The skilled worker route enables United Kingdom employers with an appropriate sponsor licence to recruit people from outside the UK who are non-British or Irish citizens into specific job(s).
A sponsor would usually need a sponsor licence to employ someone to work for them. This includes even citizens of the EU, Ice land, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020. This also include unpaid work, including running a charity.
This article therefore looks at how the employer could obtain a sponsorship licence.
The sponsorship licence regime makes provision for certain requirement to be met:
- Eligibility requirement
- Job suitability
- Type of licence
- Sponsorship management roles
To qualify for a sponsorship licence as an employer:
- you must not have an unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences and certain other crimes such as: fraud or money laundering;
- you must not be someone whose sponsorship licence has been revoked within the last twelve (12) months;
- you will also need appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees and people to manage the sponsorship in your business.
This can normally be provided by a solicitor or an approved person.
It is the responsibility of the employer to check that foreign workers have the necessary skills, qualifications, or professional accreditation to do their job(s) and to keep copies of documents showing this and only assign certificate of sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship.
They also have a responsibility to tell the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) if the sponsored worker is not complying with the conditions of their visa.
The prospective employer would therefore need monitoring systems in place to ensure that these responsibilities are discharged in accordance with the requirement of the law.
Similarly, the employer must have in place systems to monitor the employees. They must have a human resource system to:
- monitor employees immigration status;
- keep copies of all relevant documents for each employee including their passport and right to work information;
- track and record employer’s attendance;
- keep employee contact details up to date;
- report to UKVI if there is a problem, for example: if the employee stops coming to work.
It is therefore important that the potential sponsor must be a genuine organisation, lawfully operating in the UK. The potential sponsor must be honest, dependable, reliable, and have not engaged in behaviour or actions that are not conducive to the public good.
The Home Office will look at its history and background and the key personnel named in the application for sponsorship licence and any people involved in its day-to-day running.
It is therefore important that, for your application to be successful, the personnel behind the business should be people of upright character. The business must also be capable of carrying out its sponsor’s duties and evidencing its compliance in a time frame and manner set out in the temporary worker’s Guidance Part 3.
The potential employer must also offer genuine employment that meets the skills level and salary requirements of the skilled worker criteria.
At all times, the sponsor should be fully responsible for deciding the migrant’s duties, functions, outputs, or outcomes and must be responsible for agreeing and paying the migrant’s salary.
In order to prove that the employer meets the eligibility criteria, they are required to send certain types of documents in support of their application for licence. There are two main types of documents.
- mandatory documents, which applies to types of organisation. The mandatory documents are listed in table 2 of the Home Office Guidance.
This may be a startup that is an organisation of any type (not companies) that has been trading or operating in the UK for less than 18 months or companies which are required to be registered with and/ or inspected or monitored by regulatory bodies in order to operate lawfully in the UK.
Appendix A gives examples of Nursing and Care Homes (Ofsted / Care Quality Commission or equivalent bodies); Financial or Insurance Businesses carrying out regulated activity (Financial Conduct Authority / Prudential Regulation Authority); and health care and medical providers (General Medical Council or General Dental Council) or law firms (Solicitors Regulation Authority).
Documents can be kept as paper copies or electronic format. There is no prescribed method of storing a document, but you must be able to make them available to the Home Office upon request.
You must keep the document unless otherwise instructed for at least one year. However, document provided with support of sponsorship licence must be kept for as long as the licence is held.
The employer can sponsor a worker if the job they are going to do has a suitable rate of pay and skill level, or meets the other criteria needed for their visa.
The job suitability will cover the following:
- a skilled worker;
- a healthcare worker;
- an intracompany worker;
- a minister of religion or religious worker;
- a charity worker;
- a creative worker;
- a worker on an international agreement;
- a sporting worker;
- a seasonal worker; and
- a worker on a government authorised scheme.
