UK Sponsor Licence Applications
For businesses and organisations that rely on recruiting workers from overseas, successfully navigating the UK’s sponsor licensing regime is essential. With the Home Office setting very high standards for granting sponsor licences, it is strongly recommended to seek specialist legal advice if you are making a sponsor licence application or administering a sponsor licence scheme.
At IBB Law, our immigration experts work closely with a wide range of employers to make sure they are able to swiftly and smoothly receive a sponsor licence and meet the demands of the UK sponsor licensing regime.
With many years of experience to draw on, we can make sure every detail is considered and every box ticked so your application is as strong as possible. Should any issues arise, we can find effective solutions that help to ensure you are able to recruit the overseas talent you need. We can also assist with the day-to-day administration of acting as a sponsor, making sure you are fully compliant at all times.
If you need experienced support with a sponsor licence application, IBB Law is ready to help.
An end-to-end UK visa sponsorship service for employers
We assist employers across a wide range of industries with all aspects of sponsor licences, including:
- Sponsor licence applications
- Our team can act as level 1 users handling much of the day-to-day responsibilities of sponsor licencing
- Sponsor licence refusals and appeals
Why choose IBB Law for your sponsor licence application?
When seeking expert legal support to help with a UK sponsor licence application, there are a number of clear reasons why IBB Law stands out.
- We have in-depth knowledge of the UK Immigration laws, policies and procedures.
- Our experts keep up-to-date with developments in the law so that you always receive practical and accurate advice.
- We are a full-service law firm. We are able to provide clients with a uniquely broad spectrum of services and offer tailor-made legal solutions to best suit your business requirements.
- We deliver our service in a cost-effective and timely manner with great attention to detail.
Our clients also benefit from IBB’s multi-service approach. Our legal expertise extends to a variety of areas that are critical to business success. Working alongside experts in employment law, corporate & commercial law, franchising, intellectual property, real estate, private client, our lawyers will advise you on immigration matters and beyond.
Looking for immediate advice on a UK sponsor licence?
If you need fast, practical support with any aspect of UK sponsor licences, our expert business immigration team will be happy to assist.
Sponsor licence applications explained
In this guide, you can find more information on the following key areas:
- How to apply for a sponsor licence
- What does the Home Office look at when considering a sponsor licence application?
- What human resources checks does the Home Office make for sponsor licence applications?
- How is compliance with immigration law assessed for sponsor licence applications?
- What is considered a ‘genuine vacancy’ when sponsoring a migrant worker?
- Who are ‘key personnel’ for sponsor licences?
- What criminal records checks does the Home Office carry out for sponsor licence applications?
- What supporting evidence do you need for a sponsor licence application?
- What is the sponsor management system (SMS)?
- What happens if your sponsor licence application is refused or rejected?
- How long does it take to get a UK sponsor licence?
Applications for a sponsor licence are made through the Home Office’s website.
The relevant form MUST be submitted online by the Company – as a “representative”, IBB are able to assist the Company in the completion of the application, but we are not able to submit the application on the Company’s behalf.
After the online form has been submitted and the application fee has been paid, you will be taken to the ‘submission sheet’ page. The submission sheet must be printed and signed by the authorising officer. The completed submission sheet will then need to be sent to the Home Office at the same time as the Company’s supporting documentation.
When considering the Company’s sponsor licence application, the Home Office will ask themselves three main questions:
- Is the Company a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the United Kingdom? The Company can prove this by sending in the supporting documentation set out below.
- Is the Company trustworthy? The Home Office will look at the history and background of the Company, its key personnel and the people who control the organisation.
- Is the Company capable of carrying out their duties as a sponsor? This is judged by looking at the Company’s processes and human resource practices, to ensure that it can carry out its duties.
The Home Office may refer the sponsor licence application for extensive checks, which may include an on-site visit by their officers.
The Home Office’s visiting officers are trained and equipped to issue civil penalties or refer cases for prosecution if they find evidence of any wrongdoing or criminal activity.
When the Company applies for a licence to sponsor migrants under the points-based system, the Home Office will assess its human resources systems and its compliance with immigration law whilst employing migrants.
The Home Office will use specific standards when assessing whether to give the Company an “A” rating or “B” rating or whether to refuse its licence. They assess a number of standards, including:
- Whether the Company has the correct human resource (HR) systems to make sure that it can meet its sponsorship duties
- Whether the Company is complying with, or have previously complied with, the work permit arrangements and other immigration law.
