Sponsor Licence: Sponsor's Responsibilities, Application Submission, and Home Office Inspections

We explain the UK Sponsor Licence, its requirements,
and the application process.

A Sponsor Licence is a necessary requirement for companies seeking to hire workers from abroad in the UK. This licence grants employers the right to employ and manage foreign employees, ensuring compliance with the law and simplifying the hiring process. Without this licence, companies cannot hire foreign workers.
Sponsor Licence: A Key Element for Companies Hiring Foreign Workers in the UK

A Sponsor Licence is a crucial requirement for companies wishing to hire foreign workers in the UK. This licence grants employers the right to employ and manage foreign staff, ensuring compliance with the law and simplifying the employment process. Without it, hiring foreign workers is not possible.

In this article, we will explain what a Sponsor Licence entails, the responsibilities of a sponsor, the application process, and the inspections by the Home Office.

Sponsor Licence for Employers

Regardless of the duration for which you plan to hire a foreign employee, obtaining the licence should be your first step. You will need this licence even if you invite a specialist from abroad for unpaid work, such as in a charitable organisation.

The Process of Obtaining the Licence

In England, Sponsor Licences are issued by a specialised unit of the UK immigration service. Before registering and applying for the licence, you should undertake at least two actions:

  1. Seek support from an experienced immigration lawyer who can act as a consultant or your legal representative in dealings with the Home Office.
  2. Ensure your company meets all the requirements set by the UK immigration authorities.

Criteria for Evaluating Potential Sponsors

To obtain a licence as an employer, the following are required:

  • No unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering.
  • The sponsor licence must not have been revoked in the last 12 months.
  • Systems in place for monitoring sponsored employees and personnel managing sponsorship within your business.
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will review your application and the provided documents. They may visit your business to confirm your reliability and ability to fulfil your duties.

Additional Criteria

  • The employer must be a legally registered entity conducting operations or trading in the UK. For example, a limited company must be registered with Companies House.
  • At the time of application, it is not mandatory to have been operating in the UK for a specific period. However, the company must have a staff member residing in the UK who can liaise with the Home Office on sponsorship matters.
  • The company must operate within the United Kingdom. An application for a Sponsor Licence will be rejected if there is no operational or trading presence in the UK. Even when using a virtual business model, it is necessary to confirm that the business operates legally and can meet its sponsorship obligations.
  • The employer must demonstrate that there is indeed a vacancy for a foreign specialist at the level of a skilled worker. The Home Office may request additional information about this position to clarify the list of duties and specifics of the job.
  • The employer must have an effective personnel management system that enables the company to fulfil its sponsorship duties. The UK immigration service may conduct an inspection before or after issuing the Sponsor Licence to verify compliance with this requirement.
  • The company, its owners, directors, and key personnel must not have violations of immigration law or unspent criminal convictions, especially for crimes such as fraud and money laundering.
  • The employer cannot be a company that previously had its Sponsor Licence revoked due to systematic violations of immigration requirements.
  • If required, the company must provide permission to operate if such permission is needed for that type of business.
Roles in Sponsorship Management

You need to appoint responsible employees in your company to manage the sponsorship process when applying for a licence. The main tool they will use is the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

Key Roles:

  • Authorising Officer: A senior and competent person responsible for the actions of employees and representatives using the SMS.
  • Key Contact: The main contact person with UKVI.
  • Level 1 User: Responsible for the day-to-day management of the licence through the SMS.
These roles can be performed by one person or different people. After obtaining the licence, you can appoint an additional Level 2 User, who has limited access compared to a Level 1 User, such as not being able to withdraw a sponsorship certificate.

Suitability Checks

You and your staff will be checked to ensure your suitability for these roles. You may be refused a licence if anyone involved in the sponsorship has:

  • An unspent conviction for an offence listed in the sponsor's guidance.
  • Been fined by UKVI in the last 12 months.
  • Reported to UKVI for breaking the law.
  • Been a "key person" for a sponsor whose licence was revoked in the last 12 months.
  • Failed to pay VAT or other excise duty.

You and your appointed staff must also:

  • Spend most of the time in the UK.
  • Not be a contractor or consultant hired for a specific project.
  • Not be subject to a bankruptcy restriction order or debt relief restriction order.
  • Have a history of compliance with sponsor requirements.
The appointed personnel should usually be paid employees or officeholders. If you are applying for a Sponsor Licence to expand your business in the UK, you may appoint a foreign worker as the Authorising Officer if there is no suitable staff in the UK for this role.

Responsibilities of the Sponsoring Company

When applying for a Sponsor Licence in the UK, the employer agrees to fulfil certain administrative duties to prevent illegal working. These duties include maintaining accurate and up-to-date records, which must be available for inspection by the UK immigration service at any time. Additionally, the Home Office assesses the company’s ability to meet these administrative duties when reviewing the Sponsor Licence application.

Administrative Duties of the Sponsor Include:

  • Maintaining personnel records.
  • Monitoring and reporting.
  • Tracking absences of foreign workers.
  • Promptly notifying the UK immigration authorities of any changes in the company.
Applying for a Sponsor Licence and Home Office Inspections

A company providing legal support in obtaining a UK Sponsor Licence can help you gather the necessary documents to prove your business operates in the UK. Your application should include original or certified copies of documents such as:

  • Corporate bank account statements.
  • Long-term lease or purchase agreement for office premises.
  • Certificate of registration with the tax authorities.
  • Financial report for the last year.
The immigration service may not be limited to documents and can send a representative to visit your company to verify its reliability as a sponsor.

In conclusion, obtaining a Sponsor Licence is an essential step for companies wishing to hire foreign workers in the UK. Meeting all the requirements and fulfilling the administrative duties will help your business successfully navigate this process and acquire the necessary specialists for your needs.

Do you have any questions about obtaining a Sponsor Licence and Skilled Worker visas for your team?
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