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UK Visas Sponsor Licence

Employing migrant workers in the UK

Employers wishing to employ a migrant worker from outside the EEA may only do so if that worker already has unrestricted permission to work in the UK.

A migrant worker’s permission to work may be identified by asking to see his or her passport or Biometric Residence Permit (similar to a plastic identity card).  Typical permissions would show ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’, ‘Dependant visa with permission to work’, a Tier 4 student visa (with limited hours) or a Tier 1 visa.

If they do not have unrestricted permission to work in the UK, or are outside the UK, the employer must obtain a Sponsor Licence and elect to sponsor them under Tiers 2 or 5 as appropriate.

The UKVI operates a Points Based System (PBS) for evaluating all workers from outside the EEA (European Economic Area) wishing to work in the UK.  The scheme is designed to limit the number of migrant workers coming to work in the UK by utilising a points system which favours those with high qualifications, higher earnings and those working in shortage occupations.

Further, the restrictions on who can now work in the UK are tighter and more complex than previously.  For example skilled workers under Tier 2 can no longer change employers as easily as before and rules on English speaking and maintenance funding have been introduced into the skilled worker tiers.

Tier 1 is for Highly Skilled Workers, and it is the individual who applies for, and may be granted, a work permit.  This enables them to work for any employer or to be self-employed.  However, the most popular Tier 1 (General) category is now closed so any new recruits who may have previously qualified for Tier 1 (General) must now be sponsored by the employer and apply under Tier 2

Tier 2 is reserved for graduate level occupations only and has two categories: Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer (ICT).  Tier 2 (General) is for skilled workers either already here or coming to the UK to fill a vacancy that cannot be filled by a resident worker. Unless on the Government’s Shortage Occupation List, employers must first conduct a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) to establish that no suitable resident workers can be found. Tier 2 (ICT) is for employers to transfer existing company employees to the UK. 

Tier 5 is for temporary workers to come to the UK to work on short-term assignments only.

In all of the above cases, except for Tier 1, the employer must sponsor the employee by issuing them with a certificate of sponsorship and to enable them to do this they must first apply for, and be granted, a Sponsor Licence.

 Sponsor Licence

The Sponsor Licence application is carried out on-line and, with our assistance, should take approximately 30 minutes.  Once this is done, all supporting documents and the appropriate fee must be submitted to the Home Office within 10 working days and the Sponsor Licence will normally be granted within two weeks.  As part of the consideration process, the UKVI usually ask for further detailed information which UK Visas assist the client in responding to in a timely fashion.

The UKVI sometimes visit the applying organisation before reaching a decison and it is essential that all paperwork and records relating to employees is available for the visiting team to inspect.  A Sponsor Licence  is issued for a period of four years.

At UK Visas, we have developed a straight forward ‘five point process’ to assist you with your application for a Sponsor Licence.

All organisations applying for a licence must appoint an authorising officer, who should be a senior and competent officer within that organisation. No outside agencies or contractors are permitted to perform this role.

In addition, the organisation must have a key contact and Level 1 User, a role usually performed by UK Visas on behalf of its clients.  Initially though, an employee of the sponsoring organisation must be appointed a Level 1 user.

The Level 1 User

The Level 1 user is required to undertake the sponsor’s day-to-day activities by using the sponsorship management system to request and issue certificates of sponsorship, report migrant activity and log any changes of circumstances connected with any employees or the sponsor organisation.

In parallel to this new sponsorship system, the Home Office has introduced a regime of offences relating to the employment of illegal immigrant workers including:

  1. A system of civil penalties for those employers who employ illegal migrant workers as a result of negligent recruitment and employment practices
  2. A tough new criminal offence, which carries a maximum two-year prison sentence and/or unlimited fine for those employers found to be knowingly employing illegal migrant workers

With this strict new regime in place it makes sense to employ the services of an authorised OISC advisor such as UK Visas to assist you with your sponsor licence application and act as your PBS representative.

To assist clients with their sponsor licence application and provide ongoing representative support for the four years we charge £1400 + VAT for small sponsors and £1800 + VAT for large sponsors.  Small sponsors are those organisations who have two of these three attributes: employ less than 50 people, turnover less then £6.5 million or have a net book value of less than £3.26 million.