- Whether the Company can offer a genuine vacancy which meets the criteria of the category it is applying to be licensed for.
Five individual areas of the Company’s HR system will be assessed.
Area 1: Monitoring immigration status and preventing illegal employment
The Company must:
- keep – and make available to the Home Office, if it asks, – a photocopy or electronic copy of each migrant’s passport or UK immigration status document, showing that they are allowed to work; and
- not employ a migrant if the conditions on their permission to stay (or lack of permission to stay) mean that they are not allowed to do the job and stop employing any migrant who stops being allowed to do the job for any reason.
The Company should therefore ensure it has a good record-keeping system for migrants’ documents and have procedures in place so that it does not mistakenly employ or continue to employ any migrant if the conditions on their permission to stay (or lack of) mean that they are not allowed to work for the company.
Area 2: Maintaining migrant contact details
The Company must keep each sponsored migrant’s contact details (United Kingdom residential address, telephone number, and mobile telephone number) and make them available to the Home Office if it asks. These details must be updated as necessary; the Company should have a procedure in place to ensure these are updated, such as:
- an electronic self-service system; or
- conduct a regular audit; or
- issue clear instructions to ensure its sponsored migrants are aware that they should notify the Company of any changes and how they should do this.
Area 3: Record-keeping
The Company must be ready to provide any documents for migrants that the Home Office think are relevant. To comply with its sponsorship duties, the Company should maintain effective record keeping.
Area 4: Migrant tracking and monitoring
The Company must report the following information or events to the Home Office, within any time limit specified:
- if a sponsored migrant does not turn up for their first day of work. The report must be provided within 10 working days and must include any reason given by the migrant for their non-attendance or non-enrolment;
- if a migrant is absent from work for more than 10 working days without the Company’s reasonably granted permission. The report must be provided within 10 working days of the 10th day of absence;
- if the migrant’s contract of employment or registration is terminated (including where the migrant resigns or is dismissed). This report must be provided within 10 working days of the event in question and should include the name and address of any new employer or institution that the migrant has joined, if the Company knows it;
- if the Company stops sponsoring the migrant for any other reason (for example, if the migrant moves into an immigration category that does not need a sponsor), the report must be provided within 10 working days;
- if there are any significant changes in the migrant’s circumstances, for example, a change of job or salary (but not job title or annual pay rise);
- any suspicions the Company may have that a migrant is breaching the conditions of their permission to be in the United Kingdom. The report must be provided within 10 working days;
- if there are any significant changes in the Company’s circumstances, for example, if it stops trading or become insolvent, substantially changes the nature of its business, merges with another company, or is taken over. The report must be provided within 28 working days; and
- details of any third party or intermediary, whether in the United Kingdom or abroad, that has assisted the Company in the recruitment of migrant employees.
To comply with its sponsorship duties, the Company should:
- make sure that migrants are monitored sufficiently, for example, with regular contact if the migrant works at client sites or from home; and
- establish a suitable procedure to make sure that a designated person(s) is informed of any circumstances which should be reported to the Home Office, and then does so.
Area 5: Professional registrations and accreditations
The Company must make sure that a sponsored migrant who is coming to work for the Company is legally entitled to do the job in question and has the appropriate registration or professional accreditation where this is legally needed.
To comply with its sponsorship duties, the Company should:
- make sure any professional accreditations are checked before the sponsored migrant starts work;
- keep copies of professional accreditations;
- monitor any expiry dates and complete subsequent checks to ensure that any accreditations have been renewed as appropriate; and
- make sure that copies of these documents are readily available to the Home Office.
The Company must mostly achieve a rating of 1 (see below) in each of the five areas set out above in order to get the top rating for its HR systems overall.
The Company’s HR systems and compliance will be graded from 1 to 3 as follows:
- the Company meets all of the criteria or is fully compliant.
- the Company only meets some of the criteria or is partially compliant.
- the Company does not meet any of the criteria or is non-compliant.
Following this assessment, the Home Office will usually give an “A” rating when the organisation poses little or no risk, and the organisation has been awarded the top rating for both its HR systems and compliance.
A “B” rating will be given when the Home Office has awarded an organisation a rating of 2 for its HR systems or compliance, or both of these.
