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Sponsor Licences


Sponsor licence (formerly Tier 2 sponsor licence) – how can we help?

Changes made to UK immigration rules in December 2020 in consequence of Brexit.  Employers must now have a valid sponsor licence in order to employ all skilled workers who do not have the right to work in the UK, including EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members. This does not apply to workers who have been granted settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Without a sponsorship licence you cannot recruit from overseas, or you are likely to face delays while an application is made meaning you lose the opportunity to employ someone identified through your recruitment process.

Sponsorship Licence

A sponsor licence allows UK-based companies to employ skilled workers who are based overseas or within the UK. Once the licence is approved, it will be valid for a period of four years with the option for renewal.  Without this you can no longer, in most cases, employ new workers from the EU.

To be eligible to apply for a sponsor licence, you must have UK premises and operate within the UK. There are additional eligibility requirements, in particular that you are offering genuine employment in a skilled role and that you are paying an appropriate salary. In making the application, you agree to accept the obligations imposed on a sponsor licence holder.

Private individuals are not normally eligible to be recognised as sponsors, but an exception applies if the individual is a sole trader who wishes to sponsor someone to work in their business.

Home Office Fees

The fee for a sponsor licence depends on the size and type of organisation. This application fee is payable every time the sponsor renews their licence (every four years). Fees are usually reviewed annually by the Home Office which publishes them on its website.

Organisations classified as “medium” and “large” are required to pay a sponsor licence fee of £1,476. This fee would apply to all organisations which do not meet the definition of a “small” sponsor.

An organisation would normally qualify as a small sponsor if two of the following apply:

  • your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less
  • your total assets are worth £5.1 million or less
  • you have 50 employees or fewer

Organisations classified as “small” sponsors pay a lower sponsor licence fee of £536.

What is a sponsor licence rating?

The Scheme operates on a two tier basis and it is important, wherever possible to secure an A rating. There are two sponsor licence ratings: A or B.

If you are successful in your sponsor licence application, you will be awarded an A-rating. An A rating is only given to employers who can establish that they have the necessary systems in place to comply with sponsor duties. We can help review and ensure you have the systems in place to satisfy the Home Office.

If the Home Office finds that your business is not complying with sponsor duties, you may be downgraded to a B-rating or have your licence revoked altogether depending on the seriousness of the breach.


Applying for a sponsor licence

To apply for a sponsor licence a company is required to submit an application form online together with the required supporting documents as evidence of its trading presence in the UK. Additional information has to be provided also.

We can both make this application for you and review you system and processes pre application to identify any compliance issues and put in place an action plan to rectify them. We can help you identify all the documents you require to make the application.

There are several types of sponsor licence and each type of licence will require different supporting documents to be submitted. Our team can advise on the type you need to apply for and provide a checklist for you to make the application or for you to supply to us to make the application on your behalf.

Provided the requirements are met and the correct evidence is submitted, it is possible to apply for multiple subcategories of sponsor licence at the same time.


What are the main ‘Worker’ licence categories?

  • Skilled Worker

The Skilled Worker route is particularly designed for migrants who have been offered a job in the UK. This is the main immigration route for skilled workers from outside the UK, and now will applies to all EEA and Swiss nationals who wish to work in the UK unless they have been granted pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or hold a valid frontier worker permit or other visa that permits work in the UK.

  • Intra-company Transfer (ICT)

The ICT route is for potential workers who have been offered a temporary position by their overseas organisation to work in its UK office. Unless the salary package is above £73,900, the employee must have been employed by the company for at least 12 months.

The proposed migrant will be subject to specific requirements in relation to their salary package in order to qualify under the ICT route. The maximum total stay permitted under this route is five years (in any six-year period) unless the salary package is above £73,900. The route does not lead to settlement as opposed to the Skilled Worker visa route. The job must be at RQF level 6 or above (graduate level).

It may also be possible to sponsor an overseas employee under the Intra-company Graduate Trainee route. This route is designed for individuals who are being transferred to the UK as part of a graduate training programme for a managerial or specialist role. The trainee must have been employed by the overseas company for at least three months before the date of application and the UK salary package must be at least £23,000 per annum.

  • Sportsperson

Professional sportspersons and qualified coaches cannot be sponsored under the Skilled Worker route and must be sponsored under the separate Sportsperson visa (T2) route.

  • Ministers of Religion

This licence is for those who have received a job offer within a faith community such as a minister of a religion or a missionary. Unless the role is in a senior position within the organisation, it must be a pastoral role (involving primarily pastoral duties). Roles such as teaching, media production or administration, within a faith organisation, may not qualify for sponsorship under the Minister of Religion route and the organisation may need to apply for a Skilled Worker licence instead.


What are Certificates of Sponsorship?

A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is an electronic document generated on the Sponsor Management System (SMS) after a licence is granted.

In order to sponsor a migrant worker, you must first request a Certificate of sponsorship from the Home Office through the SMS. Once this is granted, you will need to assign it to the migrant worker they intend to sponsor to generate a unique reference number for the candidate to submit during their visa application.

Once you have identified a person you want to sponsor, you can apply for this on the SMS, and the Home Office usually aims to decide within one working day unless additional information is required. This is judged on a case-by-case basis.

By having a sponsorship licence you can move quickly to recruit. Otherwise it takes 8-12 weeks to process an application for a sponsorship licence.


Get in touch with our expert team today and find out more about how we can help you.

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