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What is a Sponsor Licence?

A company needs to apply for a sponsor licence as a prerequisite to employ individuals from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland to work for the company in the UK.

When a company is granted a sponsor licence, significant trust is placed in the company. With this trust comes a direct responsibility to act in accordance with the Immigration Rules, all parts of the Tier 2 sponsor guidance, and with wider UK law.

What criteria must I meet to be eligible for a Sponsor Licence?

In order to get a sponsor licence, you must first check that the company is eligible.

The Home Office aim to establish four key criteria as follows before issuing a company with a sponsor licence:

  1. That the company is a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK;
  2. That you have human resource and recruitment systems in place to meet your sponsor duties;
  3. That the key personnel are deemed to be honest, dependable and reliable; and
  4. That the company is able to offer genuine employment that meets the criteria of the category which you are applying to be licensed for.

Which type of Sponsor Licence should I apply for?

You can apply for a sponsor licence covering any of the tiers as below. The sponsor licence which you need will depend on the types of workers which you want to fill your jobs.

You can apply for a sponsor licence covering either or all of the following tiers:

Tier 2 (General) Visa

  • This visa is for new hires who have been offered a skilled job in the UK which cannot be filled by a settled worker. The job must be skilled to at least Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) Level 6, or be a creative sector occupation skilled to at least RQF Level 4. This category includes applicants coming to the UK to fill shortage occupations as defined on the Home Office’s Shortage Occupation List.

Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Visa

  • This visa is for existing employees of a multinational employer who need to be transferred to a UK branch for training purposes or to fill a specific vacancy that cannot be filled by a settled worker, either on a long-term basis or for frequent short visits. The job must be skilled to at least Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) Level 6, or be a creative sector occupation skilled to at least RQF Level 4.

Tier 2 (Sportsperson) Visa

  • This visa is for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK. Such individuals must have been endorsed in line with the published endorsement criteria by the Governing Body for their sport confirming that the player or coach is internationally established at the highest level and will make a significant contribution to the development of his sport at the highest level in the UK.

What is the application process for a Sponsor Licence?

In most cases, you must submit at least 4 documents from a Home Office designated list. The types of documents which are deemed to be mandatory or optional to submit depend on:

  • The type of company applying for the sponsor licence
  • The tier, category or subcategory in which you are applying
  • Whether the company is subject to regulation or inspection

If the company has been operating or trading in the UK for less than 18 months, the checks which the Home Office will make are different to those carried out on more established businesses. The Home Office provides document flexibility as it recognises that some start-ups may not be able to provide certain documents that more established businesses can provide.

If you are required to be registered with and/or inspected/monitored by a regulatory body to operate lawfully in the UK, it is mandatory that you provide evidence that you are registered for all branches which you wish to be included on the licence.

You must also indicate which jobs are currently vacant and which you intend to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) for including the details of any individuals whom you have already identified that you wish to employ and how such individuals were identified.

Do I need to appoint people within the company to manage the Sponsor Licence?

You need to appoint people within your company to manage the sponsorship process when you apply for a licence. The roles are:

  • Authorising Officer – a senior and competent person responsible for ensuring that all of your sponsor duties are met
  • Key contact – the main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
  • Level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of the sponsor licence

These roles can be filled by the same person or different people.

How long will my Sponsor Licence application take to process?

The service standard for a sponsor licence application is 8 weeks. However, applications can be processed significantly faster than this within approximately 2-3 weeks.

The Home Office may conduct an on-site visit to your company and any branches you wish to be included on the licence before making a decision. If the Home Office has significant doubts about your ability to fulfil your sponsorship duties after a visit, it may refuse your application.

What happens after my Sponsor Licence application is approved?

You’ll get an A-rated licence if your application is approved and will need to maintain this rating throughout the duration of the sponsor licence.

You will be granted access to your sponsor licence via the Home Office’s Sponsorship Management System (SMS) and will be able to issue Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to employ non-EEA and Swiss nationals if you have any jobs that are suitable for sponsorship.

How long is a Sponsor Licence valid for?

A sponsor licence is valid for 4 years, after which it will expire and can be renewed. The 4 years will run from the date your licence is granted.

During this time, the company must ensure that it complies with all its sponsor duties on the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). Setfords is able to provide bespoke training and advice in respect of the SMS and compliance with the Immigration Rules.

Why use Setfords for Sponsor Licence matters?

  • Consistently high approval rate for sponsor licence applications for multinational organisations, small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups
  • Extensive experience in successful sponsor licence applications for a multitude of industry sectors including financial services, healthcare, media, technology and the telecommunications sectors
  • Setfords can be appointed as Representative and a Level 1 User on your sponsor licence after it has been granted to assist you with complying with all of your sponsor duties
  • Cost effective service with upfront fixed fees so that clients know what to expect
  • Being able to contact your lawyer out of office hours
  • Unwavering commitment to delivering excellent client care
  • Meticulous preparation of all paperwork and supporting documentation to expedite the approval process

We are happy to answer your enquiry by email or on the telephone and can do so outside office hours if you prefer. To receive more information, please complete the form below or call our enquiries team on 0330 058 4011.

Lawyer spotlight: Nicola Anne Wilkins

Consultant Solicitor - Business and Personal UK Immigration Law

Quotes from previous clients

“I had the pleasure to work with Nicola in relation to both my Tier 2 (General) visa and the sponsor licence application for my sponsor in the UK. It was a very complex process and I had previously been told by another Immigration Lawyer that it would not likely be possible. The minute we spoke with Nicola we felt reassured, confident and 100% supported. Nicola is extremely professional and competent, and it was a pleasure to know that she did everything possible to make both applications work. I would highly recommend Nicola to anyone. Amazing service”.

“Nicola was fantastic and helped us secure work visas for two employees from different countries. Nicola made the whole process completely painless and felt like an extended member of our team. I cannot recommend Nicola highly enough and we will 100% be using her for any further UK visa needs”.

“Nicola has proven to be a fantastic asset both in dealing with my personal immigration case, and to my company in general, which she consults on all immigration issues. Her knowledge of all of the latest UK laws and regulations is thorough, her understanding of potential trouble points is profound, and her attention to detail is exceptional. I am very grateful to Nicola for working on my case and making it such a smooth and painless process. I gladly and wholeheartedly recommend Nicola's services to my colleagues, clients, and friends and I look forward to working with Nicola again in the future”.

“I would highly recommend Nicola’s services to anyone looking for a streamlined UK visa immigration process. Nicola has been greatly supportive, every step of the way over the past few years with helping me obtain my Tier 2 sponsored visa twice and my permanent residency for the UK. She is extremely knowledgeable, professional, patient and a pleasure to work with. I will always turn to Nicola for any visa support in the future”.

“Nicola helped me to secure my work visa for the UK with ease, and, most importantly, clearly communicated the entire process so that I knew what to expect and could plan without stress. Nicola handled my case very professionally, and I found Nicola to be extremely competent”.

“I had the opportunity to work with Nicola during my Tier 2 work visa application process. Nicola demonstrated excellent knowledge, professionalism and attention to detail and made the entire process of preparing and applying for the visa as easy and stress free as possible. The process was extremely well planned and as a result, I had my visa processed and returned to me in record time. Nicola is also a great communicator and kept me updated at every step of the way so that I felt confident and supported. Overall, I am very impressed with Nicola's professionalism and I will be using Nicola's services again in the future and will recommend her to my colleagues when the opportunity arises”.