submit the application within the required timescales. This will include preparing a compelling business case evidencing that the applying business is a genuine organisation and explaining the organisations need for a sponsor licence. Please contact us on 01622 641054 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, to discuss how we can assist you.