Business Immigration services

Sponsorship Licences

Sponsorship Licence for Employers

If you are a UK business or a Charity then you will need a sponsor licence to employ someone from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland to work for you in the UK.

UK Sponsorship Licences are issued by the Home Office. It’s a rigorous application process requiring businesses to manage migrant workers with due diligence and care with regards to their permission to work in the UK. You’ll need appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees.

The application process includes a possible visit from the Home Office to audit your personnel, financial, Tax and other matters affecting the business. They may visit your business to make sure you’re trustworthy and capable of carrying out your duties. Therefore businesses have to be fully abreast of the UK immigration laws and procedures to lodge the application moreover preparation for a potential audits by the Home Office. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will review your application form and supporting documents.

A Sponsor Licence is required for Long Term and Short Term employment. A Business can apply for a licence covering either or both tiers.

Tier 2 – this tier is for skilled workers who will be employed on a long term basis. The business must provide proof that a ‘resident labour market test’ was carried out by offering the job to a settled person in the UK and that no suitable workers could be found in the UK or within the EU. The categories that the migrant workers could be employed is

  • General – skilled worker meeting the requisite salary scales (must fulfil Resident Labour Market Test
  • Intra-Company Transfer – for multi-national companies which need to transfer employees to the UK
  • Sportsperson – for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK
  • Minister of Religion – for people coming to work for a religious organisation (for up to 3 years) (must fulfil Resident Labour Market Test)

Tier 5 – this is the category if you wish to employ skilled migrant workers on a temporary basis. The categories consist of

  • Charity Worker – for unpaid workers (up to 1 year)
  • Sporting and Entertainment – to work as a sportsperson (up to 1 year), entertainer or artist (up to 2 years)
  • Religious Worker – for those doing preaching, pastoral and non-pastoral work (2 years)
  • Government Authorised Exchange – work experience (1 year), research projects or training, eg practical medical or scientific training (2 years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge
  • International Agreement – where the worker is coming to do a job which is covered by international law, eg employees of overseas governments

Sponsorship Management System (SMS)

The Sponsor Licence is managed by a system called the Sponsorship Management System – SMS. This is an online system. On your successful application, Home Office will give access to the SMS. All contacts with the Home Office will take place via the SMS.

You’ll need to assign people within your business to manage and operate the sponsorship process through the PBS. There are three main positions and important roles within these positions

  • Authorising officer –This is usually at an executive level who can make decisions affecting the business and its people.
  • Key contact – your main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). The key contact will have day to day operations and the main contact with the Home Office.
  • level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS

These roles can be filled by the same person or different people. However the persons should be based in the UK most of the time, not be an agent contracted for a specific project, not be subject to a bankruptcy or debt relief order of any nature and not have a history of non-compliance with sponsor requirements

The Home Office also requires fit and suitable persons to be in the above positons and roles. Therefore you must make certain that the personnel holding the positions must fulfil the suitability criteria set by the Home Office. You will have to sufficiently demonstrate to the Home Office that the personnel holding positions within the SMS –

  • not have an unspent criminal conviction
  • been fined by UKVI in the past 12 months
  • been reported to UKVI or broken the law
  • been a key person at a sponsor that had its licence revoked in the last 12 months
  • failed to pay VAT or other excise duty

You can assign the role of a key contact and/or level 1 user to a UK-based legal representative. However the role of the authorising officer should be one from the business at an executive level.

Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) issued through the SMS –

After the SMS is up and running in your organisation, then in order to employ a migrant worker you can issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) for Tier 2 or Tier 5. The migrant worker cannot make an application for a visa or a transfer of employment if the worker is inside the UK. Certificates must be used within 3 months from when they’re issued.

Before you issue a sponsorship certificate you must make certain that the migrant worker has fulfilled the job suitability criteria such as –

  • Suitable rate of pay as guided by the Home Office
  • That the UK labour market test is fulfilled by advertising the position with the UK and EU as prescribed by the Home Office guidelines.

Supporting documents

You’ll need to provide at least 4 documents prescribes by the Home Office. Adequate advice must be sought when deciding on the supporting documents. These documents would be scrutinised and dealt with at potential visits and audits by the Home Office. You’ll need to send the correct supporting documents to prove that you’re a genuine business. Your application could be refused if you don’t.

There are specific ratings on the licence that you would be awarded. Your aim should be to obtain A-rating. A-rated licences lets you start assigning Certificates of Sponsorship (COS). Your business will be listed in the register of sponsors.

Businesses have to be cautious and maintain good practice to assure that their A rating is not downgraded to a B rating at a later stage. If this happens then there will be restrictions in issuing COS to migrant employees. It is therefore pivotal that the sponsorship duties are followed and fulfilled right through out diligently.

If the Home Office decides to down grade from A to B rating, then they will issue you with an Action Plan requiring you to take corrective action. This Action Plan will cost you a fee. If the Home Office is satisfied with the action plan then your A-rating will resume. However you must be careful not to let your A-rating to drop to B as you are allowed only 2 Action Plans during a 4 year period. If you have 2 Action Plans within the 4 years then you will lose your licence without a right of appeal. You will then have to make a fresh application all over again. However if your licence have been revoked for employing illegal migrants then you will have to wait for 12 months before you are allowed to make a fresh application.

Monitoring employees

Home Office requires you to monitor the migrant employees in your business. Since the introduction of the SMS, the onerous has now shifted to the employer to monitor the migrant employees instead of the Home Office having to monitor them.

You must have HR systems in place that lets you:

  • monitor your employees’ immigration status
  • keep copies of relevant documents for each employee, including passport and right to work information
  • track and record employees’ attendance
  • keep employee contact details up to date
  • report to UKVI if there is a problem, eg your employee stops coming to work
Call us on 0808 168 8677 (local rate) to find out more about our Sponsorship Licences law services or alternatively go to "Meet the Team" to contact one of our specialists directly.

With solicitors offices in Battersea, Hanover Square London, Harlesden, Harrow and Wembley, Hodders Law can provide the services of a local solicitor backed up by the strength of a big firm expertise.

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