on April 26, 2023
Read Time: 8 Minutes
At a time like the present when it may seem like so much is changing so rapidly in UK immigration, if you are interested in moving to and working in the UK, you might understandably feel a little overwhelmed by the range of visa options available to you. Alternatively, you might know and understand the current UK visa routes quite well, but it may seem that no particular category is a complete match to your requirements.
In this context, you might have reason to consider a route that has come to be known as the self-sponsorship visa route. This route is not very often talked about, although its profile has gradually risen in recent times. Much more importantly, it is a pathway that could be very relevant to entrepreneurs who would like to come and work in the UK for their own business.
However, a few misconceptions have also been circulating about self-sponsorship since it began to attract greater attention and media coverage. So, we thought we would take a closer look at what self-sponsorship is, what it isn’t, and why the present moment could be an ideal time to sponsor yourself as an entrepreneur wishing to relocate to the UK.
The term “self-sponsorship visa” can be easily misunderstood, because some observers might initially presume it to refer to a distinct UK visa category. So, the first crucial thing to recognise is that there is no such thing as a UK “self-sponsorship visa”; technically, there isn’t even such a thing as “self-sponsorship” in the UK immigration system.
“Self-sponsorship”, then, simply refers to a way of entering the UK under a visa category that does exist – the Skilled Worker visa route.
Essentially, self-sponsorship involves the prospective entrepreneurial migrant setting up a company in the UK, and that company applying for a sponsor licence from the Home Office. Then, once the sponsor licence has been granted, the company sponsors the aforementioned migrant to come to the UK on the Skilled Worker visa.
Given the emphasis on entrepreneurialism and setting up one’s own UK company, it is fair to say that self-sponsorship isn’t a route to the UK open to literally anyone – certain experience and resources will be needed. But for those who do meet the requirements, self-sponsorship could be an attractive and relevant pathway for beginning a new and exciting life in the UK.
You might understandably wonder, if self-sponsorship is such a brilliant way to move to the UK for some people, why it has taken until recently for many entrepreneurs and experts in UK immigration law – such as our own solicitors at Cranbrook Legal – to even start talking about it.
The short answer to that question, is because self-sponsorship only became possible a few years ago. Under the previous Tier 2 (General) visa, if the would-be entrepreneurial migrant held more than a 10% shareholding of the given company, they would not be permitted to apply for the visa.
Since December 2020, however – when the UK’s Brexit transition period ended – the Skilled Worker visa category has replaced the Tier 2 visa. This visa does not impose any restrictions on shareholdings, which means that someone can now move to the UK on the Skilled Worker visa using self-sponsorship, even if they are the only shareholder.
However, the fact that self-sponsorship is now possible is not the only reason to consider it right now. Other potential reasons include:
If, then, you are an already-experienced businessperson who has researched the UK market and believe you have identified an opportunity to succeed as a business owner here, self-sponsorship could be an alluring and suitable option for you.
As self-sponsorship is not a formal UK visa route in its own right – instead being a way of moving to the UK on a Skilled Worker visa – it is the requirements associated with the latter route that you will largely need to meet, if you are interested in self-sponsorship.
But of course, self-sponsoring differs from the usual process of obtaining a Skilled Worker visa, in that you will be effectively both the employer and the candidate for employment. So, in practice, you will need to satisfy the following requirements in order to self-sponsor:
This process comes with its own set of stringent Home Office requirements, including your business having the appropriate systems in place for managing the sponsor licence. So, you will need to allow all the time necessary to meet the relevant criteria, to help ensure your organisation is approved for a sponsor licence at the first attempt.
Naturally, once you know the essential requirements to fulfil if you are to take the self-sponsored visa route, it will be necessary for you to undergo the complete procedure for getting self-sponsored.
This procedure includes many stages, including the establishment of a business (or taking over an existing one), as well as the subsequent application for a sponsor licence, the appointment of an Authorising Officer, ensuring the right HR systems are in place, and assigning yourself a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). All of this will come before your application for the Skilled Worker visa itself.
With so much to think about, if you are interested in self-sponsorship as a means of moving to and working in the UK, you will benefit greatly from having the right experts by your side. Our central London-based professionals in UK immigration law here at Cranbrook Legal can provide that assistance, and we have an excellent track record of doing so for clients from many different backgrounds and with a variety of needs.