A sponsor licence in the UK is a permission granted by the UK government to a UK-based organisation, allowing them to sponsor skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland to work in the UK.
To obtain a sponsor licence, an organisation must meet certain criteria and provide evidence that they are a legitimate business operating within the UK. The organisation must also show that they have the necessary systems and processes in place to comply with their duties and responsibilities as a sponsor. Once an organisation has been granted a sponsor licence, they can issue Certificates of Sponsorship to skilled workers they wish to sponsor. The skilled workers must then apply for a visa to work in the UK, and their visa application will be assessed based on the eligibility criteria for the particular visa category.
It is important to note that a sponsor licence does not guarantee that a skilled worker will be granted a visa, but it is a necessary step in the process of bringing skilled workers from outside the EEA or Switzerland to work in the UK.
Appointing key personnel
Prior to submitting the sponsor licence application, an organisation has to appoint ‘key personnel’. These include:
The Authorising Officer (AO) should be an individual in a senior position in the organisation with responsibility for recruitment and/or HR. They should preferably have oversight of HR processes, systems and people involved in the management and operation of the licence. Only one AO can be appointed at any one time, and it is essential to always have an AO in place. If the AO leaves the organisation, goes on overseas assignments, or takes a leave of absence such as maternity or sabbatical leave, someone else will need to be appointed to the role, even where it is on a temporary basis, to ensure continuity of cover.
This is the person the Home Office will contact in relation to the organisation’s application and the licence on an ongoing basis. The key contact’s details are to be provided when the licence application is made. Only one key contact can be appointed at any one time. It is possible to appoint a legal representative as the key contact, and in many cases, this may be a practical solution to enable the legal representative to have direct contact with the Home Office about the application.
Level 1 user
Level 1 users will use the Sponsor Management System (SMS) to administer the licence on a day-to-day basis. During the application stage, the level 1 user must be an employee, but once granted, it is possible to appoint additional level 1 users, which can include a legal representative.
Sponsor Licence Application
A minimum of four mandatory documents must be submitted to demonstrate that the organisation meets the eligibility requirements, i.e., it is genuine and operating lawfully in the UK.
Depending on the type of organisation and how long it has been operating in the UK, the documents could include (but are not limited to):
Latest audited annual accounts
Employer’s liability insurance certificate
Certificate of VAT registration
Latest corporate bank account statement
HMRC registration evidence, such as including PAYE number and accounts office reference number
Evidence of ownership of, or a commercial lease for, business premises
A minimum of four documents must be submitted. It can be helpful to provide more, particularly if there is potential for the Home Office to have concerns about any of those intended to be submitted.