Applying for a sponsorship licence (formerly Tier 2 sponsor licence UK) can be fraught with difficulties for businesses and organisations. The Home Office is strict on granting licences and ensuring businesses stay compliant. One wrong move and your application for a licence can be turned down, with disastrous consequences for your business. Going through the application process on your own is a risky gamble and proving you are eligible can be tougher than you think. Our specialist employment immigration attorney team can guide you through that minefield and ensure your sponsorship licence for employers’ application is as watertight as possible.
Success story: Click here to read about how A Y & J Solicitors steered a sponsor licence application through the system for a UK business in just two working days
At A Y & J Solicitors, we’ve helped thousands of business owners attain and retain their sponsorship licences. We know how to spot issues with applications and resolve them before they become a stumbling block. We have developed a comprehensive compliance pack, as well as providing our clients with a mock compliance audit to put them in a great position should the Home Office ever request a visit. When you’re ready to apply, sponsor licence procedures can be complex and lengthy so let an A Y & J immigration lawyer give your Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence (formerly Tier 2 sponsor licence) application the greatest possible chance of success.
Click here to download our guide on how to apply for a sponsor licence
Download our guide on how to apply for a sponsor licence:
Calculate the cost of a sponsor licence here:
Understand the eligibility requirements for a sponsor licence here:
A Y & J Solicitors has more than 1,200 positive client reviews across Google and Trustpilot and is listed in The Legal top 500 best UK law firms, so you can rest assured your sponsor licence challenges are in safe hands when you take these three simple steps:
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"Very helpful and efficient team, the fees are a significant investment but I couldn't have done the process without them. I recommend allowing 2-3 months for applications to avoid extra fees, but I was on a very tight timeline and the team was able to wrap up everything very quickly. Really grateful for all their hard work."
"I have used A Y & J Solicitors twice now to deal with spouse visa applications. They are highly professional and each time got excellent service. Recently, Nagina Hanif helped out with our application and she was very thorough and diligent in getting all the paperwork done and kept us posted through out the process. I know A Y & J solicitors fees might be bit on the higher end when compared to others, but I think this represents the quality of service you get in return. Before signing on A Y & J solicitors, I looked at few other options few years ago but our first application, when it came to renewal time I simply went with them as I knew they were highly reliable. I would highly recommend them!"
"Fabulous assistance from start to finish. They really made my visa application a smooth experience."
"Great Team, appreciate on time support and highly professional. I would recommend AY & J Solicitors."
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For many sectors – such as agriculture, tech, hospitality and finance – the ability to recruit talent from overseas is imperative to meeting customer demands, launching innovative projects and growing their business. As a result of Brexit, those from the European Union are now required to be sponsored in line with migrants from outside of Europe. Instructing immigration experts who you can rely on to help manage your sponsor licence duties and responsibilities and keep you up-to-date with any changes to relevant regulations, will ensure you remain compliant, and give all aspects of your application the best chance of success. The supporting documents which will accompany your application will differ depending on the type of licence, type of industry your business operates in and the job which will be filled by a foreign migrant. If a mistake is made on your application which subsequently leads to it being refused, a six-month cooling off period may be triggered to prevent you from making another application, which in turn could be detrimental to any business plans.
At A Y & J Solicitors, our lawyers can provide full support and tailored advice specific to your organisation so you can remain compliant at all times, thereby giving you complete peace of mind.
To be eligible to apply for a sponsor licence, your organisation must have a UK presence and be operating or trading lawfully in the UK. If you have multiple UK branches, you may apply for one licence to cover all your linked UK entities – alternatively, you might apply for a separate licence for each branch, depending on your circumstances. If you are required to be registered with or inspected/monitored by a statutory body to operate lawfully in the UK, you will need to submit proof that you (and any branches covered by the licence) are registered with the appropriate body. You may also need to supply evidence that you hold the appropriate planning permission or local planning authority consent to run your class of business at your trading address.
The Home Office must be satisfied that you are able to offer genuine employment in a skilled occupation and that you will pay the correct rate of salary as a sponsor licence UK employer, as specified by the Home Office.
As part of your licence application, you are pledging to accept all of the duties associated with being a sponsor licence holder.
Individuals are not normally eligible to be recognised as sponsors, but an exception applies if the individual is a sole trader who wants to find themselves sponsoring a skilled worker within their business.
We have an in-depth understanding of sponsor licence applications and ensure all our clients remain compliant for the duration they hold the licence. For assistance with any UK immigration law concerns, contact us. We’re here to help!
Click here to check your eligibility score to apply for a sponsor licence.
The fee for a business 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 reviewed annually by the Home Office, which will publish any changes. 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 will normally qualify as a small sponsor if two of the following apply:
Organisations classified as “small” sponsors are required to pay a sponsor licence fee of £536.
