Sponsor Licence

5 dos and don’ts for a company that makes a sponsor licence application

By Amer Zaman

on July 1, 2023

Read Time: 12 Minutes

If you are reading this as an organisation that intends to apply for a sponsor licence from the Home Office, you will probably already know something about how powerful a sponsor licence can be.

Such has been the fast-paced, sweeping change of recent years, one can easily almost forget that when the UK was a member state of the European Union (EU), workers from elsewhere in the bloc were able to come to the UK and take on a job here, without the need for a UK work visa at all.

But of course, we are now in a very different climate. With Brexit having been advertised as an opportunity for the UK to end EU-era freedom of movement rules, since 1st January 2021 – coinciding with the expiry of the transition period –employers in this country have been subject to a new system of visa sponsorship.

Introducing the sponsorship licence – and why your organisation might need one

When you see the online news pages of UK specialists in immigration law, such as our own here at Cranbrook Legal, mention the “sponsor licence”, this refers to the permission that UK employers must obtain from the Home Office, in order to employ most non-UK-resident workers.

Broadly speaking, if you wish to recruit someone from outside the UK to work for your UK company, you can expect to need a sponsor licence.

There are some exceptions to this – for example, UK organisations are able to hire Irish citizens to work for them, without the need to seek a sponsor licence. Nor will a sponsor licence be required by your company if you are interested in recruiting someone who has “indefinite leave to remain” status in the UK, or who has settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Otherwise, your organisation probably won’t be able to hire a given foreign worker unless it has been approved for a sponsor licence by the Home Office. Here at Cranbrook Legal, we can help you prepare and submit your application for a sponsor licence to the UK Government, and we have an excellent track record of assisting our clients to a successful outcome at the first attempt.

To learn more about our completely project-managed, fixed-fee sponsor licence application service, please call our award-winning team in central London on 0208 215 0053. Alternatively, you are welcome to complete and submit our online contact form to request a free consultation.

What are the requirements for a sponsor licence in the UK?

The Home Office – the department of the UK Government responsible for handling immigration matters – sets certain requirements that UK employers must fulfil, if they are to be successful in getting approved for a sponsor licence.

It will be expected, for example, that any employer wishing to secure a sponsor licence has appropriate systems in place allowing for the management of the sponsor licence, and the monitoring of sponsored employees.

As an employer applying for a sponsor licence, you can also expect to need to provide various documents in support of your application. When you join forces with our team at Cranbrook Legal for your sponsor licence application, we will be able to help you gather those documents, as a means of strengthening your case for the sponsor licence.

Finally, you will not be able to obtain a sponsor licenceas a UK employer if you have:

  • Unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as money laundering or fraud

Had a sponsor licence revoked at any point during the last 12 months.

So, what are five of the things you should do when applying for a sponsor licence?

In order to get approved for a sponsor licence, your organisation will need to avoid getting certain things wrong, which is something we will cover in greater detail later in this article.

However, there are also certain things you will want to do right, and which are likely to maximise your organisation’s chances of being granted a sponsor licence at the first attempt. So, let’s take you through five of those things:

  1. Do inform yourself on which roles can be sponsored

Although a sponsor licence can be extremely useful for UK businesses that are interested in hiring someone to work for them from overseas, it does not allow the UK business to employ literally anyone in any role.

Not only is there a limited number of roles that are eligible for sponsorship, but for each eligible role, the UK employer will need to pay a certain salary.

Employers can find out more about the roles that can be sponsored, under “Appendix Skilled Occupations” in the UK Immigration Rules.

  1. Do determine a suitable authorising officer for your organisation’s sponsor licence

Once your organisation has been approved for a sponsor licence, it will be necessary to appoint people to certain roles to help with the management of your sponsor licence over time. For this reason, the Home Office requires that you appoint such people to the roles of authorising officer, key contact, and level 1 user, at the application stage.

