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What is a Sponsor licence and why should you apply?

The UK Government strictly regulates the immigration of migrant workers to the UK. As a part of its immigration system, it requires companies to have a sponsor licence before they can sponsor all non-UK national employees.

What is a sponsor licence?

It is important to understand that not all migrant workers need to be sponsored to work in the UK. This is because they may be lawfully in the UK on some other immigration category which allows them to work. This could include, for example, a spouse of a British citizen visa, an ancestry visa or even the dependant of a migrant who is sponsored.

However, for most migrant workers, who want to come to the UK for work, they must be sponsored. This means that they should have a job offer from a company which has a sponsor licence.

A sponsor licence is in effect an approval from the UK Home Office for an organisation to sponsor migrant workers. Organisations that can sponsor are included in a register of sponsors which is updated daily.

The UK government, and the UK courts, define sponsorship as a relationship of trust. It allows companies to act as de facto gatekeepers to the UK work immigration route.

This licence (or relationship of trust) requires an initial and ongoing validation. The initial validation comes through an application for sponsorship, and thereafter the UK Home Office may conduct occasional checks to ensure that the sponsoring company continues to abide by its sponsoring obligations.

How do you apply for a sponsor licence?

The sponsor licence application is made online through the UK Home Office website. However, applying organisations should not make this application until they are satisfied that they have all the relevant documents. This is because the Home Office requires the relevant supporting documents to be submitted within 5 working days from the date of application submission.

The documents required for a sponsor licence vary depending on the type of organisation. For example, a start-up may need to show a lesser number of documents but may end up with more scrutiny at an initial and post-licence stage.

In addition to the prescriptive list provided by the Home Office, organisations intending on applying for a licence must also demonstrate that they fulfil the following criteria:

  1. Whether the organisation is genuine and operating lawfully in the UK: This can be demonstrated by providing documents listed in the relevant Appendices of the sponsor guidance.
  2. Have a Human Resources (HR) & recruitment system to meet their sponsor duties. The Home Office may conduct a compliance visit to check this
  3. Whether the organisation and its key personnel, are honest dependable and reliable. The Home Office is likely to conduct background checks on the organisation and any of the key individuals to determine this.
  4. Whether you can offer genuine employment under the eligible roles of your intended sponsor category. It is important to note that not all employment roles are eligible for sponsorship.
Rebecca Hone

Senior Associate

View profile

+44 20 7539 8019

A sponsor licence is in effect an approval from the UK Home Office for an organisation to sponsor migrant workers.

Making the online application

Once you have taken the necessary steps and have the relevant documents, you should then complete the online application. You will have to pay the sponsor licence fee, which will vary depending on the size of your organisation.

Following the online submission, a submission sheet will be generated. This must be signed by the proposed Authorising Officer (this is the most important role for the functioning of a sponsor licence – we will explore key roles in a further blog).

Processing times

The standard period for a sponsor licence to be processed in 8 weeks. In our experience, most applications are decided sooner than this. In the event, the sponsorship team need to make a compliance visit before they issue the licence, the processing time can be a lot longer.

Decision

There are several indicators of whether you have been approved for a sponsor licence. However, the official confirmation is normally received through email, with your Level 1 username to access the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

For more information, contact our Sponsors licence team.

About this article

Disclaimer
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

Rebecca Hone

Senior Associate

View profile

+44 20 7539 8019

About this article

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