Sponsor Licence

Why A Sponsor Licence Needs More Than Mandatory Files

By Amer Zaman

on June 1, 2022

Read Time: 10 Minutes

Why employers need to go further than the mandatory documents when applying for a sponsor licence

Since the Brexit process ended and the UK left the European Union (EU), companies and employers have had to apply for a sponsorship licence to hire migrant workers from outside the UK. This also means that any employer currently with sponsored employees will need a licence to renew their visa.

There are certain requirements that need to be met to be awarded the sponsorship licence, and one of these is having the correct documentation. However, sometimes an employer will need to supply more than just the mandatory documents in order to be successful.

Here, then,is why many employers may need to go further than the mandatory documents when applying for a sponsor licence.

How can an employer obtain a sponsor licence?

For many companies, there are many reasons why they might want to obtain a sponsor licence. For some, it’s because they cannot find the right people in the UK. This may be because of experience or qualifications.

It may be that they have job roles that can’t be filled in the UK, so they look to workers in other countries.

Whatever the reason, if a company wants to employ migrant workers, they now need to obtain a sponsor licence.

To obtain a sponsor licence, companies must:

  • Prove that they are a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK
  • Show that they are aware oftheirvisa sponsorship duties and capable of carrying them out
  • Have the appropriate human resources (HR) and recruitment systems in place to deal with migrant workers.
  • Make sure theirkey personnel named on the sponsor application are honest, dependableand reliable.

The Home Office will conduct background checks on all of the nominated people on the sponsor licence application to verify their eligibility for the role they are taking on. To apply, a company needs to complete the online application and provide supporting documents within five days of the initial application.

Who does and does not need to be sponsored?

Depending on what groups of people you want to employ, you may or may not need a sponsor licence.

Anyone who arrived in the UK after 31st December 2020needs to be sponsored if they are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland.

You will not need a licence to sponsor the following groups:

  • Irish citizens
  • Anyone with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • Any Commonwealth citizens with the ‘right of abode’ or a valid UK Ancestry visa
  • Any British Overseas Territories citizens (with the exception of those from the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus)
  • Anyone with ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) in the UK

If you are unsure, it is always best to seek the advice of a professional immigration solicitor.

What types of licences are available?

Companies can apply for a certain type of licence depending on the workers they wish to employ.

  • Worker licence

A ‘Worker’ licence will let businesses sponsor people with different types of skills. The length of time can be short-term, long-term or permanent, depending on the visa that the worker has applied for.

This licence covers skilled workers who must meet the job suitability requirements. It also covers Intra-company visas, Intra-company Transfer and Inter-company Graduate trainees. These relate to multinational companies that need to transfer established employees or graduate trainees to the UK.

The licence also covers ‘Ministers of Religion’ who are coming to work for a religious organisation and ‘International Sportsperson’ for elite athletes and coaches set to be based in the UK.

  • Temporary Worker licence

The ‘Temporary Worker’licence lets companies sponsor people on a temporary basis. This includes for volunteering and job-shadowing but is only for specific types of employment and visas. The ‘Temporary Worker’ licence suits:

  • Creative workers such as those in the entertainment industry for up to two years.
  • Unpaid charity workers for up to one year.
  • Religious workers joining a religious order or organisation for two years.
  • A short-term exchange of knowledge — known as Government Authorised Exchange — via work experience for one year orresearch projects or training for two years.
  • Workers coming to do a job that is covered by international law, such as employees of overseas governments.

Seasonal workers who come to work in ‘edible horticulture’ — such as fruit picking — for up to six months.

The list of mandatory documents for a sponsor licence application

Although there are a number of documents that may need to be provided by the company, there are some that are mandatory depending on the type of route the employee is using to enter the UK.

In the government guidance, there are four tables listing the documents you may need to send. Table 3 is for mandatory documents that are route-specific. Tables 1, 2 and 4 list documents that need to be sent for specific types of business.

Here are several examples of mandatory documents that your particular company could need to submit in support of a sponsor licence application:

  • The company’s latest bank statement
  • Evidence of employer’s liability insurance of at least £5 million from an authorised insurer
  • Certificate of VAT registration
  • Evidence of registration as an employer with HMRC
  • Proof that you own, rent or lease your business premises
  • Latest audited accounts if your company is legally obliged to file audited accounts Otherwise, unaudited accounts could be sent
  • Evidence of registration if your company is required to be monitored or inspected by a regulatory body

For companies that are not required to use the PAYE system, it is important that up-to-date salary details are submitted to HMRC.

Why do employees need to submit additional documents?

The list above includes examples of the documents that can be necessary for many companies to submit. However, there are some other documents that may need to be submitted because of the route the migrant worker is using to enter the UK.

If a company fails to send these additional documents, then the application could be refused. This would cause a delay in employing the migrant worker needed.

