An Easy Guidance – How To Obtain a UK Sponsor Licence
In today’s competitive business environment, hiring enough skilled workers is one of many challenges that business owners face. Even the best attempts to staff critical roles can run into problems when there are simply not the right skilled workers living in the UK. While the solution is often hiring non-EEA workers, it is essential to comply with immigration regulations or risk harsh penalties.
Industries such as technology, finance, food manufacturing and many more need the ability to hire workers from non-EEA countries. To do this, they must have a UK Sponsor Licence.
Getting and retaining a UK Sponsor Licence requires committing to a rigorous compliance regime. Your HR processes and procedures will need to be able to cope with the demands made by the Home Office; demands that may cost you your licence and business reputation if not met.
Who Benefits from having a Sponsor Licence?
Many industries benefit from the talent they can recruit by having a UK Sponsor Licence. These include:
- Dental surgeries
- IT firms
- Financial services companies
- Tech firms
- Design studios
- Private schools and Higher Education Institutes
The eligibility criteria for a UK Sponsor Licence
The eligibility and suitability criteria for obtaining a UK Sponsor Licence are contained in the Sponsor Guidance for Tiers 2 and 5 (SG), and in the supplementary guidance on the UK Visas and Immigration pages of the GOV.UK website.
To be considered a suitable applicant, the prospective sponsor must demonstrate to immigration officials that:
- they are a genuine entity and trading lawfully in the UK
- they are based in the UK
- they have the required planning permission or Local Planning Authority consent for the type of business they run if applicable
- they are ‘honest, dependable and reliable.’
- they present no threat to UK immigration control, and
- they can and will comply with the sponsor duties and responsibilities
The last requirement presents the greatest challenge, especially for smaller organisations who do not have a dedicated HR resource. Help, in the form of an experienced immigration solicitor or consultant, is usually required to assess existing HR systems and implement any changes needed to meet Home Office requirements.
How to Get a Sponsor Licence?
Prepare for your application
Setting your company up to be a Sponsor Licence holder requires considerable preparation. However, considering the long-term implications of failing to follow UKVI requirements, getting this step right can save you thousands of pounds in fines, reputational damage, and even time in jail.
- Choose your key personnel
Sponsor Licence holders must report to UKVI using an online system called SMS (Sponsor Management System). Decide who will have access to the SMS, and their level of access. These must be people of good character whom you expect to remain in the company’s employ. For details on these qualifications, you can read the government guidelines.
- Understand how you must recruit non-EEA workers
You must always show you have tried to hire local (UK residents) workers before filling a vacancy from outside the EU. This is called conducting a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), which proves the position is a genuine vacancy. Although there are some exceptions, most positions must take this approach. Failure to conduct a compliant RLMT can result in your Certificates of Sponsorship (see below) being refused and your Sponsor Licence being downgraded, suspended or revoked. You can learn more about conducting RLMTs here.
- Conducting Right To Work checks
Once you have properly advertised for a position and found the right candidate, you must ensure that the individual is legally permitted to work in the UK. This Right To Work check is an important step in protecting your business from hiring illegal workers. Ensure the HR department is prepared to conduct this check for each Non-EU recruit.
- Document, document, document
UKVI will check that your HR systems are sufficient to maintain records and information about your non-EEA workers. This includes:
- Right to Work documents
- Copies of Biometric Residency Permit, NI number, and Certificate of Sponsorship
- RLMT details for each worker
- Method for tracking and reporting attendance and contact information for each Non-EU employee
- Evidence of approved payment for each Non-EU worker
- A process for the timely reporting of changes with all Non-EU workers and key company changes via the SMS
Submit Your Application
You can register online to submit an application for a Sponsor Licence. You must also pay an application fee. If your application is turned down, the decision cannot be appealed. To ensure success with your application the first time, contact an immigration law expert to assist with the process.
Prepare for a Home Office Visit
It is likely your place of business will receive an audit from a Home Office compliance officer before being approved for a Sponsor Licence. This is where all your planning and preparation come in. The officer will check that your HR systems are robust enough to cope with the duties and responsibilities of a Sponsor Licence holder and your key personnel understand what they need to do to ensure the organisation’s compliance.
Apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship
Once you have been granted a UK Sponsor Licence and conducted a compliant RLMT, you can apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) for each non-EEA person you wish to recruit. The person you are recruiting will need to present the CoS number when applying for their Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa.
We Are Here To Help
The entire sponsorship system is complex and challenging. A Y & J Solicitors are experts in handling UK Sponsor Licence applications and offer a full range of support services to Sponsor Licence holders. This includes acting as key personnel on your behalf and managing your SMS. We also provide expert advice on conducting correct RLMT and can swiftly assist you if your Sponsor Licence is downgraded, suspended or revoked.
Disclaimer: No material/information provided on this website should be construed as legal advice. Readers should seek an appropriate professional advice for their immigration matters.