The four year support programme provided within these fees includes:

  • provision of ongoing immigration advice to client, including checking procedures with the UKVI and Sponsor Licence Helpline as required.
  • changing the Authorising Officer or Key Contact using the SMS; printing out submission sheets and forwarding to client.
  • reporting migrant activity – absences from work, withdrawal of sponsorship, etc using the SMS.
  • requesting renewal of annual allocations of CoS before 5th April each year.
  • providing regular updates of new rules and regulations announced by the UKVI that may impact on sponsors.

Home Office charges for a four year licence are: £536 or £1476 for a four year licence to issue Tier 2 certificates, dependant on the size of the organisation and £536 for a licence to issue Tier 4 or Tier 5 certificates.

For a fuller discussion on how we may be able to assist you going forward, click on the Employers Enquiry Form opposite.

 Certificate of Sponsorship

Once a Sponsor Licence has been granted, employers – or UK Visas on their behalf – may request and then issue Certificates of Sponsorship to non-EEA skilled migrants.

A certificate of sponsorship (CoS) is a virtual document, issued by the Level 1 User on the UKVI’s Sponsorship Management System (SMS).  All of the relevant information about the sponsored employee and the role he will be carrying out has to be included with the application including, if necessary, details of the resident labour market test carried out prior to the appointment.

There are two kinds of CoS:  Unrestricted and Restricted.

Unrestricted CoS may be issued to those employees not affected by the recently introduced limit, namely Intra Company Transfers, those already in the UK under Tier 2 or another category of stay which allows them to switch in-country (such as students, post-study workers and dependants), those attracting a salary of £153,500 p.a. or more and Tier 2 Sports People or Ministers of Religion.

Restricted CoS applies to all those currently outside the UK or here in a category which does not allow them to switch in-country.  The limit for restricted CoS is 20,700 for the current year.

Every restricted CoS and any additional unrestricted CoS may be requested on-line using the Sponsorship Management System.  UK Visas manages both kinds of requests for clients on a regular basis.  This service is covered by our four year representative support package

Our fee for issuing a CoS is £850 + VAT and the Home Office charge £199 for each CoS issued.

Resident Labour Market Test

If the job for whom the skilled migrant worker is to be employed is not on the Shortage Occupation List, it is the employers’ responsibility to advertise the role within the EEA for four weeks on the Government’s own Jobcentre Plus website and one other medium as laid down in the relevant Code of Practice for that job.

Records must be kept of the advertising conducted, responses received and clear reasons for not employing any EEA applicants.  A summary of the resident labour market test must then be compiled for inclusion on-line when issuing the certificate of sponsorship.

This is a service we at UK Visas regularly carry out on behalf of clients, as there are several strict conditions and records that must be observed to ensure compliancy.

Our fee for managing a Resident Labour Market Test is £500 + VAT

Shortage Occupation List

The Migration Advisory Committee regularly reviews and updates a list of jobs for which there are not enough resident workers.  This is called the shortage occupation list and it can be found on the UK Border Agency website via this link:

Those in shortage occupations may be issued with a CoS without conducting the Resident Labour Market Test.

UKVI inspections

The UKVI regularly visit sponsors, sometimes without prior notice, and carry out an on-the-spot check.

They will want to see that all paperwork is up-to-date, and that sponsors have advised the UKVI of any changes that have taken place within their organisation or with any sponsored staff who may have left or changed their role?

They will want to check that the sponsor details are still correct and may ask to interview any sponsored staff to ensure they are working in accordance with their Certificate of Sponsorship.

If sponsors fall short of their expectations they risk being downgraded to a ‘B’ rating.  This prevents the sponsor recruiting new staff or switching existing staff across into Tier 2 until they have got their ‘A’ rating back (and this involves considerable time and cost).

To avoid this risk UK Visas offers its clients a trial UKVI audit and documents checking service. We have sat through many UKVI sponsor visits in the past and are fully briefed on the questions the visiting officers will ask and the documents they expect to see.

We brief clients before we visit on what they need to get together, then go through the list of questions the UKVI will ask. And tell them the correct answers!

More important, our trial audit often acts as a useful catalyst – ensuring files are all up-to-date, sponsor details are correct and the correct systems are in place to satisfy the UKVI’s requirements.

So if and when they do call, our clients are properly prepared!

Our fee for conducting a trial UKVI audit and documents checking service is £995 + VAT

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