You can calculate the cost of a sponsor licence application to your business by clicking here
If you have already been granted a ‘Skilled Worker’ sponsor licence (formerly known as Tier 2 sponsor licence) and decide to add a subcategory, there would be no fee. For example, if you hold a Skilled Worker licence (formerly Tier 2 General) and would like to start sponsoring migrants under the Senior or Specialist Worker Visa (formerly Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer), you’d simply need to submit an application through the Sponsor Management System to add a subcategory – no Home Office fee would apply.
Click here to read more about the cost of a skilled sponsor licence.
There are two sponsor licence ratings:
If you are successful in your sponsor licence application, you will be awarded an A-rating. This is the highest rating and is awarded by the Home Office to trusted organisations which have proved they have the necessary systems and processes in place to comply with sponsor duties.
A sponsor must maintain their systems and policies in order to maintain their A-rating. The Home Office may re-assess this rating at any time and a potential compliance visit will determine if an organisation still meets the criteria for an A-rating.
If the Home Office finds that a business is not complying with sponsor duties, it may be downgraded to a B-rating. A B-rated sponsor will need to meet a time-limited action plan to regain their A-rating. If they cannot meet the requirements of the action plan within the specified timeframe, the licence will be revoked.
It should be noted that the Home Office can suspend/revoke a licence without taking the preliminary step of downgrading to a B-rating. The choice of action taken by the Home Office will depend on the seriousness of the breaches which have been identified.
To apply for a sponsor licence (formerly known as Tier 2 sponsor licence), a company is required to submit an application form online along with a minimum of four specified supporting documents as evidence of its trading presence in the UK, in addition to a covering letter to provide background information about the company. Occasionally, the Home Office may require additional documents such as evidence of the company’s HR processes to assess whether the compliance requirements and sponsorship duties will be met. During an assessment of the licence application, the Home Office may also conduct a compliance visit at the company premises. As a consequence of COVID-19, the Home Office has also started to conduct visits via online means such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. If you do not have a premises, you can agree on a location to hold the compliance audit.
Our team can conduct a mock audit of your HR procedures prior to your formal application being made to identify any weaknesses and put in place an action plan to rectify them.
You will usually need to submit a minimum of four specified mandatory documents with the Skilled Worker (formerly Tier 2 General) licence application. The required document list is extensive and will depend on whether you are representing a public body, start-up, franchise or SME. Documents may include:
If you are applying for the Senior or Specialist Worker Visa (formerly Intra-Company Transfer) sponsor licence subcategory, you will also be required to submit evidence of common ownership between the company in the UK and the company overseas.
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 tailored document checklist for you.
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.
1. Skilled Worker (formerly Tier 2 General)
The Skilled Worker route is designed for migrants who have been offered a skilled job in the UK. From 1 January 2021, this route has applied 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.
2. Senior or Specialist Worker Visa – Global Business Mobility (GBM) (formerly Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer)
The GBM route is for overseas employees who have been offered a temporary position by their organisation to work in its UK office. The salary must be at least £45,800 per annum or the “going rate”, whichever is higher. Unless the salary package is above £73,900, the employee must have been employed by the company overseas 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 GBM 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 Graduate Trainee Visa 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 normally be at least £24,220 or 70% of the going rate, whichever is higher, per annum.
Professional sportspersons and qualified coaches cannot be sponsored under the Skilled Worker route and must be sponsored under the separate International Sportsperson Visa.
4. 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.
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, the company must first request a CoS from the Home Office through the SMS. Once this is granted, the company 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.
Under new sponsor licence rules, the Home Office has rebranded its previous two types of CoS depending on the immigration status of the migrant worker:
These certificates are required for those who are based outside the UK and making an entry clearance application as a Skilled Worker.
Once you have identified a person you want to sponsor, you can apply for this on the SMS, and the Home Office will normally process this within 1 working day unless additional information is required. This is judged on a case-by-case basis.
Previously, sponsors were required to submit their request for a restricted CoS (now defined CoS) by the 5th of each month to receive a decision by the 11th of the same month.
The overall cap on the number of defined CoS the Home Office can grant annually has also now been abolished.
Note: Those who are in the UK as visitors will not be able to apply for a Skilled Worker visa within the UK and will need to return to their country of residence for submission. Therefore, they will require a defined CoS.
A sponsor can request multiple undefined CoS before their annual allocation expires if they foresee a need to extend the leave of an existing employee or have identified someone they wish to sponsor who requires an undefined CoS (for example, someone “switching” visa category). If a sponsor is able to justify the need for the request, then the CoS allocation will be granted
If you missed the deadline for renewal or require additional undefined CoS during the year, you may request an increase of allocation on the SMS. Again, you will be required to prove you genuinely need the CoS requested. The processing time for a request to increase your allocation is 18 weeks. However, a priority service is available at an additional cost of £200.
