sponsor skilled workers from overseas

Skilled worker sponsor licence

We can help you sponsor a skilled worker


What is a sponsor licence

Sponsor licence is permission granted by the Home Office. It allows the licence holder to employ non-British nationals who otherwise do not have the right to work in the UK.

Skilled Worker Sponsor licence is for sponsoring workers for a job which requires a certain level of skill. The worker may be employed full time or part time but has to be paid above a prescribed level.

You can sponsor a worker for any period of time, from a few months to up to five years.

The licence allows you to sponsor as many employees as you wish, but the sponsored employees have to work directly for the sponsor and cannot be transferred to work for a third party.

Other types of licences include Scale-up Worker Licence, and various categories within the Global Business Mobility scheme facilitating intra-company transfer, setting up a branch of an overseas business, hiring service suppliers and secondment workers from overseas.

Who can apply for a Sponsor Licence

Any genuine business established and trading in the UK can apply for a licence as long as they have not been disqualified.

Your business can be a start-up but it has to be established and trading.

The business has to have at least one British citizen or settled worker in a managerial position responsible for hiring people from overseas. This person will have to authorise the application and be responsible before the Home Office on behalf of the business.

You can apply for a sponsor licence at any time if the business has a vacancy you are trying to fill. When applying for a licence the business has to demonstrate a genuine need to sponsor a worker.

There is no resident labour market test and there is no requirement to show that a resident worker could not be found, but you may be asked to explain why you believe a migrant worker will be required for the job.

If the worker has been identified, it is good practice to explain why this worker was selected in preference of others and show that the job was not created to facilitate the worker’s immigration to the UK.

Documents required in support of the sponsor licence application

The documents you will need to provide depend on the type of incorporation, the size of the company and the nature of trade. A regulated business has to provide evidence of being properly registered with the regulating body. In addition to that the business has to show at least four documents, such as VAT registration certificate, company accounts, bank statements, lease of premises, correspondence with HMRC showing account office reference number and PAYE reference number, CT600 and CT603. For companies with less than 50 employees, it is a requirement to provide a diagram of the organisation structure with the names and positions of all employees highlighting the positions to be filled by the sponsored workers and their line of reporting in the hierarchy of the organisation.

Sponsor licence application process

Skilled Worker sponsor licence application is made online.

The best way to have the application approved without any additional questions and pre-licencing visits is to have an immigration audit to confirm that all your paperwork is up to scratch and to provide as much detail as possible in your cover letter pre-empting any follow-up questions or pre-licencing visits that may delay the application.

The 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 will also be asked about the key personnel for the sponsor licence management process – the authorising officer, the key contact and Level 1 user. These roles can be taken by one person or may be shared by different people.

You will not receive a pdf of the completed form and if you wish to keep record of the form, you have to take screenshots as you go.

Once the form is completed, the authorising officer has to submit it and pay the application fee. The fee is £536 if you are a small business or £1436 for a large business.

After submitting the application you have five business days to email the Home Office the signed submission sheet, the supporting documents, organisation chart and representations in support of the application.

Skilled Worker licence application processing time

The standard processing time is up to 12 weeks. In practice, the application is often approved much quicker if all information is provided with the application and there are no follow-up questions.

If time is of the essence and there are no complicating circumstances, you can apply for premium service and have the decision within 10 business days. There is an extra fee of £500 for this.

What happens once the licence is granted?

The Authorising officer and the Key Contact will receive an email confirming that the application has been successful. The Level 1 user will receive an email with the username for the Sponsor Management System and a separate email or a letter with the password. This information is confidential and cannot be disclosed to anyone, even your legal representative or your colleagues within the business.

You can now appoint your legal representative as the Level 1 user so that they could take the next steps on your behalf.

If the person you wish to sponsor is in the UK you will be assigning them a certificate of sponsorship. Most likely you will have one ready in the SMS. If your prospective spondee is outside the UK, you will have to request a defined certificate of sponsorship. This request may take up to 16 weeks but normally does not take that long. Once this certificate is issued by the Home Office you have three months to assign it to the spondee who can then apply for a Skilled Worker visa from their country of nationality or the country of habitual residence.

Roles within the Sponsor Management System

In the sponsor licence application form you will be asked to nominate the 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 to receive 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, and only one Level 1 user at the application process. Later you can add more Level 1 and Level 2 users.

Your legal representative can be appointed as the Key Contact during the application process but cannot be your Level 1 User until the licence is issued.

Skilled Worker sponsor’s duties

The sponsor’s duty is to assist in the prevention of illegal working. This involves more rigorous record keeping procedures than generally required by law and reporting duties via the sponsor management system. The sponsor is expected to have a robust and up-to-date system of checking the right to work and an adequate record keeping procedure. Any changes in the terms of employment of the sponsored workers and any relevant events, such as absences from work, change of address, change of company ownership, etc should be kept on record and where necessary reported to the Home Office.

Failure to comply may result in the downgrading of the licence, more serious breaches may result in suspension, or even revocation of the licence. This may have a seriously negative effect on the business and the sponsored workers who may have their visas revoked through no fault of their own.

Pre-licensing visits

The Home Office may visit the organisation if they have questions left after receiving the form and supporting documents. The purpose of the visit is to check that the employer has robust procedures for prevention of illegal working, has complied with the right to work check requirements in the past, fully understands the duties of the employer in respect of record keeping and reporting through the Sponsor Management System. The Home Office may also check that the role of the prospective sponsored worker corresponds correctly to the SOC code indicated in the application form. Normally, the Home Office will want to speak to the Authorising Officer as the person responsible for sponsoring workers. The Legal Representative may also be present at the meeting, and the level 1 user may also be asked to confirm that they understand their role and responsibility.

Where the immigration officer is not satisfied with the record keeping procedures of the company, doubts the genuineness of the vacancy, or has any other issues in relation to the application, the licence may be refused with no right to reapply for the following six months. Each successive application is slightly more challenging as the business has to address the reasons for the previous refusal and indicate what steps were taken to address them.

The role of a legal representative in the sponsor licence application

Your legal representative will do the background work to ensure, as far as possible, the client’s compliance with the immigration requirements and correct procedures for right to work checks. As part of the pre-licencing audit, you will get tips on the more effective procedures of record keeping and setting automatic reminders. This will help you ensure that you won’t miss a reporting event or get worried about an employee’s visa extension. A smaller and more personable firm like Kadmos will also work as part of your team so that you have quick and practical answers to your questions.

Your legal representative will also check that the role you wish to support is suitable for sponsorship and the salary you are planning to pay is in line with the relevant SOC code.


Last updated on 23 December, 2022

Last updated on 23 December, 2022

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