UK Sponsor Licence
To recruit skilled labour from outside the single market, companies must have a valid Tier 2 or 5 Sponsor Licence. Once an organisation acquires a sponsor Licence, they become registered with the Home Office as a sponsor and can begin to issue Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to NON-EU skilled staff subject to meeting the requirements.
However, employers and HR directors must accept that sponsor licences come with strict compliance obligations, which if not met, can result in huge fines and even prison sentences.
Different types of Sponsorship Licenses:
Tier 2 is for skilled workers who you want to employ long-term or permanently. It’s split into:
• General – the role must meet the job suitability requirements;
• Intra-Company Transfer – for multinational companies which need to transfer employees to the UK;
• Minister of Religion – for people coming to work for a religious organisation (for up to 3 years); and
• Sportsperson – for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK.
Tier 5 is for skilled workers you want to employ on a temporary basis. It’s split into:
• Creative and Sporting – to work as a sportsperson (up to 1 year), entertainer or artist (up to 2 years)
• Charity Worker – for unpaid workers (up to 1 year)
• Religious Worker – for those doing preaching, pastoral and non-pastoral work (2 years)
• Government Authorised Exchange – work experience (1 year), research projects or training, for example practical medical or scientific training (2 years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge
• International Agreement – where the worker is coming to do a job which is covered by international law, for example employees of overseas governments
Sponsor Licence UK Eligibility Requirements:
To get a licence, you cannot have:
• unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering
• any history of failing to carry out your sponsorship duties
• You’ll need appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees.
• UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will review your application form and supporting documents. They may visit your business to make sure you’re trustworthy and capable of carrying out your duties.
To apply for a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence your organisation must provide proof of the following:
• It is a legally operating business in the UK
• Key personnel have been appointed, and they are of good character and dependable
• HR systems can manage all sponsorship duties
• The business is offering employment positions suitable for Tier 2 skill requirements, which are genuine positions and meet minimum salary guidelines
The key personnel that must be appointed are:
• Authorising officer – a senior and competent person who operate the Sponsor Licence Management System (SMS)
• Key contact – your main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
• Level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS
The Tier 2 sponsor will need to assign the applicant a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) before they can apply for leave to enter the UK, or remain in the UK, under a Tier 2 visa. The Certificate of Sponsorship is confirmation by the employer that they wish to employ a tier 2 visa migrant and that the employee will be paid at the salary as stated in the CoS. The employer will meet their obligations under the tier 2 visa system. It is easier if the employer wishes to employ someone currently based in the UK who is able to switch to a tier 2 visa from within the UK. In most cases Tier 2 visa applicants who can apply from within the UK for a visa need an unrestricted CoS. If the Tier 2 visa applicants needs to apply for a visa from outside the UK, or if the applicant wishes to switch from a Tier 4 dependent visa to a Tier 2 visa, then the employer will need to apply for a Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship which is allocated on a quota system and is more difficult to obtain. Tier 2 visa applicants also need to make sure that they gain enough points under the tier 2 visa points system.
How Can A Company Apply for Tier 2 Sponsor Licence?
To apply for a Tier 2 or 5 Sponsor Licence, you will need to fill in the online application form and send it to UKVI along with the required supporting documents. It is possible that you will receive a visit from Home Office immigration officials who will examine your HR systems to check your business can meet its compliance requirements.
Due to the coronavirus situation, you can send copies of documents which can be sent via email within five working days of submitting the online application.
What Documents Will I Need to Supply to Obtain a UK Tier 2 Sponsor Licence?
The required document list is extensive and will depend on whether you are a public body, start-up, franchise or SME. Examples of documents may include:
• If you are a food business, proof you are registered with and approved by a food authority
• Start-ups must provide evidence of their corporate bank account
• Proof you have employer’s liability insurance of at least £5 million from an authorised insurer
• Proof of listing on the London Stock Exchange
Where can I apply?
You can apply online for your licence. You need to print out the submission sheet at the end of the application which needs to be posted to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) with the correct supporting documents.
You are a small business if:
• The business’s annual turnover is £10.2 million or less
• The business has 50 employees or fewer
Type of licence Fee for small or charitable sponsors Fee for medium or large sponsors
Tier 2 £536 £1,476
Tier 5 £536 £536
Tier 2 and Tier 5 £536 £ 1,476
Add a Tier 2 to an existing Tier 5 No fee £940
Add a Tier 5 to an existing Tier 2 No fee No fee
The Sponsor has a number of record keeping and reporting duties for the applicants that it sponsors.
1. Record Keeping Duties:
• Copy of the identification page of the applicant’s passport.
• If the applicant had to apply for entry clearance to work for the employer, evidence of date of entry to the UK.
• UK immigration status document if not in the passport
• Copy of Migrants Biometric Residence Card
• Migrant’s contact details
• Copy of the Migrant’s National Insurance Number
2. Reporting Duties:
UK Visas and Immigration must be informed of the following:
• If a sponsored migrant does not turn up for his or her first day of work
• If a sponsored migrant is absent from work for more than 10 working days, without the sponsor’s reasonably granted permission
• If a sponsored migrant’s period of employment has ended as a result of the migrant resigning or being dismissed
• If any registration that the sponsored migrant needs to work in the UK (such as with a governing body) is ended
• If the sponsor stops sponsoring the migrant for any other reason (eg if the migrant moves into another immigration route that does not require a sponsor)
• If there are any significant changes in the migrant’s circumstances (eg change of job or salary excluding annual pay rise)
• If the Sponsor has any information which suggests that the migrant is breaching the conditions of his or her leave
• If the Sponsor has any information which suggests that the migrant may be engaging in terrorism or other criminal activity (The Sponsor must also pass any such information to the Police).
You’ll get an A-rated licence if your application is approved. An A-rated licence lets you start assigning certificates of sponsorship and be listed in the register of sponsors. However, an A-rated licence may be downgraded to a B-rating if you do not continue to meet sponsor duties. If this happens, you will not be able to issue new certificates of sponsorship until you’ve made improvements and upgraded back to an A-rating. You need to follow an ‘action plan’ provided by UK Visas and Immigration and pay the necessary fees in order to upgrade your licence. The fee must be paid within 10 working days of the date UKVI tells you about the downgrade. If you do not, you’ll lose your licence.
Resident Labour Market Test:
You will have to conduct a ‘resident labour market test’ i.e. you may need to advertise the job you’re offering if it’s not on the shortage occupation list. You must place at least 2 adverts to make sure that there are no suitable workers already living permanently in the UK. You must advertise in the UK for at least 28 days. This can be continuous or in 2 stages. If you advertise in two stages, the total time of advertising must be at least 28 days. Neither stage can be less than 7 days.
You must advertise any job you offer to a worker in the following categories:
• Tier 2 (General)
• Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) or Tier 5 (Religious Workers) unless it’s a non-essential position or involves living within a religious order (such as a monk or nun)
• Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting) in the creative and entertainment sector, unless you can explain why the job cannot be done by a settled worker