Once an organisation acquires a sponsor licence, they become registered with the Home Office as a sponsor and can begin to issue Certificates of sponsorships (CoS) to skilled foreign migrants, subject to meeting the requirements. For many companies, being able to hire overseas skilled talent is essential to the successful operation and growth of their business. This is particularly so with the end of freedom of movement following the UK’s departure from the EU, meaning that a significant portion of the UK workforce require sponsorship from January 2021 if they failed to secure their status in the UK before the deadline.
At A Y & J Solicitors, we have extensive experience in helping companies acquire and maintain their Skilled Worker sponsor licences.
Unless there was an error in the Home Office’s assessment of the application, a six-month cooling-off period would normally be triggered from the date of the refusal, meaning that another licence application cannot be submitted until the end of that period. In some cases, if the Home Office accept there has been a mistake in the decision to refuse your application, you may submit a pre-licence error correction. However, if the decision is not overturned after the pre-licence error correction, the only other option to challenge the decision would be to lodge a judicial review.
Our team can expertly advise and represent you in challenging a decision of sponsor licence refusal.
There are some circumstances where you may be prevented from applying or re-applying for a sponsor licence for a certain period of time, known as a ‘cooling off’ period. Whether or not this applies will depend on the reasons for refusal and the length of a cooling-off period will vary depending on the circumstances.
For example, if your application was rejected, as opposed to being refused, because you were unable to submit requested information or documentation within a specified timeline (for reasons out of your control) you may be able to reapply without waiting.
In most cases, if a sponsor licence application you have submitted is refused, a six-month cooling-off period will apply.
There are some circumstances where it may be longer. For example, if you have been issued with a civil penalty for employing an illegal worker, it would be 12 months from the date you paid the penalty in full. If you tried to reapply during this time, your application would automatically be refused.
Even if you have never applied for a sponsor licence before, it is very important to check if your business may be subject to a cooling-off period before submitting an application for a sponsor licence.
To obtain a sponsor licence, UK employers need to follow the below steps:
1. Check your business is eligible, i.e. can you provide the specified documents to show your company is genuine and actively trading in the UK?
2. Choose the type of licence you need.
3. Decide who will manage sponsorship within your business. This person is also known as the Authorising Officer. Usually, this person is the most senior person responsible for recruitment within the company, which can be a company director or an HR manager. Upon the grant of the licence, the Authorising Officer will be responsible for overseeing the SMS and ensuring the sponsorship duties are complied with. You will also need to appoint a level 1 user. This is the person with access to the SMS (sponsor management system) and does not necessarily need to be the Authorising Officer. This person will be responsible for reporting any changes within your organisation as well as requesting and assigning CoS to migrant workers on the SMS. The first level 1 user must be an employee or an office holder of the organisation. However, once the licence is granted, the level 1 user will be able to request for additional level 1 users such as legal representatives to be added.
4. Apply online and pay the fee. The application fees differ depending on the size of your organisation as defined under the Companies Act 2006. If you are a charitable or small organisation, the sponsor licence application fee is £536. If you are a medium or large organisation, the fee is £1,476.
The standard processing time for applications is eight weeks. During the processing time, the Home Office may conduct a compliance visit at your office to ensure you are complying with your sponsorship duties. A priority service request can be made to the Home Office and if accepted, they will request a payment of £500 and aim to process your application within 10 working days. Your application may be refused if you fail to demonstrate all sponsorship duties are complied with during the visit.
Before the submission of your application, our team may conduct a compliance audit for your HR system to ensure these duties are complied with and advise on any adjustments if needed.
Your application can be refused by the Home Office for a number of reasons. Some of the most common are:
This is not an exhaustive list. If your licence application was refused for reasons not listed above, we would require a copy of your decision letter to advise whether it is a challengeable decision.
Unless the person has another form of visa that allows them to work, such as those with a PBS dependant visa or a spouse visa, you are not permitted to employ a non-settled worker without a sponsorship licence. If you employ any illegal worker, you may face potential civil penalties as well as criminal convictions.
The granting of a licence requires sponsors to act in accordance with immigration rules and the UK legal system.A sponsor should keep in mind that sponsorship is a privilege, not a right. The Home Office will never licence organisations whose actions and behaviours tend to obstruct the public good.
The Home Office will take appropriate compliance actions if the existing sponsor is found engaging with behaviours non-conducive to the public good. The compliance action will depend on the gravity of actions or behaviour.
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