With a sponsor licence employers in the UK can recruit skilled employees from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland. The benefit of our service is our knowledge of the UK system which we use to reduce the pressures on employers seeking to bring employees from abroad. We look at any problem from obtaining a sponsor licence for a UK business or a visa for the employee, to management of the increasing compliance requirements. We are experts in solving problems for employers at risk of having their sponsor licence downgraded or revoked for alleged non-compliance.
Please do call us to discuss your requirements.
How to manage the employer sponsor requirements
Sponsor licence eligibility assessment
When hiring a foreign national, the skilled work visa requires a company to “sponsor” that person. To sponsor an employee to the UK to work in your business, you need a sponsor licence.
To qualify for a sponsor licence, the business must submit a valid application showing that it is eligible for a sponsor licence. Generally, the business must:
- Be a genuine organisation that operates lawfully in the UK;
- Be trustworthy and pose no threat to immigration control;
- Be capable of carrying out its sponsor duties because it employs people to fulfil compliance and immigration related duties and possesses effective HR systems to monitor sponsored employees.
The UK authorities will decide if you meet the requirements based on the documents you are asked to submit, your business’ past conduct and it may visit your office to check that you have the necessary resources and processes in place.
The UK authorities must also be convinced that there is a genuine vacancy which you need to fill. It is helpful to show that you have already been advertising a role for which you have not found a suitable applicant, when you apply for your employer sponsor licence. It is also beneficial if you have already identified a person who you wish to sponsor.
Who can be sponsored?
You can get a sponsor licence to bring to the UK either long-term or temporary workers, or both. You also need a sponsor licence if you are a multinational employer wanting to transfer staff from overseas to the UK.
There are sub-categories for elite sport people, coaches, ministers of religion, creative and charity workers. The documentary requirements will vary for each.
Who can become a sponsor?
Public bodies, government departments, local authorities, diplomatic missions, start-ups and charities can all get sponsor licences. The supporting documents that need to be submitted vary and we will advise you accordingly.
Beneficial provisions for digital technology workers
Businesses wanting to bring certain experienced digital technology workers may benefit from a scheme that will speed up the application process. It was introduced in response to the skills shortage in the tech industry. The following tech jobs are currently treated favourably:
- IT product manager;
- Data scientist;
- Senior developer;
- Cyber security specialist.
In each case, the job role must require a person with a minimum of five years’ relevant experience and demonstrable experience of having led a team.
Not all businesses can take advantage of the provision. The employer must first get permission from the UK authorities to bring employees under this scheme. To be eligible, the business must be an independent SME that was not established solely for the purpose of supplying services to another company in the UK.
When applying for a sponsor licence, you have to submit an online application form. The UK authorities say the applicant must submit the online application form themselves. We will prepare your application form so that the only thing left for you is to double-check the information and press the submit button.
Once submitted, we will send the supporting documents, together with a cover letter, by post to the UK authorities. The UK authorities specify which supporting documents must be submitted, depending on the type and size of your business. We will check that all your supporting documents fulfil the requirements and are in the correct format, before posting. The UK authorities then review the documents. Government officials may also visit your business to check whether you will be capable of carrying out your sponsor duties.
Eligibility assessment service
Some clients use us to assess their eligibility for a sponsor licence. We tell our clients if or how they can satisfy the sponsor licence requirements. Our consultations start at £500.00 plus VAT.
Often we meet in person. Sometimes it is a conference call. We then tell you how likely you are to qualify for a sponsor licence.
What happens once the application is approved?
The sponsor licence is a contract between the UK government and the employer. The business guarantees to comply with the duties associated with sponsoring non-EEA workers.
You will get an A-rated sponsor licence if your application is approved. With a licence, your business can apply for and issue certificates of sponsorship (CoS) to foreign nationals you want to hire. The certificate of sponsorship is an electronic reference number. Your chosen foreign national employee must include the CoS reference number in their visa application.
There are two sponsorship certificates: restricted and unrestricted. Which type you apply for depends on:
- The nature of the job role;
- The rate of pay.