There are additional requirements for religious workers. The prospective employer is required to advertise any job they offer to someone with a religious worker visa unless it is a non-essential position or involved living within a religious order (such as a nun or a monk). The employer must keep records of when they advertised for the job.
Type of licence
The prospective employer may be required to tell the Home Office why they are applying for a sponsor licence, what sector they operate in, and what would be their opening and operating hours.
You would also be required to provide an up-to-date hierarchy chart detailing any owner, director, and board members. If the business has 50 employees or fewer, you must list all employees and set out the names and titles of all staff.
In addition to providing this document, the business must tell the Home Office the jobs that you wish to fill and for which you intend to assign a certificate of sponsorship, including the following information for the job:
- job title and occupation hold;
- where the job sits on the hierarchy chart referred to above;
- minimum salary you would guarantee if the job were vacant today; and
- skill, experience, and qualification required.
Within the application, you would also need to indicate which jobs are currently vacant and for which you intend to assign a certificate of sponsorship. If you have already identified someone that you wish to employ via the sponsorship system, you will be required to provide this evidence to the Home Office, including the identity of this person that you have identified.
For start-ups and businesses that have operated for less than 18 months, you must provide these following documents:
- you must send evidence that you have a current, corporate bank account with a bank registered by the financial corporate authority and the prudential regulation authority in the UK; and
- you must also send all the mandatory information set out above. The Home Office would be required to check four different pieces of information.
This covers documents from registration document; VAT registration; a letter from corporate banking provider; your registration with your professional body; for registration with HM Revenue and Customs; proof of ownership of the premises of your business; and any latest auditing account.
Once the Home Office is satisfied with all the information provided by a potential sponsor, it will then look at whether or not it is suitable to receive a licence.
The Home Office will perform an assessment of the organisation, which may include an assessment of the person who are associated with the sponsor and fall within the definition of “you or your” in the sponsor guidance.
The Home Office will consider the applicant organisation under four broad suitability rules.
- Whether it has effective human resource systems to be able to fulfill the sponsor duties; and
- If it or any of its associated person(s) who fall within the definition of “you or your” has been given a civil penalty for employing an illegal worker, has any unspent conviction, or has previous non-compliance with the Home Office.
The Home Office would perform this assessment in some cases undertaking a visit to the organisation or to the places that a sponsored employee would be working, including the premises of a third party or third home address if they normally work from home.
The Home Office would check their records and those on the police national computer and its equivalent in Northern Island and in some circumstances, making relevant checks with other government agencies.
Sponsorship management roles
To help you meet your human resource requirements, the organisation must have sufficient human resource systems in place to ensure that they are able to meet the various sponsor’s duties and responsibilities.
It is therefore important that an application for sponsorship licence must be prepared appropriately with all the supporting documents in line with the above and particularly in line with the Home Office’s own guidance which lists the supporting documents which are required as stated above.
The turnaround time for Home Office with such applications is about four (4) weeks.
Applying for your licence
You need to apply online for your licence. Once you have finished the online application, you need to send in:
the submission sheet at the end of the application, and
your supporting documents.
You can scan or take pictures of your submission sheet and supporting documents. Send them to the email address given on the submission sheet. Make sure your files:
are in PDF, JPEG or PNG format have descriptive titles, with 25 or fewer characters
are high enough quality to be read If your documents are not in English or Welsh, you must include a certified translation – there’s more information in the supporting evidence guidance for sponsors.
|Type of licence||Fee for small or charitable sponsors||Fee for medium or large sponsors|
|Worker and Temporary Worker||£536||£ 1,476|
|Add a Worker licence to an existing Temporary Worker licence||No fee||£940|
|Add a Temporary Worker licence to an existing Worker licence||No fee||No fee|
For expert advice and assistance for an application or challenging a refusal contact our lawyers on 0208 493 7340 or complete our enquiry form below
The writer Bennard Owusu is a Scheme Member of the Law Society Immigration and Asylum Accreditation. These accreditations award a quality mark to legal practices and individuals who meet the highest standards of technical expertise and client service.