Sponsor Licence Guidance


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A Sponsor Licence is permission granted by the relevant immigration authority of a country that allows an organization to employ individuals from outside the country’s resident workforce. This term is commonly used in the context of the UK’s immigration system, specifically the UK Sponsor Licence.

In the United Kingdom, the Sponsor Licence is issued by the Home Office, specifically the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) department. It enables employers to sponsor non-EEA (European Economic Area) and non-Swiss nationals for work visas, such as Tier 2 (General) or Tier 5 visas.


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Steps for Sponsor Licence Application

To obtain a Sponsor Licence, an organization must meet certain requirements and obligations set by the UKVI. These include:

  1. Company eligibility: The organization must be a genuine and operating entity registered in sponsor licence application in London, with a physical presence and appropriate business activities.
  2. HR systems and processes: The employer must demonstrate effective HR systems to meet compliance obligations, such as record-keeping, reporting duties, and monitoring of sponsored employees.
  3. Compliance track record: The organization should have a satisfactory history of compliance with immigration laws, including employment and immigration-related regulations.
  4. Resident Labor Market Test (RLMT): For certain roles, the employer may need to prove that there are no suitable settled workers available to fill the position. This requirement aims to protect the domestic workforce.
  5. Level 1 User: The organization must appoint a Level 1 User who will be responsible for managing the sponsorship system, issuing Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS), and ensuring compliance.
  6. Reporting duties: The employer must report any changes or events specified by the UKVI, such as changes in employee circumstances, non-compliance incidents, or the company’s structure.

    Once granted, the Sponsor Licence allows the organization to issue Certificates of Sponsorship to eligible workers. These certificates act as work permits, enabling individuals to apply for the relevant visa category and work legally in the UK.


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What is UK Visa Sponsorship?

The major paths for non-UK citizens working in the UK under the UK’s points-based immigration system are the following sponsored work visas:

  • Skilled Worker visa
  • Global Business Mobility visas
  • Health and Care Worker visa
  • Temporary Worker visas

Each of these visa categories needs the sponsorship of a licenced employer.

To hire employees under either visa, the company must apply for a sponsorship licence from UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI), the Home Office section responsible for UK immigration. The sponsorship licence authorises an organisation to sponsor employees in its business. Individuals cannot be licensed sponsors; only organisations can.

The sponsoring regime is used by the Home Office to combat illicit working and abuse of the immigration system. By consenting to become a sponsor licence holder, you accept certain compliance duties and expose your company to Home Office investigation.

The sponsorship system is used to ensure:

  • The sponsor is fulfilling all of the compliance obligations that come with sponsoring migrant workers.
  • Sponsored employees satisfy the points requirements and have the necessary qualifications and language abilities.
  • The positions being sponsored fulfil the criteria for skill level, pay, and sincerity.

Failure to satisfy the responsibilities may result in enforcement action ranging from large penalties to licence revocation, resulting in your visa employees losing their jobs and having their visas revoked, forcing them to leave the country prematurely.

Sponsor Licence Types

There are two sorts of sponsor licences under the current system: one for ‘Workers,’ which includes skilled or long-term work, and one for ‘Temporary Workers,’ which includes particular forms of temporary employment.

For a ‘worker licence’ the following routes are required:

For a ‘Temporary Worker’ the following routes are required:

Sponsor Licence Requirements

The Home Office evaluates the employer’s capacity to satisfy the eligibility and suitability conditions through the application procedure. Applications for sponsorship will be evaluated by a particular sponsor applications unit at the Home Office.

If an organisation meets the eligibility and appropriateness requirements for the particular category or tier that they are asking for, there are no constraints on the size or kind of company that can obtain a sponsorship licence. An application will be rejected if the eligibility or appropriateness requirements are not met.

Eligibility Criteria for Sponsor Licence

  • The company is legitimate and conducting business or functioning legally in the UK.

The organisation needs to be legitimate. For instance, limited firms are required to register with Firms House. There are no requirements in the guidelines that the company must have been in operation for a specific amount of time, but there must be a UK resident working there who can communicate with the Home Office about any issues pertaining to the application.

  • The company has its headquarters in the UK.

The application will be rejected if there is no operating or commercial presence in the UK. The firm can still apply for a sponsor licence even if it doesn’t have any physical locations in the UK and instead uses a virtual business model. However, it will need to demonstrate unequivocally that it can fulfil its sponsor commitments and duties and that it is conducting business or functioning in the UK legally.

