Sponsor Licence Application
You’ll usually need a 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.
This includes unpaid work, like running a charity.
You will not need a licence to sponsor certain groups, for example:
- Irish citizens
- those with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
- those with indefinite leave to remain in the UK
Sponsoring someone does not guarantee that they’ll get a visa to work for you in the UK.
How to get a sponsor licence
- Check your business is eligible.
- Check if your job is suitable for sponsorship.
- Choose the type of licence you want to apply for – this will depend on what type of worker you want to sponsor.
- Decide who will manage sponsorship within your business.
- Apply online and pay the fee.
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may visit your business to check it’s suitable.
After you apply
You’ll be given a licence rating if your application is successful.
You’ll be able to issue certificates of sponsorship if you have jobs that are suitable for sponsorship.
Your licence will be valid for 4 years. You may lose your licence if you do not meet your responsibilities as a sponsor.
To get a licence as an employer, you cannot have:
- unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering
- had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months
You’ll need appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees and people to manage sponsorship in your business.
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will review your application form and supporting documents. They may visit your business to make sure you’re trustworthy and capable of carrying out your duties.
You can sponsor a worker if the job they’re going to do has a suitable rate of pay and skill level, or meets the other criteria needed for their visa.
Additional requirements for religious workers
You’ll usually have to advertise any job you offer to someone with a Religious Worker visa, unless it’s a non-essential position or involves living within a religious order (such as a monk or nun).
You must keep records of when you do not have to advertise the job. You need to prove that there is not a suitable person to take the role, who does not require sponsorship.
There are rules you must follow about how to advertise jobs for religious workers.
Additional requirements for creative workers
Creative jobs done by someone on a Creative Worker visa include:
- ballet dancers and other dancers
- film and TV performers
- theatre and opera performers
- film and TV workers
For creative jobs, you must make sure that either:
- you comply with the creative workers code of practice (if it exists for that occupation)
- the job is on the shortage occupations list
- If the job is not on the shortage occupation list, and there is no code of practice, you need to check that the job cannot be done by a worker who does not need sponsoring.
If you are sponsoring a creative worker under 16
You may need to get a child performance licence if the worker is taking part in:
- films, plays, concerts or other public performances that the audience pays to see, or that take place on licensed premises
- paid modelling assignments
You must make sure that the person running the event applies at least 21 days before the event.
For more information on Sponsor Licence Applications, please get in contact where we would love to discuss further on how we could help you.Learn More
Additional requirements for workers on an International Sportsperson visa
For sporting jobs that will be done by someone on the International Sportsperson visa, you must get an endorsement letter from the relevant governing body.
You can only sponsor a foreign worker under 18 on:
- an International Sportsperson visa – they must be 16 or over
- a Creative Worker visa – there’s no minimum age
- a Government Authorised Exchange visa – there’s no minimum age
You cannot sponsor a foreign worker under 18 on any other visa.
Types of licence
The licence you need depends on whether the workers you want to fill your jobs are:
- ‘Workers’ – for skilled or long-term employment
- ‘Temporary workers’ – for specific types of temporary employment
You can apply for a licence covering one or both types of worker.
A ‘Worker’ licence will let you sponsor people in different types of skilled employment. The skilled work can be for a short time, long-term or permanent depending on the worker’s visa.
The licence is split into:
- Skilled Worker – the role must meet the job suitability requirements
- Senior or Specialist Worker visa (Global Business Mobility) – for multinational companies which need to transfer established employees to the UK, previously the Intra-company Transfer visa
- Minister of Religion – for people coming to work for a religious organisation
- International Sportsperson – for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK
Temporary Worker licence
A ‘Temporary Worker’ licence will let you sponsor people on a temporary basis, including for volunteering and job-shadowing. You can only get a Temporary Worker licence for specific types of employment and visas.
The licence is split into:
- Scale-up Worker – for people coming to work for a fast-growing UK business
- Creative Worker – to work in the creative industry, for example as an entertainer or artist (up to 2 years)
- Charity Worker – for unpaid workers at a charity (up to 1 year)
- Religious Worker – for those working in a religious order or organisation (2 years)
- Government Authorised Exchange – work experience (1 year), research projects or training, for example practical medical or scientific training (2 years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge
- International Agreement – where the worker is coming to do a job which is covered by international law, for example employees of overseas governments
- Graduate Trainee (Global Business Mobility) – for workers transferring to their employer’s UK branch as part of a graduate training programme
- Service Supplier (Global Business Mobility) – for workers with a contract to provide services for a UK company (6 or 12 months)
- UK Expansion Worker (Global Business Mobility) – for workers sent to the UK to set up a new branch or subsidiary of an overseas business
- Secondment Worker (Global Business Mobility) – for workers transferring from overseas to work for a different UK business as part of a high-value contract
- Seasonal Worker – allows people to come to the UK and work in horticulture (for example, picking fruit and vegetables) for up to 6 months, or poultry from 18 October to 31 December each year
If you’re sponsoring a scale-up worker
Your sponsorship responsibilities as a sponsor for a scale-up worker will end 6 months after they get permission to come to or stay in the UK.