An A-rated sponsor licence may be downgraded to a B-rating if the UK authorities find that you do not meet your sponsor duties. Once downgraded, you will not be able to issue new certificates of sponsorship until you have made the necessary improvements by following an ‘action plan’ and been upgraded back to an A-rating.
The sponsor licence is valid for 4 years. Your company can renew the licence before it expires.
Resident labour market test
Usually, before offering a job and issuing a CoS to a non-EEA national, your business must demonstrate it undertook a “resident labour market test”. The test requires that the company:
- Advertised the role in two specified sources for at least 28 days;
- Clearly specified the particulars of the role.
Some circumstances do not require you to do the resident labour market test. Not doing it is beneficial if you have already identified a candidate because it means that you do not have to wait for 28 days before making the job offer nor interview other applicants. We will tell you if the job role falls within the exception, for example if the job role is classified as a shortage occupation or for higher earners.
The shortage occupation list
Shortage occupations are ones where there are not enough settled workers to fill available jobs. It is reviewed and amended regularly, according to the needs of the market.
The benefit of bringing someone who is on the shortage occupation list is that the employer does not need to conduct the resident labour market test. This saves a lot of time and resources. Some jobs that are on the list at the moment include: engineers, nurses, secondary education teachers in certain sciences, paramedics, dancers, choreographers and chefs.
Choosing the right candidate
The purpose of the resident labour market test is to protect the settled workforce by giving them a chance to apply and prioritising them. To be allowed to sponsor the foreign national, you must show that no settled worker had the necessary skills and experience you advertised for.
If you find that you have more than one candidate with all the necessary skills and experience you advertised for, where one is a settled worker and the other is not, you must offer the job to the settled worker even if the migrant is more skilled or experienced.
Fail to conduct the test, or execute it incorrectly, and the UK authorities will probably refuse your Certificate of Sponsorship.
Resolving sponsor licence problems
Employers of foreign nationals must meet strict compliance requirements. Otherwise employers will not obtain or keep their sponsor licence. Without a licence, companies cannot employ foreign nationals. If a licence is revoked, employees in turn will have their visas cancelled. This can cause a big loss for a business.
Sponsorship compliance requirements
The UK authorities take the view that as a licenced sponsor, you will benefit directly from immigration and you thus have a responsibility to ensure the system is not abused. The duties include:
- Prevention of illegal working;
- Prevent abuse of the recruitment procedure;
- Record keeping;
- Tracking and monitoring your migrant workforce to detect migrant behaviour that causes concern;
- Addressing weaknesses in process which can cause unsuitable behaviour;
- Monitoring compliance with immigration rules.
Visits from UK Government official
UK Government officials can visit any sponsor’s UK office at any time. Their visits may be unannounced or prearranged. If your business has traded for under 18 months, the UK authorities are likely to visit before granting you a sponsor licence.
The purpose of the visit is to assess your business against the sponsorship compliance requirements. We support clients to:
- Remain compliant with UK authority requirements;
- Implement the required procedures and processes;
- Use the correct tools.
Penalties for non-compliance
The UK authorities award fully compliant companies an ‘A’ rating. If you do not continue to comply, the UK authorities can revoke your sponsor licence, fine and even prosecute your company. If you lose your licence you may have to wait until you are allowed to apply for a new one. While you do not have a licence you are not allowed to continue employing employees from outside the EEA.
Conducting a “mock-compliance visit” will prepare you for a real UK Government official visit as it will help you identify weaknesses in your processes and will allow you to address any issues.
We can tell you about the duties or conduct a review during a ‘mock-compliance visit’ and make specific recommendations about the processes in place at your business.
Continuous employment support
Our expertise does not stop with immigration law. We do work with employers to support them across a range of employment law issues such as:
- Employment contracts;
- Director services agreements;
- Employment policies;
- Disciplinary procedure advice;
- Sickness and absence management.
We also advise employers on the ‘right to work checks’. Employers often feel conflicted as they have to balance the duties they have towards their employees and towards the Home Office. Our expert immigration and employment solicitors will tell you what to do if you are in doubt.