Sponsor Licence

If your business or organisation wants to employ or sponsor non-EEA migrants, you will need to obtain a sponsor licence from the Home Office. 

This requirement doesn’t just apply to employees and students: your organisation is also required to have a sponsor licence to engage volunteers and religious workers.

UK sponsorship visas

Tier 2 visas

Tier 4 visas

Tier 5 visas

All UK visa routes 

Sponsor licence
As part an application for a sponsor licence, the Home Office will assess your organisation and structure to determine your business’ suitability to sponsor migrants in the UK and ensure you will be capable of meeting the stringent reporting requirements expected from registered sponsors.

The process of applying for a sponsor licence can be challenging.  The Home Office will undertake routine audits of the human resource systems (for businesses employing migrants) and other systems used in your organisation and can revoke or downgrade your licence for non-compliance with your duties.  Maintaining compliance with sponsor duties is critical. A failure to comply with your sponsor duties should not be overlooked, as it can have huge ramifications for your business and your migrants, whether they are employees or students.

The Home Office requires you to have designated responsible individuals to maintain your organisation’s compliance with your sponsor duties.  Individuals must have no unspent relevant criminal convictions (such as immigration offences) and a clear history in terms of any breach in sponsor duties.

At the very minimum, you are required to assign a role for Authorising Officer, Key Contact and Level 1 User, though this can all be the same person, however at least one individual must be settled in the UK.

The other eligibility requirements for a business to sponsor migrants is that the must provide at least four documents to demonstrate its business activity, these can include, HMRC registration, VAT certificate, Business Bank Statements, Financial Accounts, Lease of premises etc.

Compliance visit
During your application, and throughout the term of your licence, UK Visas and Immigration may visit to check your organisation’s compliance, and to ensure you have the appropriate systems in place. Sometimes you will be given advanced notice of these visits, and sometimes not. It is vital that you run your sponsor licence with a potential compliance visit in mind.

Timings and licence period
Generally, the licence process can take up to 6 weeks from your licence application submission. If a Resident Labour Market Test is required (see our links to the individual visa types for more information), this should be completed before your application.

The sponsor licence will be valid for 4 years.

Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) types
There are different types of CoS, depending on the visa route the migrant is utilising.

  • Restricted: for Tier 2 (General) coming from overseas who will be paid less than £159,600 per year and family members of Tier 4 migrants, who are switching to Tier 2.( a request a certificate must be submitted to Home Office during the specified monthly cycle for consideration)
  • Unrestricted: for all other types of application. This CoS is unrestricted as your organisation can apply for as many as your business needs.
  • Tier 4: use the Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) which is assigned in a similar way, however, these certificates are counted separately, and do not fall into either of the categories above.

How we can help
Our service is personalised and our team is ready to assist your company with preparing for your sponsor licence application.  We will also ensure that the right systems are in place to comply with your ongoing sponsorship duties.

Our strong relationship with the UKV&I Sponsor Licensing Unit enable us to effectively manage the progress of your licence application.  Our applications are normally considered within the processing timelines. A failure to comply with your sponsor duties should not be overlooked, as it can have huge ramifications for your business and your employees.

If you are required to run a Resident Labour Market Test, we can do this for you, or simply advise you on the process. We can even be registered users on your sponsor licence, to assist you with its day-to-day management.

The level of assistance we can provide is up to you and we can tailor our advice to suit your needs.

We will be with you every step of the way. 

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Clients of Herrington Carmichael LLP ‘always receive a consistently high level of service’ from the immigration team, which is praised for its ‘excellent knowledge of immigration law and the procedures and processes behind it, ensuring that all avenues are considered so as to mitigate against any risks’. The practice has cultivated a firm following among employers nationwide, who regularly instruct the firm on licence application compliance, Brexit-related immigration issues, and ongoing compliance with sponsor duties and recruitment of migrant workers, among other matters.

- Legal 500, 2019

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