What is a sponsor licence?

If you wish to employ a person in the UK who is not a settled worker or who does not otherwise have immigration permission to work in the UK, you will need to be authorised by the Home Office. This authorisation is known as a ‘sponsor licence’, and employers who hold a sponsor licence are known as ‘sponsors’

You usually need a sponsor licence to employ foreign nationals from outside of the UK to work for you. This includes citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020.

    Further Information and FAQs

    • Do you need to appoint people within the company to manage the sponsor licence?

      You must appoint people within your company to manage the sponsorship process when you apply for a licence named ‘Key Personnel’. The roles are:

      • Authorising Officer: the most senior person in your organisation responsible for the recruitment of all migrant workers and ensuring that you meet all of your sponsor duties
      • Key Contact: the main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
      • Level 1 User: responsible for all day-to-day sponsorship activities on the sponsor licence

      These roles can be filled by the same person or different people. Each of your Key Personnel must be a paid member of your staff or engaged by you as an ‘office holder’ and be based in the UK. There is an exception to this requirement on the UK Expansion Worker route where the Authorising Officer, Key Contact and Level 1 User may be based overseas from the time you apply for your licence until they enter the UK with a valid entry clearance for the purpose of work on the UK expansion of your business.

    • Which type of sponsor licence should you apply for?

      When you apply for a licence, you will be asked which immigration route, or routes, you wish to sponsor workers on. You can apply to be licensed on as many routes as you feel appropriate for your business or organisation. These routes are classified as either ‘Worker’ or ‘Temporary Worker’ routes.

    • Which ‘Worker’ routes can you obtain a sponsor licence for?

      The ‘Worker’ routes which you can obtain a sponsor licence for are:

      • Skilled Worker: this allows employers to recruit people to work in the UK in an eligible skilled occupation which meets the salary and going rate requirements
      • Global Business Mobility: Senior or Specialist Worker: this is for senior managers or specialist employees being transferred by their overseas employer to a branch or a linked business in the UK. This type of assignment is often called an intra-company transfer or ICT
      • International Sportsperson: this for an elite sportsperson or qualified coach who is sponsored in a role where they will make a significant contribution to the development of sport at the highest level in the UK

    • Which ‘Temporary Worker’ routes can you obtain a sponsor licence for?

      The ‘Temporary Worker’ routes which you can obtain a sponsor licence for are:

      • Creative Worker: this is for a person who wants to work within the creative sector (for example, as an artist, dancer, musician or entertainer, or as a model in the fashion industry) in the UK for up to 12 months (with the possibility to extend for up to a maximum of 24 months)
      • Global Business Mobility: UK Expansion Worker: this is for overseas workers establishing a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of their overseas employer in the UK. It has replaced the (unsponsored) Representative of an Overseas Business route
      • Scale-Up Worker: this route allows employers who are in a sustained period of high growth to recruit people to work in the UK in highly skilled roles

    • Are there categories of individuals who do not require sponsorship to work in the UK?

      You do not need a sponsor licence to employ certain categories of people in the UK, including:

      • Irish citizens
      • People who have been granted settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
      • People with indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK (also known as ‘settlement’)
      • Commonwealth citizens who have been granted a visa on the UK Ancestry route
      • People who have immigration permission to be in the UK on another immigration route which does not prevent them from doing the work in question – examples include people who have immigration permission to remain in the UK as the partner of a British citizen or as the partner of a Skilled Worker or Global Business Mobility visa holder

    • What is the application process for a sponsor licence?

      You apply for your licence by completing the online application form and submitting the supporting documents as specified in the sponsor guidance. The supporting documents which are deemed to be mandatory or optional for your application depend on:

      • The size and type of company applying for the sponsor licence
      • The ‘Worker’ or ‘Temporary Worker’ route in which you are applying
      • Whether the company is subject to regulation or inspection
      • Whether the company is listed on the London Stock Exchange (Main Market)

      The fee for a sponsor licence depends on the type of licence you are applying for and the size or status of your organisation. You are eligible to pay the ‘small’ fee of £536 if you are applying for a sponsor licence under the ‘Temporary Worker’ routes only, if you have charitable status, are subject to the small companies regime as set out in the Companies Act 2006 or if you are a sole trader (not a company) and you employ fewer than 50 people. In all other cases, you must pay the large fee of £1476.

    • How long will your sponsor licence application take to process?

      The standard processing time for a sponsor licence application is up to 8 weeks.

      However, there is a pre-licence priority service which allows companies to prioritise their application for a sponsor licence by submitting an application by email. If approved, your application will be considered within 10 working days for an additional fee of £500.

    • How long is a sponsor licence valid for?

      If granted, your licence will be valid for 4 years and you must apply to renew it before the 4 years has expired if you wish to continue sponsoring workers.

      If you are granted a UK Expansion Worker licence, you must normally have established a UK trading presence within 2 years of the date the licence was granted and have applied to add at least one other route to your licence. If you have not done so, the Home Office will review whether you are continuing to meet the requirements of the UK Expansion Worker route. If you are not, your licence may be revoked.

Why Viaje

Why use VIAJE for sponsor licence matters?

Extensive experience in successful sponsor licence applications for start-ups, small to medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) and multinational corporations within the finance, digital technology including cyber security and fintech, media, venture capital and professional services sectors

It’s all taken care of: we provide expert legal advice specific to your matter

Consistently high approval rate for sponsor licence applications for private limited companies, public limited companies, partnerships, limited liability partnerships and sole traders

Cost effective service with upfront fixed fees so that you know what to expect

Being able to contact your lawyer out of traditional office hours, assisting clients globally

Unwavering commitment to delivering excellent client care

Meticulous preparation of all supporting documentation to expedite the approval process

Whether you’re seeking a sponsor licence for a business in England or Scotland,
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