After that, a scale-up worker can do any of the following until their visa expires:
- continue working for you without getting a new certificate of sponsorship
- change jobs without getting a new sponsor
Sponsorship management roles
You need to appoint people within your business to manage the sponsorship process when you apply for a licence.
The main tool they’ll use is the sponsorship management system (SMS).
The roles are:
- authorising officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the SMS
- key contact – your main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
- level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS
These roles can be filled by the same person or different people.
You can also appoint an optional level 2 user once you have your licence. This is an SMS user with more restricted access than a level 1 user, for example they cannot withdraw a certificate of sponsorship.
You and your staff will be checked to make sure you’re suitable for these roles. You may not get your licence if anyone involved in sponsorship has:
- an unspent criminal conviction for an offence listed in the guidance for sponsors
- been fined by UKVI in the past 12 months
- been reported to UKVI
- broken the law
- been a ‘key person’ at a sponsor that had its licence revoked in the last 12 months
- failed to pay VAT or other excise duty
You and your allocated staff must also:
- be based in the UK most of the time
- not be a contractor or consultant contracted for a specific project
- not be subject to a bankruptcy restriction order or undertaking, or a debt relief restriction order or undertaking
- not have a history of non-compliance with sponsor requirements
Your allocated staff must usually be paid members of staff, or office holders.
If you’re applying for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence, you can appoint an overseas worker as authorising officer if you do not have suitable staff based in the UK to do this role.
Read the full guidance on appointing ‘key personnel’.
HR contractors and agency staff
At least one level 1 user must be your employee.
You can have additional level 1 or level 2 users who are employed by third-party organisations that provide you with HR services.
A temporary member of staff supplied by an agency can be a level 2 user.
UK-based legal representatives
You can allocate any of the roles to a UK-based legal representative, apart from the authorising officer role. Your representative must be qualified to give immigration advice or services.
How long it takes to get a decision
Most applications are dealt with in less than 8 weeks. UKVI may need to visit your business.
You may be able to pay an extra £500 to get a decision within 10 working days. This service is limited to a small number of applications every working day. Faster decisions are allocated in the order that requests arrive (first come, first served).
You’ll be told how to ask for a faster decision after you apply.
Applications refused because of a mistake
You can apply to request a review of your application if you think it was refused because:
- the caseworker processing your application made a mistake
- your supporting documents were not considered
You cannot apply just because you disagree with the decision.
Check whether your worker needs an ATAS certificate
Before you assign a certificate of sponsorship to your worker, you may need to check whether the worker needs an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate.
Who needs to do this
You’ll need to do this if you’re sponsoring a worker on any of the following:
- a Skilled Worker visa
- a Senior or Specialist Worker visa (Global Business Mobility)
- a Graduate Trainee visa (Global Business Mobility)
- a UK Expansion Worker visa (Global Business Mobility)
- a Service Supplier visa (Global Business Mobility)
- a Secondment Worker visa (Global Business Mobility)
- a Scale-up Worker visa
- a Government Authorised Exchange visa
- an International Agreement visa
If you’re sponsoring a worker on any other visa, you do not need to do anything.
What you need to do
If you do need to check, you must follow these steps.
Check if the worker needs an ATAS certificate.
Answer the question on the certificate of sponsorship, confirming whether or not the worker needs an ATAS certificate. If they do not need an ATAS certificate, you may need to give a brief explanation of why.
If the worker does need an ATAS certificate, you must tell them that they need to get one and include it in their visa application.
Check if the worker needs an ATAS certificate
The worker will need an ATAS certificate if all of the following are true:
- you have a Student sponsor licence
- you’re sponsoring the worker in a relevant occupation code
- the worker will be carrying out research at PhD level or above in a ‘relevant subject’ – check the relevant subject areas list in the worker sponsor guidance
- the worker’s nationality is not exempt from needing an ATAS certificate – check the exempt nationalities list in the worker sponsor guidance
If your worker does not need an ATAS certificate because they will not be doing research at PhD level or above in a relevant subject but all of the other points apply, you’ll need to add an explanation note.
You can either:
- add a note to the ‘job description’ field on your certificate of sponsorship
- add a sponsor note after you have assigned your certificate of sponsorship
Example explanation note
The worker does not need an ATAS certificate because the role does not involve research at PhD level or above.
If the worker needs an ATAS certificate
- tell the worker that they need to get an ATAS certificate and include it in their visa application
- make and keep a copy of the ATAS certificate, once it has been issued
You do not need to add an explanation or a sponsor note if your worker does need an ATAS certificate.
Tell the worker that they need an ATAS certificate
Tell the worker that they must apply for an ATAS certificate and include it in their visa application.
If the worker does not include their ATAS certificate, their visa application will be refused and you may lose your sponsor licences.
ATAS certificate applications for workers can take at least 2 weeks to be processed (3 weeks between April and September).
Make and keep a copy of the ATAS certificate
When the worker has received their ATAS certificate, you must make and keep a copy of the certificate, or the electronic approval notice the worker received from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
Get in Touch
With years of experience working in UK immigration and British nationality law, our advisors can help you understand the process and take the right steps to obtain your visa. Get in touch today.