Sponsor Licence Application

UK companies may need a Sponsor Licence to hire foreign workers from overseas. The type of licence will be determined by the role the employee will be fulfilling and the company size.

Expert Guidance, Every Step of the Way

Ready to get started?

Table of contents

Sponsorship Licence Overview

UK companies may need a Sponsor Licence to hire foreign workers from overseas. The type of licence will be determined by the role the employee will be fulfilling and the company size.

The typical process to become a Licensed Sponsor usually involves the following steps:

  1. Check that your business meets the eligibility criteria
  2. Check that the role in question is suitable for sponsorship
  3. Choose the type of licence for which you want to apply
  4. Ensure you have someone to manage the sponsorship in your company
  5. Submit your application

Sponsorship Licence eligibility

UK employers may need a Sponsor Licence when looking to employ individuals from outside the UK. This includes citizens from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland if they arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020.

Please note that the Employer Sponsorship Licence is not required if you are looking to employ Irish citizens, individuals who have pre-settled or settled status, or those who have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.

General requirements

As an employer, you will have to meet several eligibility criteria to apply for a Sponsor Licence. Some of the key requirements include:

  • Operating from the UK
  • Being a genuine business, organisation, or sole trader
  • Having no history of serious immigration violations
  • Being able to nominate at least one staff member for Sponsorship Management System (SMS) roles to ensure compliance with sponsorship duties
  • Having a genuine vacancy that meets the skill level and salary requirements prescribed by the Home Office
  • Being able to produce all documents required for the application

Please note that nominated SMS roles would also need to meet their own suitability requirements.

When assessing applications, the Home Office will look at both eligibility and suitability criteria to make their decision. Our immigration lawyers know what the Home Office is looking for and can advise you accordingly. We highly recommend getting legal support if you wish to obtain and retain an Employer Sponsor Licence.

Types of licences

Sponsorship Licences can apply to a number of routes. These routes allow UK companies to hire workers with different skill levels for either paid or unpaid work. The type of licence needed depends on the type of role you are filling.

Worker licence

Workers must work in an eligible occupation and meet both the salary requirements and the going rate prescribed by the home office. Those with a job offer from a company with a Sponsor Licence may apply for the following visas:

Temporary worker licence

Skilled workers who will be undertaking work for a limited period may have to obtain a Temporary Worker Visa with the sponsorship of their employer. This type of visa may apply to:

  • Global Business Mobility
  • Charity workers
  • Creative workers
  • Religious workers
  • Sportspersons
  • Seasonal workers
  • International agreement workers
  • Government Authorised Exchange

* The Global Business Mobility route above includes UK Expansion Worker Visa, Graduate Trainee Visa, Secondment Worker Visa and Service Supplier Visa

Employers will have to check the maximum stay duration for their employees and any additional requirements that some roles may have.

Sponsoring under 18s

In some cases, you may be able to sponsor workers under 18 if they are on one of the following visas:

  • International Sportsperson Visa (16 or over)
  • Creative Worker Visa (no minimum age)
  • Government Authorised Exchange Visa (no minimum age)

Sponsor responsibilities

Employers have a number of responsibilities they need to undertake if they wish to retain their licence and continue employing foreign workers. Key responsibilities include:

  • Ensuring that the workers have all the necessary skills, qualifications or accreditations required to carry out their roles
  • Assigning Certificates of Sponsorships to workers that have a job suitable job for sponsorship
  • Informing UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) when a sponsored worker is not complying with their visa conditions

Employers will need to be able to monitor their employees’ immigration status. This can include keeping a copy of right to work documents such as passports, keeping the employees’ contact details up to date and tracking employee attendance. In addition to informing UKVI about the aforementioned, it is also critical that you inform them immediately if an employee stops coming to work or is no longer contactable.

It also falls under an employer’s responsibility to report any major changes to the company. This can include mergers, take-overs, the nature of the business changing drastically, or if the business stops trading. Any change in role allocation or company details must also be communicated using the Sponsorship Management System.

Please note that reporting any change can take up to 18 weeks to process. You can opt for a priority service to register a change within five working days, for an additional £200 fee.

The responsibilities to fulfil as a sponsor can be extensive, so hiring immigration lawyers is highly beneficial to ensure you understand all aspects of being a sponsor, thereby avoiding the risk of losing your licence.

Under 18s

For foreign workers under 18, employers will need to ensure that they arrange for travel to the UK, arrival and living arrangements there. Parents must also consent to the care arrangements, and some workers may need a Disclosure and Barring Service Check before they can come to the UK.

For children under 16, you will need to check the rules on how many hours children can work and whether they need an employment permit from their local council. Please note that you can only sponsor children under 16 if they are coming to the UK on a Creative Worker Visa or a Government Authorised Exchange Visa.

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 would use is the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

The sponsorship management roles that can be carried out by one or more people 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 UKVI
  • Level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS

Please note that only level 1 or 2 users can access the SMS.

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, e.g., they cannot withdraw a Certificate of Sponsorship.

It is important that the persons appointed to these roles are responsible and available. They all play a part in ensuring that the sponsorship duties are adhered to. Failing to comply with sponsorship duties can have severe consequences such as fines, licence rating reductions and licence revocation.


For how long is an Employer Sponsor Licence valid?

Link to open QC Immigration job description

My sponsored employee is not following the conditions stipulated in their visa, what can I do?

Link to open QC Immigration job description

How can I obtain an Employer Sponsorship Licence?

Link to open QC Immigration job description

Can I withdraw a Certificate of Sponsorship?

Link to open QC Immigration job description

What happens to my licence if I get more than 2 B-ratings?

Link to open QC Immigration job description

How much does an Employer Sponsor Licence cost?

Link to open QC Immigration job description