Sponsoring Skilled Workers

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How to sponsor a worker from overseas

In order to sponsor a skilled worker to the UK the employer has to have a sponsor licence.

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Requirements for a Skilled Worker Sponsor licence

An application for a sponsor licence can be made at any time when the business has a vacancy they are seeking to fill. The business can be a start-up but has to be trading. There is no resident labour market test and there is no strict requirement to show that a resident worker could not be found. You may or may not have identified the migrant you wish to sponsor, but you may be asked to explain why you believe a migrant worker will be required for the job.

The requirements for the business applying for a skilled worker sponsor licence are as follows:

  • You have to be a genuine business with an operating and trading presence in the UK;
  • You will have to demonstrate a genuine need for the sponsor licence, and
  • You should have a suitable human resources and recruitment system which would allow you to comply with employer’s duties and you have to be fully competent in right to work checking procedures and abreast with the Home Office guidance on prevention of illegal working

You will be asked to provide at least four documents from a list which may include mandatory documents (for example, evidence of registration with the regulating body for businesses which are regulated) and non-mandatory documents, such as a signed lease agreement, bank statements, VAT registration certificate, correspondence with HMRC and such like.

An unsuccessful application may require a six months cooling off period before the second application can be made and it is strongly recommended to put forward the strongest case when applying first time.

Licence application procedure

The application for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence is made online.

The online application form is short and takes 20-30 minutes to complete. The questions are about the nature of the business, its size and location, the roles of the prospective sponsored employees, and the number of employees you intend to sponsor in the first year. You may also have to submit the organisation chart indicating the place of the proposed sponsored employees in the hierarchy of the organisation.

On the basis of the form, the Home Office will assess whether you genuinely need a licence, whether your recruitment and HR procedures are adequate for hiring people from overseas, and whether you have the knowledge and procedures to offer immigration advice to prospective spondees. Your legal representative would normally cover these aspects of the application and would ensure that you are fully compliant and fully competent as a prospective sponsor.

Once the application is submitted, you will have five working days to email the signed submission sheet and supporting documents to the Home Office. 

Roles within the Sponsor Management System

You will be asked to nominate key personnel for the sponsor management system. These are:

  • The Authorising Officer
  • The Key Contact
  • Level 1 User

The Authorising Officer is the person responsible for the decision-making in respect of recruitment of migrant workers and ultimately responsible before the Home Office on behalf of the company. The Authorising Officer has to be a senior employee of the company or an office holder and either a British citizen or a settled person (with settled status or indefinite leave to remain).

The Key Contact will be the person receiving communications from the Home Office, in case there are questions or updates or scheduled meetings with the company.

Level 1 user is the person responsible for the day-to-day management of the online system, making updates, assigning certificates of sponsorship and notifying the Home Office of any changes.

Level 1 user performs the tasks delegated from the Authorising Officer.

There can be only one Authorising Officer and only one Key Contact, but you can have several Level 1 Users.

The same person can be assigned all the three roles within the Sponsor Management System, or the roles can also be shared. Your legal representative can be appointed your Key Contact during the application process but cannot be your Level 1 User until the licence is issued. Initially, the Level 1 user would be the same person as the Authorising Officer. Later you can add an additional Level 1 user or replace the Level 1 user with another person.

Certificate of sponsorship

When the sponsor licence has been issued, the employer may act as the sponsor of a worker for a suitable position. The next step is to assign the worker a certificate of sponsorship.

There are two types of certificates of sponsorship – defined and undefined.

Undefined certificates of sponsorship are issued annually by the Home Office on request of the sponsor. Undefined certificates of sponsorship do not specify the role or the name of the employee. They are virtually blank allocations which can be assigned to a worker who is already in the UK and needs either further permission to stay in the Skilled Worker category or is switching from another immigration route, for example from the Student or Graduate route.

The first batch of undefined certificates of sponsorship would normally be issued when the sponsor licence application is approved. However, you don’t necessarily have to ask for any certificates of sponsorship at the time of sponsor licence application, especially if you have already identified a worker you wish to sponsor and this worker will be making an application for entry clearance from outside the UK.

For employees who are overseas or have to leave the UK and make an application for entry clearance before starting their sponsored employment, the employer has to ask the Home Office for a defined certificate of sponsorship. The defined certificate is issued for a specific position within the company and has a defined job title, salary and hours of work. Once the request for a defined certificate of sponsorship is granted, the employer has three months to assign this certificate to a migrant and the migrant has further three months to make an application for entry clearance.

The cost of sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route

The cost of assigning a certificate of sponsorship is £199. At the same time, the employer will be paying the Immigration Skills charge the amount of which depends on the length of the proposed sponsorship. For small companies the Immigration Skills charge is £364 for the first 12 months and £182 for each additional six months. For large companies, it is £1000 for the first 12 months and then £500 per six months onwards. There is no Immigration Skills charge if you are employing a person switching for the Student route if they have successfully completed a degree course during their previous stretch of leave.

Scale-up licence holders are also exempt from the Immigration Skills charge.

Other costs payable by either the employer or the employee

There are further costs associated with the Skilled worker visa which can be paid either by the migrant or their sponsor. These include the visa fee and the immigration health surcharge for the employee and any dependants applying with them. The visa fee depends on the duration of the visa and whether the employee’s job is on the shortage occupation list at the time of applying. A spreadsheet of all associated costs can be downloaded below.

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Last updated on June 07, 2022

Last updated on June 07, 2022