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Sponsor Licence – Sponsoring an Employee

If your organisation wishes to hire from overseas and the candidate is not British or settled in the UK, you will need to obtain a Sponsor Licence. From January 2021 you will also need to have a sponsor licence to hire certain EEA nationals. Get in touch, for your sponsor licence quote.

The process of applying for and then maintaining a sponsor license is an ongoing commitment for your business. You will need to be aware of the rules and regulations surrounding the sponsor licence and sponsorship of an international worker. There are numerous duties that a sponsor licence holder needs to be aware of. By engaging RVS Solicitors, you can focus on running your organisation while we take care Sponsor Licence matters on your behalf.

We understand that your ability to recruit talent from overseas is vital to ensure your business can operate and expand on a global/international scale. With the UK’s departure from the EU and the subsequent end to the Free Movement, this has become even more important. Our team, comprising of the best immigration lawyers in the UK, specialise in sponsor licences and will ensure that your needs are taken care of.

Business sectors including finance, tech (and fintech), education, engineering, construction, hospitality, and retail are all heavily reliant on the recruitment of skilled staff. As such, it is essential that sponsoring employers not only have the necessary Work Visa Sponsor License, but they maintain it. Any interruption in the ability to recruit talent due to non-compliance with Sponsor Licence duties and responsibilities can have significant implications for day to day business operations.

To maintain compliance, Sponsor Licence holders must meet strict Home Office obligations.  A breach of compliance can result in your Sponsor Licence being downgraded, suspended and/or revoked.  In addition, organisations can face large fines and prison sentences may be handed down to owners and those in senior positions. This is why it is absolutely vital for your business to remain on top of its sponsorship duties, as well as relevant immigration rules.

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Our experts in Sponsorship License

Frequently Asked Questions

Sponsor Licence guidance – How we can help.

The process of applying for and then maintaining a sponsor license can be daunting. Our business immigration team is ideally placed to help you with all your needs throughout this complex journey. Our specialist sponsorship licence lawyers have worked with a wide range of businesses, from small to large.

Our friendly team of immigration lawyers offers full sponsor Licence guidance, assisting you at each stage of obtaining and then holding a sponsor licence. We will guide you through the application process and then ensure that you are able to maintain the licence. To this end we will assist you in the following:

  • Guide you in respect of what type of sponsorship licence you require and who the key personnel should be;
  • Explaining the evidential requirements to you and helping you collate it
  • Assisting you with the online application
  • Advising you whether the position you wish to hire for is suitable for sponsorship and if so, under which category
  • Auditing your HR system as well as internal policies and procedures in place to ensure that you meet the Home Office requirements and expectations for sponsor licence holders
  • Training your relevant personal on their duties
  • Sponsor Licence renewal
  • Helping you remain compliant with your duties
  • Assistance in case of Home Office visits, sponsors licence suspension or revocation.

Our solicitors will take the time to understand the details of your business, including structure, objectives, and employment needs.  Based on this, and our extensive knowledge of the sponsorship and compliance process, we will recommend an approach which will meet the needs of your business.

Our insightful approach to this process, together with our comprehensive understanding has set us apart from other law firms. We pride ourselves in maintaining a near 100% success record for sponsor licence applications where we have been instructed to assist and represent in the process from the outset. See our success stories and testimonials for more information.

 

What is sponsorship? – Worker visas

You have probably heard that in order to sponsor an employee you will need to be an approved sponsor. But what does it mean to sponsor an employee and when do you need to do it?

Generally, to be able to take up  a job offer in the UK, one must have the right to work. Some, like British nationals and those settled in the UK, will have a permanent right to work meaning there is no time limit as to how long you can continue employing them. Others, such as people on various visas that permit working in the UK, will only have temporary right to work. This means they can work for you until their visa is valid.

Therefore, for all the cases where you need to hire an overseas worker, whether they are based abroad or in the UK (but without a visa that allows them to work), you will need to sponsor a visa for them.

The sponsorship is the process by which you, a UK based organisation, provide evidence that a genuine job vacancy is available for a migrant and that vacancy has the required level of skill and is paying an appropriate salary. Another aspect to sponsorship is that the sponsoring organisation makes a pledge to the Home Office that they will abide by the relevant rules and laws surrounding immigration to the UK. This is because it’s considered that the business that sponsors a migrant is the number one beneficiary of the skilled worker’s immigration and therefore should also accept a certain level of responsibility in ensuring the immigration system is functioning properly.

How to become an approved sponsor?

To become an approved sponsor and be able to sponsor an employee, you will need to hold a sponsorship licence.

To apply for a sponsor license, your organisation must meet a minimum of the following requirements:

  • Be a genuine organisation legally operating in the UK,
  • Be an honest, dependable and reliable organisation that has not engaged in conduct that is contrary to the public good,
  • Be capable of meeting the Sponsor duties and have no record of prior failure to fulfil the duties of a sponsor license holder, and must not have any unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or money laundering,
  • Be able to demonstrate a genuine need for the sponsor licence,
  • Offer a genuine vacancy that meets the skill level requirement and you are able to pay the salary appropriate for that job.

RVS Solicitors understand the finer details of the eligibility requirements and can promptly advise if you will be able to apply for a Sponsor License, and how any potential challenges can be worked through.  We believe in being open and straight-forward with our clients and cutting through any legal complexity to make the matter as clear as possible.  We will work with a nominated advisor or representative of your business to gather the information necessary to put together a robust application – allowing you to focus on managing the operation and growth of your business.

How to apply for Sponsorship Licence?

The sponsor licence application is done online. Once the online form is filled with the required information, you will be asked to pay the relevant fee and submit the application. The information required for the application mainly deals with details for the organisation, including registered address, contact details, HMRC registration details for VAT, PAYE etc. You will also be asked to give details in respect of the area you trade in and the structure of your organisation.

