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Do I Need A Sponsor Licence?

What is a Sponsor Licence, why might you need one, and what do you need to have in place when applying?


If you have a company registered in the UK, you will usually need a UK sponsor licence to employ someone to work for you from outside the UK. This includes citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020.


To secure a sponsorship licence, you will need to make an application to the Home Office and pay the relevant fees. The Home Office will only grant a sponsor licence to an organisation that can show the roles they are recruiting for and that the workers they intend to sponsor meet the necessary requirements.


The rules on sponsoring workers are contained within the Home Office’s 200-page Sponsor Guidance document, the ‘Workers and Temporary Workers: Guidance for Sponsors’ and multiple supporting appendices. The rules are complex and might scare off potential companies from applying for the UK sponsor licence. Our goal is to provide our clients with an understanding of what is required from them to apply for the sponsor licence. In this post, we will provide a short overview of the most important requirements for a sponsor licence being granted found in the Home Office’s Sponsor Guidance.


Eligibility criteria

1. Your organisation needs to be genuine and operating and/or trading lawfully in the UK.. Private limited companies, for example, must be registered with Companies House; in other words, your company needs to be incorporated in the UK.

Importantly, there are no stipulations in the guidance that the organisation should have been trading for any particular period of time, but there should be someone resident in the UK working at the organisation who is available to liaise with the Home Office on any queries relating to the application.

2. Your organisation needs to be based in the UK. Without an operating or trading presence in the UK, the application will be refused. If your organisation does not occupy premises in the UK but operates a virtual business model, it may still apply for a sponsor licence.


Suitability criteria

The Home Office will look to ensure a potential sponsor (person who is applying for the sponsor licence):

  1. Offers a genuine vacancy which meets the skilled worker criteria. The Home Office may request additional information to verify the specific nature of the role and its duties and to confirm that the role actually exists.

  2. Is “honest, dependable and reliable”. This means the organisation and its owners, directors and appointed key personnel do not have any unspent criminal convictions.

  3. Does not represent a threat to immigration control, with no evidence of any previous non-compliance by the organisation.

  4. Has the HR and recruitment systems in place to render it capable of complying with the sponsor’s duties and responsibilities and evidencing that compliance (The HR department might consist of only one person).


Genuineness test

By applying the genuineness test, the Home Office will want to see the reasons why you require a sponsor licence and a foreign national for the vacancy. If you can present convincing business reasons as to why you need a licence and a particular role, the application will normally meet the genuineness test.

It is vital to emphasize that the genuineness test can be applied at any time during the life of your sponsor licence, when your organisation is making an application for a sponsor licence, or during a licence compliance visit, or when you request a Certificate of Sponsorship.


The genuineness test looks at the role(s) you are recruiting foreign nationals for and how these roles fit within your organisation as a whole.

You will need to demonstrate that in all cases, the role to be filled by the migrant worker is a ‘genuine vacancy’. This means you have to prove:

  • That the role meets the requirements of the relevant category, i.e., that it fits with one of the Standard Occupation Codes listed by the government.

  • That the role ‘fits’ with your organisation, i.e., that it seems reasonable that an organisation of your type, operating in your sector, should need that ‘kind’ of role. For example, if you are a small company manufacturing clothes for the UK market seeking to appoint a US sales executive, the Home Office might not deem that necessary and claim that it does not ‘fit’ your company.

If you are interested in making an application for a sponsor licence, or just want to find out a bit more about the process, contact us and we will be happy to discuss it with you.


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