Of these roles, it is the authorising officer that is the most senior. The main tool that must be used to manage the sponsorship process is the sponsorship management system or SMS, and the authorising officer will be the person responsible for the actions of staff and representatives using the SMS.

So, as you can imagine, it is crucial to only appoint someone to the authorising officer position if they clearly understand the role’s importance, and have been trained in how to use the SMS and how to stay compliant.

Are you worried about whether your organisation will be able to keep on top of its compliance duties with the SMS? If so, it’s worth remembering that you could always look into appointing an expert from Cranbrook Legal to serve as a level 1 user, with access to the SMS, which they will be able to use on your business’s behalf to help ensure you stay in compliance.

  1. Do check which information needs to be held on file to help ensure compliance

Some organisations applying for a sponsor licence might not realise that the Home Office has the right to carry out on-site inspections of any UK employer, without notice. In fact, the time between applying for a sponsorship licence and actually receiving a decision on the application from the Home Office, is a time when such an unannounced visit is particularly likely to happen.

And if that does indeed come to pass, you will want to be prepared in every way, not least given the seriousness with which the Home Office takes the matter of non-compliance.

Again, the team at Cranbrook Legal can assist you here, with our immigration audits that can identify issues before the Home Office has the chance to do so. But your organisation should also be taking its own steps to keep itself well-informed on the documents it is expected to keep on file in relation to any migrant workers it sponsors or wishes to sponsor.

  1. Do consider how you will keep compliance with sponsorship reporting requirements

We hope one of your “takeaways” from this article, will be that your work will be far from done once you have applied for and been granted a sponsor licence by the Home Office. In fact, your work will be essentially just beginning.

As a sponsor licence holder, you will be required to report certain matters to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) within certain timescales.

So, you should take the time ahead of the sponsor licence application to determine who will be responsible for such vital elements of compliance within your company. In addition, you must ensure suitable systems are in place for timely reporting, and trainthe responsible individuals accordingly.

  1. Do allow plenty of time to apply for the sponsor licence and wait for a decision

If you are seeking to apply for a sponsor licence for your company because you wish to begin recruiting overseas workers immediately, it is important to appreciate that even once you have submitted the application for a sponsor licence, it can take as long as eight weeks – or longer – for a decision to come back from the Home Office.

And of course, that does not account for all the time you will need to spend getting your sponsorship licence application right, putting in place suitable systems for managing your firm’s sponsorship duties, and arranging an immigration auditin readiness for any in-person visits UKVI may make to your business premises.In other words, applying for and securing a sponsor licence for your organisation will be far from an instantaneous process.

At this point, you might be thinking: “but surely, there’s some kind of fast-track service available?” Well, the Home Office does state that it may be possible for an applicant to pay £500 in order to get a decision on their sponsor licence application within 10 working days. However, this service is only available to a small number of applications every working day, with the fast-track treatment allocated in the order that requests arrive, on a “first come, first served” basis.

So, our advice is that you should not depend on being able to access this fast-track service if you are looking to apply for a sponsor licence for your company anytime soon.

Is getting a sponsorship licence in the UK difficult?

The short answer to this question is: yes, it certainly can be difficult, especially if you attempt to handle the sponsorship licence application process on your own.

The UK visa sponsorship system can be complicated, and as it was only introduced from 1st January 2021, it is still relatively new to UK employers. So, there is a lot to bear in mind, with regard to such matters as the eligibility requirements, which jobs are suitable to be sponsored, and the documents that you will need to gather in support of your application.

Even if you take all the right steps in managing your sponsorship licence application, the entire process – from beginning to prepare your application, to receiving a decision and hiring your first sponsored worker – can take many months.

Furthermore, you will not want to risk failing to comply with the Home Office’s requirements at any stage, which in the case of existing sponsor licence holders, can even bring such consequences ashaving their sponsor licence revoked.

