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How to apply for a Sponsor Licence

31 March 2022

When should a company consider obtaining a Sponsor Licence?

It is far too common for businesses to request visa applications for successful candidates based overseas, and not realise that they first needed to have a Sponsor Licence in place. With so much to manage in the daily operations of any business, the formalities of who is being recruited and where is rarely given much attention until the role has been identified and is ready to be filled. However, if the successful candidate is based overseas and the employer is keen to have them start as soon as possible, the delays caused by first securing a Sponsor Licence for the employer can cause frustration and demoralisation on all fronts. For this reason, it is recommended that businesses consider obtaining a Sponsor Licence before the recruitment process has even begun.

There are many categories for which a Sponsor Licence could be obtained, the most common being, an intra-company transfer or a Skilled Worker application. Some of these Licences may be applied for as a bundle together and some must only be applied for in isolation, but they absolutely must be secured before a visa Application for a successful candidate is contemplated.

Although we are happy to assist businesses with successfully obtaining a Sponsor Licence, even the smoothest applications can take some months which often means delays in starting the visa process for good candidates and subsequently, means unnecessary delays in mobilising the workforce to commence important or even time-sensitive projects.

To avoid the risk of this last-minute panic, it is strongly advisable that businesses make plans for this process in good time.

What is a Sponsor Licence?

A Sponsor Licence is a licence granted by the Home Office that allows a UK company to employ workers that are based overseas and once approved lasts for four years, with the option of renewal. It will enable you to issue Certificates of Sponsorship (a kind of Work Permit) in a given category.

This process has become particularly important after Brexit, as ending the freedom of movement for a significant part of the workforce has meant that Sponsor Licences are integral to overseas recruitment.

It is important for all the compliance to be in place before the application is submitted as a refused application could trigger a cooling-off period which would delay obtaining a Licence by 6-12 months.

Sponsor Licence eligibility criteria

To obtain a Licence, you first need to prove that you are a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK. The employer needs to ensure they have no unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering. Furthermore, they must not have had a Licence revoked in the last 12 months.

When to apply for a Sponsor Licence

Although the Home Office assess whether you have the infra-structure and capability as a business to hire overseas workers, they will also need to be satisfied that there is a genuine need for the role that they are wising to sponsor. Having said that, the role does not necessarily have to be marketed at this point and the Home Office accept that the recruitment phase will not necessarily have started yet. For a tightly regulated process such as that of the Licence Application to permit employers applying for a Sponsor Licence without having first secured recruitment, is in itself a clear indication that starting this process before interviews are under way makes commercial sense.

It therefore makes far more sense to focus on resources on obtaining a Licence first rather than undergoing a lengthy recruitment process only to inform they successful candidate that you are not in a position to offer the role immediately due to not having a Licence.

Systems needed to obtain a Sponsor Licence

Some of the systems that you will need to adopt to secure a Licence as are follows :

  • Monitor sponsored employees. This will be via the Sponsorship Management System which is the Home Office’s online tool used by sponsors to meet their compliance responsibilities and administer their day-to-day licence management systems.
  • People to manage sponsorship in the business. There are key roles which will need to be filled and we will outline what will be required and by whom.

It is also important to be aware that UKVI may also chose to visit your business to make sure that the employer is trustworthy and capable of carrying out their duties. These thorough preliminary checks are another reason to ensure that the application is made sooner rather than later.

Documents needed for a Sponsor Licence application

The type of documents required for submission are subject to the complex rules depending on what type of entity the employer company is. Sponsors will need to gather at least four documents from “Appendix A“, which doesn’t sound like a lot, however, experience has shown that retrieving items like VAT and insurance certificates can take longer than expected. A further reason to start the process sooner rather than later.

Different types of Sponsor Licence

The type of Licence could be either for long-term employment or Temporary Workers. Those consider this latter category should be particularly efficient in making a Sponsor Licence application so that they do not lose the season that it important to their business.

Overseas employment will not be suitable for every business and many will not even contemplate the process. However, for those who have a history of employing candidates from outside the UK (even EU members) or for those who feel this will play a part in the growth of their business, it is certainly worth reflecting on the ease and efficiency that having a Sponsor Licence in place would bring.

This article is provided by Burlingtons for general information only. It is not intended to be and cannot be relied upon as legal advice or otherwise. If you would like to discuss any of the matters covered in this article, please contact Sarah Khawaja or write to us using the contact form below.

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