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Sponsor Licence to Employ Overseas Workers

Finding the Right Skills From Outside the UK

If you want to employ someone from overseas, you will need to apply for a Sponsor Licence. This currently applies only to skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). However, from 31 December 2020, it will apply to any foreign worker who wants to enter the UK to work.

There are several types of Sponsorship Licence, for example to sponsor Charity workers, Ministers of Religion and Sportspeople. We can help with any sort of Sponsorship application, however the most common is the Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence. This Licence currently enables an employer to employ highly qualified (degree level) workers from beyond the EEA who earn over a specified amount of money per year. It is set to change at the end of 2020 to include EEA citizens; in addition, the skill level will drop to jobs that need A-Level type qualifications. Organisations can take steps now to apply for a sponsor licence if they think they may need to employ skilled workers from outside the UK.

In fact, the government has said: 

"Employers not currently approved by the Home Office to be a sponsor should consider doing so now if they think they will want to sponsor skilled migrants, including from the EU, from early 2021."

How to apply for a Sponsor Licence

To obtain a Sponsorship Licence, your business must show that:

  • It is a genuine business lawfully trading in the UK
  • It is honest, dependable and reliable, and capable of fulfilling its duties as a Sponsor. For example, it should have reliable human resources and recruiting systems
  • There is a genuine vacancy which is covered by the Sponsorship scheme at the right skill level and the right salary
  • Key personnel in the organisation do not have criminal convictions for relevant offences

You will need to appoint Key Personnel to administer the Sponsorship Licence through the online Sponsor Management System. It is important to remember that the Home Office can pay a 'compliance visit' at any time. This could fall before or after the Sponsorship Licence is granted. You may have your Licence downgraded, suspended or withdrawn if you fail on compliance.

If the job is on the Shortage Occupation List the process is slightly easier (think health professionals, engineers etc.). If it is not on the Shortage Occupation List, you currently need to show that you have been unable to fill the job with someone already in the UK legally. This will end in January 2021 but still applies now. It takes time to produce the highly specific evidence the Home Office may want to see; you must show that you have looked around the UK and found no one suitable.

Next steps after you apply for a Sponsor Licence

Once you have your Licence you can then issue a 'Certificate of Sponsorship' to the overseas worker. The worker can use the Certificate number to apply to enter the UK as a Tier 2 Migrant.

You will need to remember to renew your Sponsorship Licence every four years. If your business merges or is taken over, you will need to inform the Home Office and there are duties related to any such changes.

Seasonal Workers Scheme

This is designed for workers in the edible horticulture businesses where work changes with the seasons. The process is very different from the normal Tier 2 applications and the scheme is only being piloted at present. Call or email us if you want to know more.

Working with us

We cannot pretend that the Sponsorship Licence application process is not bureaucratic. It is, and that is not likely to change when free movement of EEA citizens ends later this year.

You will need to provide specific documents in specific formats to prove the organisation is eligible and suitable to be a Sponsor. You must ensure that your HR and recruitment systems are robust so that you can keep an eye on your overseas workers. It is important that the job you are filling from overseas is one which fits into the right category in terms of skill level and salary.

We can take the stress out the process because we know exactly how to provide the right evidence to successfully apply for a Sponsor Licence. Our experienced lawyers can advise you throughout the process from identifying the job vacancy to applying for the Sponsorship Licence to issuing the Certificate of Sponsorship and making the Tier 2 Visa application for the worker if you wish us to include that. We can give you an idea of the time frame and we will be alive to the needs of your business. Our experience of dealing with the Home Office decision making machine helps us to navigate the system in your organisation's interests.

Let's face it - you may well not have the time to familiarise yourself with the many many pages of guidance and instructions relating to Sponsorship Licences. We can ensure you know what you need to know.

How does the process work when you apply for a Sponsor Licence?

We will talk to you about why you might need a Sponsorship Licence and whether the vacancy and your organisation will fit the Sponsorship criteria. We will tell you what type of Licence to apply for, set out the process, time frame and costs and fully brief you on your responsibilities. If we do not think you fit the criteria, we will tell you.

We offer a visit to your organisation to ensure that your systems comply with the Home Office Sponsorship Licence duties. We advise on the Key Personnel and gather the correct evidence. Our team enable you to submit the application. We cannot press the button for you, but we can do all the preparation work. This ensures the evidence gets to the Home Office within the time limit.

We will assist you to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship and help with the Sponsor Management System. If you wish us to make the Tier 2 Visa application for the overseas worker, we can do that for you too. We are here if you need to renew or amend your Licence.

Members of our team have worked in employment law and have run businesses themselves. This experience clearly adds to the value we provide. We work on a fixed fee basis; we can tailor the fee to cover exactly you want us to do.

Frequently Asked Questions

I run a medium sized care home business. I rely heavily on EU workers as managers in my care homes. Will I need a Sponsorship Licence in January 2021?

You do not need a Sponsorship Licence to continue employing your existing EU managers. However, if you wish to employ a new manager from overseas from January 2021, you will need to apply for a Sponsorship Licence. Residential Care Home Managers qualify for Tier 2 Visas as long as they are paid at least £21,600 per annum if they are experienced and £21,100 if they are new to the job. You can apply now for a Sponsor Licence if you think you are likely to be sponsoring individuals at this skill level.

I have just bought a business that employs overseas workers and has a Sponsorship Licence. Do I have to do anything?

Yes. If there is a change of ownership, the new owner must apply for a Sponsorship Licence to continue employing migrant workers, if you do not already have a Sponsorship Licence.

I have heard it is expensive to get a Sponsorship Licence?

There are fees payable to the Home Office which depend on how large your organisation is. You will pay a Licence application fee, and in some cases an Immigration Skills Charge. You will pay every time you issue a Certificate of Sponsorship. It is possible that you may decide to pay for the Tier 2 Migrant Visa fee for your employee also. It mounts up. We can advise on the cost so you can decide if it is worth it.

I am a micro-business - I employ only two other people. However I have identified a third person with the right skills who is Russian. Do I have to get a Sponsorship Licence to employ her?

Yes, it does not matter how small your organisation, you must get a Licence. You must make sure the job is at the right qualification and salary level. If it is not a Shortage Occupation job, be prepared to demonstrate that you have tried to find someone who is already legally in the UK.

Get in touch
Finding the Right Skills From Outside the UK
Even if you are not sure you will need workers from overseas in the near future, it's worth exploring your options, especially when free movement for EU citizens ends in December 2020. Give us a call or email us and we will be happy to discuss things.
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