An application will probably be refused when the Home Office has given an organisation a rating of 3 for either its HR systems or compliance.
The Home Office may decide that the Company is fully compliant if there is no historical record of any non-compliance and they find the Company to be fully compliant during a pre-licensing visit.
The Company must demonstrate there is a genuine need to sponsor a migrant worker – i.e. the Company is unable to identify a worker within the local workforce who would be able to fill in the role.
As a potential sponsor, the Company must allocate some responsibilities to members of its staff. There are four roles:
- authorising officer;
- level 1 user;
- level 2 user; and
- key contact.
These roles can all be filled by the same person or by a combination of different people.
The Company will be able to appoint additional level 1 and/or level 2 users later on if necessary. All of these people must be permanently based in the United Kingdom. The Authorising Officer and Level 1 user must be an employee of the business.
As a representative, IBB are able to be named by the Company as a level 1 user, meaning that we can take over much of the day-to-day handling of visa matters should you wish.
The Home Office make checks on the authorising officer, key contact and level 1 user, and may make checks on the owner(s) or director(s) and any person involved in the day-to-day running of the Company. These include checks against their own records and the police national computer.
The Home Office may make these checks while they are considering the Company’s application for a sponsor licence or at any time during the lifetime of the licence. They will repeat the checks if new individuals take up any of these roles during the lifetime of the licence.
If any of these people have any unspent criminal convictions or have been issued with a civil penalty by the Home Office in the last 12 months, the Home Office may refuse the application for a sponsor licence or withdraw the sponsor licence if it has already been granted.
IBB can provide guidance on the documents that will need to be submitted at the relevant time once we have a clearer idea of the Company’s circumstances.
The supporting documentation (and completed submission sheet – see below) must be received by the Home Office within 5 calendar days of submission of the online application form. For this reason, we strongly advise that the Company ensures that it has all its supporting documentation in order prior to submission of the online application form.
The Company will also need to answer specific questions posed by the Home Office in relation to the reasons for the Sponsor Licence application and to identify any migrants that the Company wish to sponsor.
The Home Office will send their decision letter by recorded delivery to the address given for its authorising officer on the online sponsor application; these documents will not be sent to any other address.
Once licensed, the Company can start using the SMS; this is an online tool that allows the Company to carry out its day-to-day duties and report any changes to UK Visas and Immigration. The SMS will allow the Company to assign Certificates of Sponsorship to migrants who wish to come to or stay in the UK to work.
Only the level 1 user and level 2 user will have access to the SMS.
The authorising officer is responsible for the staff who use the SMS. For example, the authorising officer is responsible for deciding how many staff will have access to the system and what level of permission they will have. The level 1 user is responsible for setting up accounts for all additional SMS users.
The authorising officer must decide whether they will need to be the level 1 user or, if not, which staff member to appoint to the role.
While there is no right of appeal if your sponsor licence application is turned down, there are still options that may be available depending on your circumstances.
The first thing that needs to be understood is that there is a difference between if your application has been ‘refused’ or ‘rejected’.
If your sponsor licence application was rejected, this usually means that the application was considered invalid and is often due to minor technical issues that can be corrected. This means a rejected application will often be accepted on resubmission if any errors are corrected – this is where expert legal advice can be especially valuable.
If an application has been refused, this indicates there are more substantial issues. Common reasons for refusal of a sponsor licence application include late submission of supporting documents, incorrect supporting documents, failing to demonstrate a genuine vacancy, issues with the suitability of proposed key personnel and failing a compliance visit.
You may be able to challenge a sponsor licence application refusal if you can show the refusal was the result of an error in the way your application was handled or if the reason for the refusal was unlawful. It is critical to get expert advice as these grounds can be very challenging to argue, with a high standard of proof required.
The Home Office aim to process all sponsor licence applications within 8 weeks. We would anticipate that the entire process, including gathering together the necessary documentation and completing the online application form, will take in the region of 10 – 12 weeks (although priority services are offered by the Home Office which can expedite the processing time).
Once the sponsor licence has been obtained, the process of acquiring the work visas for individuals can begin. The length of time that this can take will vary according to personal circumstances and which particular visa the individual is applying for. We can give an estimate of likely time scales at the relevant time.
Get immediate expert advice on UK sponsor licence applications
If you need fast, practical support with any aspect of UK sponsorship licences, our expert business immigration team will be happy to assist.