For many businesses, particularly those who operate in the hospitality, technology, finance, and agricultural sectors, being able to recruit talent from outside the EEA is crucial. And to do this, you must have a valid Tier 2 or 5 Sponsor Licence.
Applying for a Tier 2 or 5 Sponsor Licence is relatively straightforward, provided you enlist the help of a professional advisor to ensure your HR processes and procedures can meet Home Office compliance requirements.
It is also important to remember that obtaining a UK Sponsor Licence is only the beginning of the process. Failure to conduct Right to Work checks properly and meet all Sponsor Licence holder duties and responsibilities can result in your licence being downgraded, suspended, or revoked, in addition to crippling fines being meted out.
One of the best ways to ensure your organisation is fully compliant is to have an immigration solicitor act in the role of ‘Key Personnel’ (see below), maintain the Sponsor Management System (SMS), run Resident Labour Market Tests (RLMT), and oversee all other compliance issues on your behalf.
But before organising such matters, the first step is to apply for a Tier 2 or 5 Sponsor Licence.
What type of organisations can apply for a UK Sponsor Licence?
To be considered eligible for a Tier 2 or 5 Sponsor Licence, it must be shown your business is:
- genuine and operating lawfully within the UK
- holds appropriate planning permission or Local Planning Authority consent for the type of trade that is operated from the premises
- be honest, dependable and reliable, and not present any threat to UK immigration control
- be capable of complying with the required duties and responsibilities attached to a Sponsor Licence
If you are operating a restaurant or other food business, you will need the appropriate food safety certificates and be registered with a relevant food authority.
What is the procedure for applying for a Tier 2 or 5 Sponsor Licence?
To successfully apply for a Sponsor Licence, the following process will need to be followed:
Step 1 – Determine the type of Sponsor Licence to apply for
Before applying for your Sponsor Licence, you will need to determine the type of workers you wish to recruit. The two options are:
- Tier 2 – this is for skilled workers for whom you can provide long-term positions
- Tier 5 – applies to skilled temporary workers
The next decision surrounds the type of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) you will need. There are two types: restricted and unrestricted.
Unrestricted COS are offered to employees who will be earning over £159,600 or those switching to a Tier 2 visa within the UK. As the name suggests, there is no limit to how many unrestricted CoS you can apply for.
Restricted CoS are for skilled employees who will earn less than £159,600 per annum and dependents of Tier 4 migrants switching to a Tier 2 visa. These are subject to an annual restriction and are allocated on a monthly basis.
Step 2 – appoint key personnel
You will need to nominate certain people in your company to fulfil certain key roles, namely:
- Authorising Officer
- Key Contact
- Level 1 user
- Level 2 user
The same person can fulfil all these roles. The roles can also be contracted out, for example, assigned to your solicitor; however, there must be one Level 1 user who is an employee of the organisation.
Step 3 – Fill in your application and collate supporting documentation
An application for a Sponsor Licence is made online. All supporting documents must be submitted within five days of the application being made. Preparation prior to submission is essential, as any delays can result in additional costs being incurred (not to mention lost productivity time).
Step 4 – Prepare for a visit from the Home Office
It is likely the Home Office will pay a visit to your premises before granting you a Sponsor Licence. The purpose of the visit will be to ensure your HR systems are robust enough to meet the compliance requirements, which include detailed record-keeping and visa monitoring.
One of the best ways to prepare for a Home Office visit is to have a mock audit performed by an immigration solicitor who can assess the strengths and weaknesses of your HR policies and procedures and advise you on improvements you will need to make.
Is there anything I can do if my application for a Sponsor Licence is refused?
Unfortunately, there is no option for an appeal if your application for a Sponsor Licence is refused. There is an opportunity to apply for a ‘pre-decision error correction’ procedure, whereby you can challenge the refusal on grounds there has been a ‘simple case working error’ or where supporting evidence sent with the initial application has not been considered. If this does not elicit a positive result, an application for Judicial Review can be considered.