After the online application is submitted, you will have five working days to submit the evidence in support of your application. Failure to supply satisfactory evidence will lead to refusal of the application. It is, therefore, essential that you have the correct evidence lined up before the online application is made. The evidence should cover the points mentioned in ‘How to become an approved sponsor‘.

It has to be outlined that in most cases a refusal of a sponsor licence application will mean you will have to wait for a minimum period of 6 months before you can reapply. As such, the importance of having experienced legal advisers guiding you cannot be overstressed.

What are the responsibilities of a Sponsor License holder?

1 – Appointing Key Personnel

As a holder of a sponsor license to recruit temporary or long-term employees from outside of the EEA, you will need to demonstrate that you have appointed ‘key personnel’, and they are of good character and dependable.  The key personnel that must be nominated are:

  • Authorising officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who operate the Sponsor Licence Management System (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

RVS Solicitors can assist by advising you in respect of the key personnel’s suitability. In some cases, we can also assist by taking over one of these key personnel roles for you.  We can also take over the management of your SMS, ensuring it is compliant and up-to-date.

2 – Complaint HR Systems

UKVI will need to see that you have implemented HR processes and systems that allow you to manage your sponsored staff, including:

  • Recording your employees’ immigration status
  • Keeping copies of relevant documents for each employee
  • Tracking and recording employees’ attendance
  • Storing current employee contact details
  • Reporting to UKVI if there is a problem, for example, if one of your employees stops coming to work

To ensure you are always compliant, we will review and recommend changes to your HR policies and procedures, manage your Sponsor-License Management System (SMS), and carry out mock compliance audits, which will simulate what will happen when UKVI officers pay a visit (which are often unannounced).

3 – Performing checks on sponsored workers

When assessing your compliance to hold a sponsor license, UKVI will look for evidence that:

  • any sponsored workers that you recruit have the necessary skills, qualifications or professional accreditations for their role
  • You have followed a genuine recruitment process for the position. Even though resident labour market tests are no longer mandatory, you are still required to show that the position was genuine and that the role isn’t  merely a vehicle to allow the migrant to get leave in the UK
  • You only assign certificates of sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship, and;
  • Your business is offering employment positions suitable for skill requirements, which are genuine positions and the meet minimum salary guidelines

Let our team take the burden of applying for a sponsor licence and managing your compliance duties and responsibilities.  We will partner with your organisation long-term, providing practical, smart advice tailored to the needs of your business and its staff.

Sponsoring a visa – how to sponsor an employee

Once you have the sponsor licence and are put on the official registrar of sponsorship licence companies, you will be able to sponsor an employee for their visa. Having the sponsor licence doesn’t mean you can simply hire the worker. There is a procedure that you need to follow to allow you to sponsor your employee.

To sponsor an employee for a visa, you will need to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to them. This process can be different depending on who you are sponsoring. Broadly speaking, there are two types of Certificates of Sponsorship – defined and undefined.

The first type, defined sponsorship, is usually required when the employee is applying from overseas. The undefined sponsorship is usually suitable for those who already are in the UK and are able to switch to the worker visa category. You will need to request the Certificate of Sponsorship from the Home Office through the Sponsor Management system and once it’s approved you can issue the certificate to your employee.

Once the Certificate of Sponsorship has been issued, you will have a unique number which your employee will be required to present for their worker visa application. Each certificate is nominal and can only be used by the person it’s issued to within a certain time period.

Sponsoring a visa – how to sponsor an employee

If you are reading this page then chances are you require a sponsor licence because you have a potential employee who requires visa sponsorship. Usually, this will mean that you have limited time in which to get the sponsorship and sponsor the worker, or risk losing a good hiring opportunity. In many cases if the worker is already with your organisation, it might mean a chaotic transitional period if the employee is forced to leave the country before you find a replacement. Therefore, knowing what to expect in respect of time-frames is essential.

To assess how long it takes to get a Sponsorship Licence, we need to consider both stages of the process: preparing the application and then the wait time for a decision.

The preparation stage of the application will normally depend on you. Once you instruct our organisation to deal with your Licence application, we will issue you with a list of documents to put together. How quickly you gather the documents will depend entirely on you. Once we have all the documents we will need about 2 weeks to finalise the application. In urgent cases this can be done even quicker. This is in case there is no need to audit your organisation for purposes of determining your readiness for compliance.

Once the application is submitted, you are facing an 8 week waiting time if the Home Office decides they don’t need to do further investigation on your circumstances. The time can be shortened significantly if you apply for priority service, in which case it takes 10 working days to make a decision.

You will need to take into account the fact that after obtaining the licence you will still need to get the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), which can also take a couple of days. Therefore, it’s best to apply for a licence beforehand, even if you do not have an urgent need for it.

How much does it cost to sponsor a visa?

This is a very frequent question that pops on our radar, unfortunately there are many variables in the equation and we cannot put a clear price tag on sponsoring a visa.

Your costs will be as follows:

  1. Home office fees with licence application, which differ based on size of business and route you apply for
  2. Priority service (if opted for)
  3. Legal costs will depend on the type of work and the organisation you choose to represent you
  4. CoS fee
  5. Immigration Skill Surcharge – will be payable if you are bringing a migrant based overseas and will depend on the size of your business and job type.
  6. Visa fees for the migrant (if you decide to cover those)
  7. Immigration Health Surcharge for migrants (if you decide to cover those)
  8. For some companies that offer accommodation, travel expenses etc, those will need to be taken into account too.

To find out more about how we can assist you with obtaining a Sponsor Licence or managing your compliance, please contact our London office on 020 3372 5125 or complete our online enquiry form to make an appointment. Find out more information on our fees here.

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