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A guide to UK visa sponsorship for employers

Published: Thursday 25th March 2021

If your company wants to hire an EU or non-EU worker in the United Kingdom, then you will need to secure a Sponsor Licence from the Home Office’s UK Visas & Immigration Section. This includes citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020. Consider this a contract between your company and the government to guarantee that through the UK visa sponsorship, you will adhere to the compliance duties associated with employing migrant workers.

The process involved in applying for a UK Visa sponsorship licence can be challenging and complicated. That’s why we have put together a guide with useful information and links to help employers. 

UK visa sponsorship: what is a sponsor licence?

A sponsor licence allows UK-based companies to employ skilled workers who are based overseas or within the UK. Once the licence is approved, it will be valid for a period of four years with the option for renewal.

Home Office or Home Department- British government department in Westminster

What are the main licence categories?

Skilled Worker (formerly Tier 2 General)

The Skilled Worker route is particularly designed for migrants who have been offered a job in the UK. This is the main immigration route for skilled workers from outside the UK, applying also to all EEA and Swiss nationals who wish to work in the UK. 

Intra-company Transfer (ICT) (formerly Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer) 

The ICT route is for migrants who have been offered a temporary position by their overseas organisation to work in its UK office. Unless the salary is above £73,900, the employee must have been working in this company for at least 12 months. The maximum total stay is five years unless the salary package is above £73,900. The route does not lead to settlement as opposed to the Skilled Worker visa route. 

Intra-company Graduate Trainee

You could also sponsor an employee under the Intra-company Graduate Trainee route. This route is designed for individuals who are moving to the UK as part of a graduate training programme for a managerial or specialist role. The trainee must have been working for the company for at least three months before the application date and the UK salary package must be at least £23,000.

UK visa sponsorship: eligibility requirements for a sponsor licence

To be eligible to apply for a sponsor licence, your organisation must be operating or trading lawfully in the UK. If you have multiple UK branches you may apply for one licence to cover all of them or apply for separate licences for each branch. A statutory body may conduct an inspection to ensure your business operates lawfully in the UK. You may also have to supply evidence that you hold the appropriate planning permission or local planning authority consent to run your class of business at your trading address. As part of your UK visa sponsorship licence application, you are pledging to accept all of the duties associated with being a sponsor licence holder and pay the salary rates defined by the Home Office. 

Visa application form, passports, tickets,English flag, magnifying glass on the world map. Concept of UK visa sponsorship

How to apply for a sponsor licence

To apply for a UK visa sponsorship licence you need to submit an application form online along with a minimum of four specified supporting documents as evidence of your trading presence in the UK. You also have to send a covering letter to provide background information about your business. During an assessment of your UK visa sponsorship licence application, the Home Office may also conduct a compliance visit at the company premises.

How much does a sponsor licence application cost?

The fee for a sponsor licence depends on the size and type of your business. This application fee is payable every four years. Fees are usually reviewed annually by the Home Office which publishes them on its website. Organisations classified as “medium” and “large” have to pay a sponsor licence fee of £1,476. This fee also applies to all businesses which do not meet the definition of a “small” sponsor. Registered Charities fall under the “small” sponsors category.

Moreover, your business would normally qualify as a small sponsor if your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less, your total assets are worth £5.1 million or less, or if you have 50 employees or fewer. So, “small” sponsors are required to pay a UK visa sponsorship licence fee of £536.

What documents will I need to apply for a UK visa sponsorship licence?

You will usually need to submit a minimum of four mandatory documents with the Skilled Worker UK visa sponsorship licence application. The mandatory document list is extensive and will depend on whether you are representing a public body, start-up, franchise or SME. Some easy to obtain documents may include:

  • Latest business bank statement
  • Employer’s liability insurance 
  • Certificate of VAT registration.
  • Evidence of registration as an employer with HMRC 
  • Proof of ownership or lease of business premises or rent agreement.
  • Latest audited or unaudited accounts

There are several types of sponsor licence and each type of licence will require different supporting documents. You can find out more about the requirements each skilled worker has to meet on the UK Government’s website.

If you’re looking to attract and hire the best talent in the UK, visit Zoek to see how we can help with your recruitment needs in the most cost-effective way.

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