Suitability Criteria for Sponsor Licence

UKVI will attempt to make certain that a potential sponsor:

Offers a legitimate position that satisfies the requirements for competent workers. To clarify the precise nature of the post, and its responsibilities, and to ensure that the role genuinely exists, the Home Office may ask for more information. Exaggerated job descriptions that don't match the required skill level will probably make people wonder if the position is actually open.

Has the HR and recruitment processes necessary to fulfil its obligations to the sponsor and to provide proof of those obligations? Before (and after) the licence is issued, the Home Office maintains the right to examine the site to look for sponsor compliance.

"Honest, dependable, and reliable" This indicates that neither the organisation nor its owners, directors, or senior executives have any pending criminal convictions.

Does not pose a danger to immigration control and there is no record of the organisation ever breaking the law.

Has the proper zoning approval or Local Planning Authority authorization, if applicable, for the sort of business run at the trading address.

The Authenticity Assessment

It is best to approach the authenticity test as a business case. The Home Office will want to know why you need to sponsor a foreign national for the position and why you need a sponsor licence.

The application will pass the authenticity test if you can provide compelling business justifications for why you want a licence and a specific function.

When your organisation submits an application for a sponsor licence, when a licencing compliance visit takes place, or when you ask for a Certificate of Sponsorship, the authenticity test may be used at any point throughout the validity of your sponsor licence. The same standards apply in every situation.

The authenticity test examines the position(s) for which you are hiring foreign nationals and how these positions fit within your company as a whole.

You must show that the position that the migrant worker intends to fill is always a “genuine vacancy.” Therefore, you must demonstrate:

That the position complies with the standards of the pertinent category, i.e., that it falls within one of the government's designated Standard Occupation Codes.

That the position "fits" with your company, meaning it makes sense for a business of your sort to operate in your industry and require that "kind" of position. For instance, the Home Office could decide that an HR Manager is not necessary for a small firm with only a dozen employees if you are a small restaurant looking to hire one.

If you already know the person you want to hire for the position, be sure that their prior experience and education "fit" with the new position; otherwise, you won't be paying them an extra £10k a year to perform the same job just to satisfy the category's income criteria.

Sponsor Licence Duties

The organisation agrees to follow specific administrative requirements created to guarantee the prohibition of unlawful working when applying for a sponsorship licence. The following responsibilities are listed in the Sponsor Guidance provided by the Home Office:

  • Record-keeping
  • Monitoring & reporting
  • Absence monitoring
  • Notifying the Home Office of changes in circumstances


Sponsors are required to maintain records regarding their sponsored employees’ eligibility to work in the UK documents, NI numbers (where relevant), history of employment, and current contact information.

The employer is required to keep copies of the records listed in Appendix D, including:

  • Passport
  • Immigration status documents, including their period of leave to remain/stay in the UK)
  • Biometric residence permit

Monitoring & reporting

The employer is required to have methods and procedures in place to manage and supervise sponsored personnel. Sponsored employees must be reported within ten working days if:

  • Fail to begin work when anticipated
  • Has missed work for eleven days in a row without authorization
  • Has their contract ended sooner than anticipated, such as by resignation
  • Changing from one category of immigration to another, for as from a skilled worker visa to indefinite permission to remain (despite the fact that the Home Office should have a record of this fact)

Absence Monitoring

All sponsored employee absences, including those due to illness, yearly leave, study leave, and international travel, must be permitted and documented, according to the sponsor. An efficient sick leave policy should be in place and followed by the company.

Notifying the Home Office of certain changes in circumstances

The sponsor must continue to employ or engage the key individuals named on the sponsor licence, and any changes must be communicated to UKVI through SMS. The Home Office must be notified of the change of address if the organisation has relocated. If the Home Office decides to carry out an unauthorised site inspection, they will need the appropriate information to show up at the proper location.

Although the SMS does not contain information on UK branches, sponsors are encouraged to keep separate records of any alterations to the organization’s UK network, such as the opening or shutting of branches, to ensure that the addresses shown on the licence are accurate.

What occupations qualify for sponsorship of a skilled worker visa?

The skilled worker licence does not allow for the sponsorship of all positions. Any proposed sponsored position must satisfy the sponsorship requirements and get the necessary 70 points when applying for a visa. This includes the following in terms of expertise, pay, and language requirements.

