UK employers require Sponsor Licence to employ skilled foreign nationals from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. The sponsor licence is granted by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) under the new UK immigration points-based system.

UKVI grants UK employers with a sponsor licence under the Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa categories which allow employers to employ and sponsor the non-EEA migrants.

With a successful UKVI sponsor licence application, employers can then issue Certificates of Sponsorship required as part of non-EEA employees application.

Applying for a Sponsor Licence, however, is a complex process and involves submitting the right documents and evidence to satisfy UKVI requirements.

Data from recent years show that more than 15% of sponsorship licence applications are refused by the UKVI and as there’s no right to appeal for unsuccessful applications, you will need to wait for a specified period of time and make a new application at full cost.

As such, it’s crucial to get it right for the first time and seeking professional help with your sponsor licence application can help you save both time and application costs.

If you are thinking about employing a non-EEA national (this can be someone who already works for you or your new hire to fill one of the positions you have available), we can assist you with both applications for your company and your employee.

Need Help With Sponsor Licence Application?

We have an experienced team dedicated to Tier 2 Sponsor Licence applications and we will be happy to assist with your application. Contact us today to see how we can help you in obtaining a sponsorship licence.

Our general process of assisting you with your sponsor licence involves;

  • Assess your particular circumstances and advise on the merits of Tier 2 Sponsor Licence application and any subsequent Tier 2 General visa application, if the employee has already been identified.
  • Assist with the preparation of the application for sponsor licence, including filling the online application form and advising on the documentary requirements.
  • Once the sponsor licence is granted, we will assist you with issuing CoS for any employee you have identified.
  • If Resident Labour Market Test needs to be satisfied, we will assist and advise you on the requirements for advertisements.
  • Once the CoS is issued, we will assist with the preparation of Tier 2 General visa application and book an appointment if required.

Continue reading for our detailed guide on Sponsor Licence application.

Depending on the job requirements you are looking to fulfil, you can apply sponsor licence that allows you to sponsor migrants in Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa categories of the UK immigration points-based system.

Tier 2 – skilled workers with long-term job offers
Tier 5 – skilled temporary workers

Tier 2 Sponsor Licence is the most common application that allows you to employ skilled workers for permanent job positions but you can choose to apply for both if required.

Tier 2 Sponsor Licence Overview

A Tier 2 Sponsor Licence enables a UK employer to employ (i.e. sponsor) skilled and highly-qualified migrants from outside the EEA and Switzerland to fulfil a suitable job position.

After a migrant (who could be in the UK or outside the UK) has been sponsored by a UK employer to take a particular job, he/she has to apply for a visa under Tier 2 category. If they are successful in the visa application then they are allowed to start working for that employer in the specified job.

To acquire a Tier 2 sponsor licence, the employer has to make an application to the Home Office. The application has two parts: firstly an online application and secondly the physical submission by post or courier of certain documents.

Documents such as financial accounts, certificate of employer’s liability insurance, premises lease, documents relating to VAT, PAYE, national insurance, etc.. are required to submit along with the application. These are the sort of documents that will show that the employer is a respectable organisation that pays due taxes and follows applicable laws and rules.

The Home Office will assess the application, and in some cases also pay a visit to the employer’s premises and carry out an audit, most particularly of the HR systems, to assess whether the HR systems are sufficiently rigorous to manage migrant workers. If the Home Office is fully satisfied then the employer will be granted a Tier 2 sponsor licence.

The employer is given an online system called the “sponsorship management system” (SMS) which they will use for all matters relating to Tier 2 sponsorship visa in the UK.

When the employer wants to sponsor a migrant to fill a particular job they may have had to advertise the job beforehand, so as to test whether a resident worker in the UK could have been available to take the job (this is called the “resident labour market test”).

For the employer to sponsor the migrant the employer must also issue a “certificate of sponsorship” (CoS) for the migrant. This is an online virtual document which contains various detailed information about the employer, the migrant and the job, and it has a unique reference number. When the migrant submits the visa application they must quote this reference number.

A general overview of the steps involved in the application process of sponsorship licence include:

Step 1: Ensure Your Business is Eligible to Apply

To ensure your business is eligible to apply, you need to fulfil these main conditions;

  • You should be free from criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering.
  • You shouldn’t have the previous history of failing to carry out the sponsorship duties.
  • You should have appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees.

Step 2: Choose The Type of Sponsor licence You Need

You will need to specify the type of workers or migrants your business is looking to sponsor and accordingly apply for a suitable licence.

Tier 2 – Skilled workers with long-term or permanent job offers. Tier 2 visas include Tier 2 General, Intra-Company Transfer, Minister of Religion and Sportsperson.

Tier 5 – Skilled temporary workers. Tier 5 visas include Charity Worker, Religious Worker, Government Authorised Exchange, International Agreement and Creative and Sporting.

You can apply for a sponsor licence covering Tier 2 visas, Tier 5 visas, or both.

Step 3: Appoint Someone to Manage Sponsor Management Roles

As part of the sponsor licence application, you will need to appoint someone within your business to manage sponsor roles once you have been granted the licence.

All the responsibilities are managed using the UKVI’s tool – sponsorship management system (SMS).

The sponsorship management roles that need to be fulfilled include;

Authorising Officer – a senior person within your business 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 Sponsorship Management System.

All these roles can also be allocated to the same person within your business.

Step 4: Prepare and Send Sponsor Licence Application

You will need to use the online application service of the UKVI to get started with the process. After completing the application, you will also be asked to send the required supporting documents to the following UKVI address.

Sponsor casework operations
Sponsor applications team
UK Visas and Immigration
PO Box 3468
S3 8WA

UKVI provides a general estimated time of less than 8 weeks, claiming that 8 out of 10 applications are dealt with in less than 8 weeks.

Supporting documents are mainly related to the proof of verifying your business. You will need to submit at least four documents to show that you are a genuine business.

UKVI usually allows five working days to submit the required additional documents and the

The fees for the sponsor licence application depends on the type of licence you want to apply for and whether you are a small business or a medium and large organisation.

Sponsor Licence TypeSmall / Charitable sponsorsMedium or Large Sponsors
Tier 2£536£1,476
Tier 5£536£536
Tier 2 and Tier 5£536£ 1,476
Add a Tier 2 to an existing Tier 5No Fee£940
Add a Tier 5 to an existing Tier 2No feeNo fee

You are classified as a small business when

  • your annual turnover doesn’t exceed £10.2 million
  • you employ 50 or fewer employees in your business.

UKVI Visits for Verification

Once you submit your application, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will review your online application along with the supporting documents you provided along with your application.

The UKVI may visit your business to make sure you’re a credible business and capable of carrying out your sponsorship duties after you are issued a licence.

Experienced Lawyers for Sponsor Licence Application

The Tier 2 Visa system in the UK is, in its entirety, quite complex, and the UKVI is notoriously particular in their assessments, especially with the sponsor licence application process.

Our lawyers have more than 10 years of experience working with corporate clients and we have helped businesses of all sizes successfully obtain Sponsor Licence over the past years.

Our Sponsor Licence Services Review
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If you need assistance with your Sponsor Licence application, please get in touch with our London-based immigration lawyers on 020 7439 3000.

You can book a consultation with one of our Sponsor Licence application experts to discuss you case.