Navigate the UK Sponsorship License: A Guide to Hiring Foreign Workers
Nov 20, 2023, Article contributed by Aleksandra Tomova
The United Kingdom’s sponsorship license system is a pivotal gateway that enables businesses to hire talent from outside the country legally. This article delves into the intricacies of the UK Sponsorship License, offering valuable insights for companies looking to expand their workforce by hiring foreign professionals. Understanding this process is crucial in today’s globalised business environment, and this guide aims to demystify the procedures, requirements, and best practices. Whether you are a small business owner or an HR professional in a large corporation, this article provides the knowledge you need to navigate the UK sponsorship license landscape effectively.
Suppose you are an organisation that wants to employ foreign talent in the UK. In that case, you will need to obtain a sponsorship license issued by the Home Office’s UK Visas & Immigration Department (UKVI). The term foreign talent is broad and includes citizens of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, and the EU who arrived in the UK post 31 December 2020. The sponsorship license’s umbrella has unpaid work, such as running a charity. Still, it is unnecessary to hire Irish citizens, people with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, and holders of indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
Whether you are a large corporation or a small startup, obtaining a sponsorship license is the first and foremost step in the process.
You will need to apply for a sponsorship license if you want to hire foreign talent for the following popular visa categories:
- Skilled Worker
- Temporary Worker
- Global Talent
- Health and Care Worker Visa
The sponsorship license holds a unique role in the UK’s immigration system as it enables businesses to expand their hiring needs by recruiting foreign talent and increasing diversity. The UK government occasionally announces updates to the sponsorship license system, so be sure to speak to a Centuro Global expert to get the most up-to-date information.
So, how can you get a sponsor license?
1. Assess Eligibility: The first step is to assess your business’s eligibility per the Home Office’s criteria. An employer applying for a sponsor license cannot have had a sponsor license revoked within the past 12 months and have any unspent convictions for immigration offences or other crimes such as money laundering and fraud. In addition, you will need to ensure that the UK business puts appropriate systems in place to monitor its sponsored workers and commit to its sponsor duties.
2. Choosing an Appropriate License: The license you will apply for depends on your business needs and what type of jobs you would like to fill by hiring talent. There are two types of license depending on the type of job you are trying to fill, and you can apply for a license which covers either one or both:
- Workers – this category will enable you to sponsor foreign professionals in different types of skilled employment and can be for a short, long-term or permanent duration. Please note that the Skilled Worker application must meet the job suitability requirements set by the UK authorities.
- Temporary workers – a category reserved for temporary employment, which includes volunteering jobs, and only applies to specific types of employment and visas such as Scale-up Workers, Charity Workers, Religious Workers, etc.
If you need further guidance on which is the appropriate type of sponsorship license for your UK organisation, please contact a Centuro Global representative. We have successfully assisted companies in the following industries: wholesale furniture, materials and product testing/inspections/certification, engineering, energy/refrigerants, finance, telecoms, water testing, and consulting.
The Sponsorship License Application Process
1. Where to apply? In order to receive a sponsorship license in the UK, you will need to complete an application and submit the necessary supporting documentation upon establishing that your organization has successfully met the eligibility criteria.
2. Processing times: It usually takes less than eight weeks for the application to be reviewed by the UKVI, which may visit your business during the adjudication process. There is a priority service option which would enable you to obtain a decision within ten working days of submitting your application for an additional fee of £500.
3. Fees: The license fees your business will need to pay depend on the specific license category you are seeking and the nature of your organisation. It varies from £536 for small businesses or charitable sponsors to £1,476 for medium or large sponsors. The fees are the same whether you are applying for only a Worker, a Temporary Worker license, or both. Please note that if you wish to add a Worker licence to an existing Temporary Worker licence and are a medium/large sponsor, an additional fee of £940 will apply.
Under the Home Office’s criteria, a company qualifies as a small company if at least two of the following conditions apply in a set financial year:
- your annual turnover is equal to or less than £10.2 million
- your total assets are worth £5.1 million or less
- you have 50 or fewer employees
4. Validity of a sponsor licence: Once granted, a sponsor licence is valid for a four-year period, and it is not automatically renewed. You will be required to submit a renewal application in advance of the expiration date in order to avoid gaps in the visas of your sponsored workers.
5. Tips for a smooth application process: It is essential that you prepare and provide the requested supporting documentation and that it is in order. In addition, the accuracy and completeness in providing the information on the online application form is crucial to avoid delays in processing.
Meeting Sponsor Duties and Ensuring Compliance is Maintained
You have been granted a sponsorship licence; what to do now? Being the holder of a UK sponsorship license comes with specific ongoing responsibilities that organizations must adhere to. In addition, it is crucial that your organization maintains its compliance with UK immigration laws, as this may lead to severe consequences. Reporting breaches is essential for compliance. Make sure you are working with a UK immigration provider to ensure adherence to local laws and regulations.
- Assigning Sponsorship Management Roles: You will need to designate individuals within your organization to fulfil critical roles related to the sponsorship process who will use the sponsorship management system (SMS) tool. These roles include an authorising officer, a key contact, and a level 1 user. The same or different individuals can fulfil these roles.
- Record-Keeping: You will need to ensure that you keep detailed records of the details of all sponsored workers, which are to be readily available for inspection by the Home Office. In addition, you should ensure that you are prepared for any possible audits conducted by the Home Office.
- Consequences of Non-Compliance: If the Home Office identifies compliance breaches, this may result in the suspension or revocation of your company’s sponsorship license alongside with the imposition of fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker.
The UK Sponsorship License is a vital tool for businesses seeking to enhance their workforce by hiring global talent. By understanding and navigating the complexities of this system, companies can unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation. We encourage businesses to take the next step in this journey by consulting with our immigration experts or exploring additional resources linked in this article.
This immigration update serves as an informative resource and should not replace legal or specific scenario advice. Please be aware that immigration policies can change abruptly. For tailored assessments related to your case or company, we recommend consulting with Centuro Global.