For some refusals, there is also a ‘cooling-off period’ that prevents a company from reapplying immediately. This usually depends on why the application was refused but can be for anything from six months to five months. The Home Office may impose a cooling-off period if they believe your organisation acted in bad faith; for example, by submitting a document the Home Office deems non-genuine, or purposefully attempting to defraud by falsely presenting a role as reaching the required skilllevel. 

What other documents could support your application for a sponsor licence?

As mentioned above, there are currently four tables that are used to list any additional documentation or proof required depending on the route taken.

  • International Sportsperson

A copy of the endorsement from the governing body of the sport is needed which has been approved by the Home Office with the governing body unique reference number.

  • Temporary Work – International Agreement

Evidence is required that shows the company has awarded a services contract for a period of 12 months or less. This should have been done through open tendering and so be guaranteed bona fide under an international trade agreement.

  • Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange

These applications need to be supported by an endorsing government department — or one of its executive agencies — and approved by the Home Office before the application is sent.

  • Temporary Work – Seasonal Worker

This needs a copy of the endorsement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). There is an initial process taken with Defra that, if successful, allows you to apply for this sponsor licence.

  • Minister of Religion/Temporary Worker – Religious Worker

The organisation must first check the Sponsor a Minister of Religion or Religious Worker document to confirm that it can qualify for this licence.

The information about itself the organisation must send to the Home Office includes:

  • What faith or religion the organisation belongs to
  • The parent organisation
  • Where applicable, a hierarchy chart
  • The size of the adult congregation
  • The number of clergycurrently employed
  • Addresses of regular meeting places
  • Scheduled days and hours of worship

These are just examples of the documents that an organisation may need to submit. Because of the number of potential documents and requirements of the Home Office, it is easier to speak to a qualified immigration solicitor who can advise what documents may be needed.

How can the documents be sent to the Home Office?

Because there may be many documents requested by the Home Office, you should make sure a detailed list of the documents submitted is included with the application. This list can then be consulted by the immigration caseworker who checks the application.

You might be able to scan or photographmany of the documents and send the resulting images to the email address on the submission sheet. This would be far easier than sending paper copies of all the documents.

If any documents are not in English or Welsh, they must come with a certified translation.

If the documents cannot be scanned or photographed, you can use alternative contact details provided on the submission sheet.

Some information, such as that from HMRC, may be collected electronically by the Home Office.

Checks made by the Home Office

During and after the sponsorship licence application, the Home Office may conduct checks at the premises of the organisation to ensure the company is able to comply with the rules.

The guidance under ‘Workers and Temporary Workers: guidance for sponsors part 3: sponsor duties and compliance’ states that “Significant trust is placed in sponsors and they must ensure they comply with immigration law and wider UK law, and not behave in a manner that is not conducive to the wider public good”.

This means it is the sponsor company’s responsibility to ensure the migrant workers are treated fairly and that no rules under working hours etc. are breached.

It is always a good idea to ensure that the company and its workers are fully trained in how to deal with migrant workers and any reporting that may need to be carried out.

One way that this can be achieved is by setting up mock visits — in other words, checks replicating actual visits from the Home Office — in order to assess whether the right documents and evidence are available.

A business immigration solicitor can help with these mock visits by looking at the meeting through the eyes of a Home Office officer.

Reporting duties

The sponsoring company’s responsibilities include completing reports when certain events occur with the migrant workers. These events must be reported within 10 working days of occurring.

Some of the reporting reasons include:

  • If the migrant worker fails to start the role for which they are being sponsored — in which case, you must specify any reason, if known, for their non-attendance
  • If the migrant worker is absent from work for over 10 consecutive days without permission
  • If the worker resigns or is dismissed before the contract of employment ends
  • If the company stops sponsoring the worker for any reason
  • If the worker is absent from work without pay for overfour weeks and this absence is not accounted for by any of the exceptions specified in paragraph 9.30.1 of the Immigration Rules or the ‘Unpaid leave’ section in Part 2: Sponsor a worker

There are also some changes that need to be reported within 20 days — such as a business merger, change of business name or insolvency.

Wider compliance with the law

As well as the Immigration Rules, companies are required to comply with the wider law regarding working rules and other legislation. For example, businesses are expected to:

  • Pay the National Minimum Wage
  • Adhere to illegal working legislation
  • Complywith the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) if necessary
  • Where relevant, safeguard children

Navigating through the sponsorshiplicence application process can be hard. It is important that a company gets the best advice possible for its application for a sponsor licence. This will give the company the best chance of success, as well as ensure it is complying during and after the application.

You can get tailored advice on your own circumstances and needs as a business or individual by speaking to our award-winning immigration solicitors in central London. They are trained to provide you with the best advice and offer any support you need. Please do not hesitate to call Cranbrook Legal today on 0208 215 0053.

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