Sponsor licence management & compliance

Appointing key individuals

Who you name as your “key personnel” will be a crucial decision when putting together your application.

Holders of sponsor licences must designate people who will take on certain duties to administer the licence in accordance with Home Office recommendations. These individuals are known as important persons. The positions are:

Authorising officer

The organization’s authorising officer (AO), who is in charge of hiring and/or human resources, should be someone in a high position. Preferably, they should be in charge of the systems, procedures, and personnel engaged in managing and running the licence in terms of HR.

 There must always be an AO in place, and only one can be appointed at a time.

Key contact

The Home Office will continue to get in touch with this individual regarding the organization’s application and licencing. The licence application must include the information for the essential contact. One key contact can only be assigned at a time.

Tier 1 Sponsor Licence

The Sponsor Management System (SMS) will be used by Level 1 users to manage the licence on a daily basis. Although many level-1 users may be assigned simultaneously, it is advisable to limit the number of appointments to maintain responsibility. The level 1 user must be an employee during the application phase, but after approval, another level 1 user may be appointed, including a legal representative.

Tier 2 Sponsor Licence

New sponsor licence guidelines have been released by the Home Office. This incorporates modifications to UK immigration laws that took effect in December 2020, most notably the removal of Tier 2 (General) visa route for sponsored work in favour of the new Skilled Worker visa route. If they have not been awarded pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, employers must acquire a valid sponsor licence as of January 1, 2021, in order to employ any skilled employees from the EEA and Switzerland.

Tier 5 Sponsor Licence

Those travelling to perform unpaid volunteer work for a UK charity are eligible for the Tier 5 (Charity) visa. If your organisation is recognised as a charity, you may apply for a Tier 5 (Charity) sponsor licence and then sponsor your volunteers to work for you for up to a year.

What are Sponsorship Certificates?

The Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is a reference number given to a potential sponsored employee by a sponsoring firm through SMS. The Home Office receives confirmation from the CoS that all requirements under the visa route have been satisfied.

To submit their visa application, sponsored visa applicants must have the Certificate of Sponsorship.

Undefined and defined Certificates of Sponsorship are the two forms of CoS.

Defined Certificate of Sponsorship

The potential employee must be given a specific CoS if they are outside of the UK and plan to apply for entry permission. The sponsor must submit an application for the specified CoS by SMS together with information about the particular position and pay.

Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship

The sponsor will allot them an unspecified CoS from their annual budget if the person is requesting a skilled worker visa to stay in the UK. The organisation may request more undefined CoS through SMS if their allotted amount for the year has been consumed. Unless there are more questions, the Home Office presently estimates a one-day response time for inquiries.

Assigning Certificates of Sponsorship

Sponsors must be aware of the distinctions between the two categories in order to allocate the worker with the most appropriate type. You might face consequences if you violate the rules by failing to allocate the appropriate type of CoS. For instance, sponsors are not allowed to assign a worker with a defined CoS for any job other than the one specified in the CoS application, or an undefined CoS when a defined CoS is required. Once given a CoS, the applicant must submit their Home Office visa application using this reference number.


Submitting applications for sponsorship certificates

The UK organisation must specify how many undefined CoS it will need through April 5 (the end of the CoS allocation year) in its sponsor licence application.


As a result, if the licence is approved, you will also receive the CoS at the same time, allowing you to assign it to the person right immediately so they may submit their Home Office visa application.

Applying For A Sponsor Licence

The Sponsorship Management System (SMS) allows access to the licencing application form, which is available online. Although it is a simple system, programmes are urged to save often to prevent losing any of their data because it is an ancient system.

The following will be needed for the form:

  • Indicate the sort of licence you’re seeking for. Contact details
  • Name the license’s important individuals.

List the supplementary files that will be submitted.

How much does a sponsorship licence application cost?

The cost to apply for a sponsor licence will vary depending on the organization’s size and kind.

  • ‘Small’ business sponsor licence fee £536
  • Large sponsor licence fee £1,476

Related charges and fees:

  • Assigning the CoS – £199 per certificate
  • Immigration Skills Charge – £1000 per year, per worker, or a reduced rate of £364 for smaller companies & charities
  • Fees for the sponsored worker’s visa application

The sponsor licence has a four-year expiration date and a renewal option after that. Your licence might be suspended or cancelled, nevertheless, if the Home Office has any grounds to suspect that you did not uphold your sponsorship obligations.

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