So, you can probably begin to appreciate why so many UK employers seek out external experts in UK immigration law – such as our specialists at Cranbrook Legal – to project-manage their sponsor licence application and the subsequent sponsorship management process. Call 0208 215 0053 today, and we will be pleased to talk to you about how we can advise and assist.

What are five things your company should not do when trying to obtain a sponsor licence?

Presuming that you have read through this article and are now aware of some of the difficulties that can arise in attempting to secure a sponsor licence – and how to overcome those barriers – what specific things should you make sure you do not do?

Below, we have set out a few of them.                     

  1. Don’t overlook the adverse effects of being refused a sponsor licence

You might imagine that if you are unsuccessful with your application for a sponsor licence due to not meeting all the Home Office’s requirements, you can simply apply again later.

This is true, although you should also remember that a sponsor licence refusal would leave you unable to submit another application for a sponsor licence for six months. This could have a seriously detrimental impact on your organisation’s ability to recruit the workers from overseas that it may requirein order to support its survival and growth.

This is just one more reason to enquire to Cranbrook Legal about our project-managed service; we really do have a superb track record of getting our client organisations approved for a sponsor licence at the first attempt.

  1. Don’t presume the Home Office is unlikely to visit your business premises

As we explained above, it is very possible for the Home Office to arrange unannounced visits to the brick-and-mortar sites of UK employers, and it is even likelier to happen when the organisation in question has applied for a sponsor licence.

There are various other factors that can make a Home Office visit even more probable. These include if the given company has only recently started trading, as well as if they are in a perceived “high-risk” industry such as hospitality, or the business is trading from a personal address or virtual office.

If you have previously encountered problems with the Home Office in relation to your compliance with UK immigration law, or you are looking to sponsor someone who is related to a member of your existing staff, these are further factors that can make an in-person visit from the department very likely. In that case, it is strongly advised that you ensure you are suitably prepared.

  1. Don’t presume it won’t be necessary to advertise the role

Even once you are a sponsor licence holder, in most cases, the Home Office will expect you to advertise your open position in the UK market, before you seek a worker from overseas to fill the given vacancy. You should also keep evidence that you advertised the role.

  1. Don’t exaggerate the job description compared to what the worker will actually be doing

When you use your organisation’s sponsor licence to access migrant talent for your open role, you must be careful to ensure the sponsored employee only carries out work within the occupation code that has been designated to their job.

A frequent problem that can arise with some sponsors, is the employer over-exaggerating the job description, followed by entrusting the sponsored migrant with lower-skilled work.

This is something that Home Office inspectors will be alert to, in the event that they carry out an unannounced visit to your firm’s premises. This is all the more reason, then, for you to make sure your organisation is compliant at all times with its sponsorship responsibilities.

  1. Don’t underestimate how the right experts in UK immigration law can assist you with your sponsor licence application and subsequent management

You might have expected our team of UK immigration solicitors here at Cranbrook Legal to mention this one in our list! However, we haven’t included this point in our rundown out of mere self-interest; it really is true that the UK visa sponsorship system can be complex and daunting to navigate. So, you are likely to appreciate well-qualified advice, guidance, and hands-on help.

All manner of aspects of the Home Office sponsor licence system – ranging from the process of gathering supporting documents and filling in the application form correctly, to the subsequent management of sponsorship duties using the SMS – can cause difficulty and confusion.

Cranbrook Legal’s award-winning specialists in central London can assist you with all of these aspects, courtesy of our acclaimed project-managed service. Our comprehensive help covers the process of seeking a sponsor licence renewal, too.

Why not, then, enquire to our professionals today? By completing and submitting our online contact form or calling 0208 215 0053, you can find out more about our services and expertise, and arrange a free consultation.

How Can We Help You?

I would like to speak to Cranbrook Legal on the telephone.

0208 215 0053

I do not know what my immigration needs are and need to discuss my requirements.

Book A Free Consultation

I know what my immigration needs are, so I would to discuss my case.

Book An Appointment