Sponsor Licence Application Guidance UK

Our team at WestBridge Business Immigration works with your business to make your Sponsor Licence application painless and fast. If we apply for your Sponsor Licence and it is refused, we offer a full refund on our professional fees.

Expert Guidance to Successfully

Apply for a Sponsor Licence in the UK

If your business needs skilled migrant workers from outside the UK, they may require sponsorship. Where migrant workers require sponsorship, you must obtain a Sponsor Licence before the migrant can be sponsored by you to come and work in the UK.

Not completing the process correctly or having your application rejected can have adverse commercial consequences such as serious delays which can be caused by the application of cooling off periods if the application is refused. 

Our qualified immigration lawyers based in London are experts in UK Sponsor Licence applications and can help you obtain your Sponsor Licence with ease. 

  • Your Sponsor Licence application will be dealt with by a dedicated lawyer from start to finish. 
  • We advise and walk you through your application process at every step.
  • We can help you navigate through the complex immigration processes. 
  • We are transparent in our work. 

If you require Sponsor Licence application support, please call our dedicated team now to learn more about applying for a sponsor licence and the support that we can give. 

What is a Sponsor Licence?

A Sponsor Licence (It used to be called a Tier 2 sponsor licence) allows you to sponsor migrants to work for you in the UK. Without a licence, you will not be able to legally sponsor workers, even if they are from Europe. Brexit and labour shortages have made hiring staff more difficult.

Businesses need skilled migrants and many require sponsorship to work in the UK. Where migrants require sponsorship, businesses must hold a Sponsor Licence to allow applicants to successfully apply for a visa as a Skilled Worker.

Significant changes to the immigration rules happened after Brexit. Now businesses wanting to hire from European countries may need a sponsor licence too.

Sponsor Licences are granted by the Home Office. It is also necessary for unpaid work like volunteering for a charity. 

However, not all migrant workers require sponsorship. For example, if your business wants to hire an Irish citizen, you do not need a sponsor licence to hire the Irish citizen. Moreover, people with pre-settled or settled status and indefinite leave to remain in the UK do not need sponsorship either.

Though there are some visas that do not require corporate sponsorship they may require sponsorship from other sources such as British spouses. Not all applicants can meet the requirements for these visa categories meaning that having a Sponsor Licence can be a great option to give you the flexibility to hire migrant workers.

Businesses can find Sponsor Licence applications and continued compliance is quite complicated. Businesses must go through a lot of paperwork and time-consuming processes to become a sponsor licence holder. The Home Office are very strict with the documents they will accept, which can be very stressful for businesses.

Not only that, if your Sponsor Licence is granted there is no way of knowing whether the migrant will meet the requirements for visa sponsorship. Meaning that their visa could be refused after your hard work obtaining a Sponsor Licence.

As a result, without proper expertise, acquiring a sponsor licence can become very lengthy and stressful process. That is why many businesses hire an expert immigration lawyer to help them with the obtaining a Sponsor Licence. 

Due to the complexities, you may find that hiring an Immigration lawyer will streamline the process and give you the advice to avoid costly mistakes. Law firms can make sense of the paperwork and help you jump through the obstacles of the sponsor licence application.

Types of Sponsor Licences

There are several different types of Sponsor Licences depending on the job type and visa category the individual would be applying for. If your organisation wants to hire skilled employees for the long term, you need a Worker Sponsor Licence.

On the other hand, a Temporary Worker Sponsor Licence is necessary for any kind of temporary work inside the UK. You will also need a separate sub-licence if you want to hire individuals from your linked businesses overseas. 

Let’s dive into more detail about the different licence types. 

Worker Sponsor Licence

This licence can be used to hire individuals from outside and inside the UK on a permanent basis. 

The term of employment can be both short and long, Skilled Workers do not need to settle in the UK. To be eligible for a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence, the role you are trying to fill must meet certain criteria.

For businesses that want to hire skilled migrant workers, a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence is the main route. Businesses can benefit in many ways from this process as well. Mainly access to a vast pool of talented employees from across the globe. 

Organisations can also hire religious workers on a permanent basis, but they need to apply for a Religious Worker Sponsor Licence. 

Sports clubs can also hire professional sports players and coaches under the Professional Sports Person Sponsor Licence.

Temporary Worker Sponsor Licence

This is the second major category of sponsor licence. If you do not wish to hire the individual on a permanent basis and only require them for a few weeks, months or years, the Temporary Worker Sponsor Licence is your best option.

Temporary Worker Sponsor Licences are split into separate sub-categories, and you can apply for different sub-categories of Temporary Worker Sponsor Licence, some examples include Global Business Mobility routes (Senior and Specialist workers, graduate trainees) and those under the Temporary Work routes (such as charity workers, temporary religious workers).

Temporary work could mean shadowing or also voluntary work. Therefore, charity and non-paid work would require a Temporary Worker Sponsor Licence. Migrants can also be hired for projects or management of teams and may be able to stay in the UK for up to 9 years in any 10 year period.

In addition, this licence is available for specific roles. Below is a breakdown by length of service with their sponsored employer required:

3 Months of Service

Graduate Trainee: Many businesses provide graduate trainee programs. This form of employment is a form of temporary work and can allow graduates to obtain vital experience in the UK to assist with their programs back in their home country. They can hold a this visa for up to 12 months.

As a result, businesses need to attain a sponsor licence for graduate trainees if they wish to transfer to the UK branch of the organisation.

12 Months of Service or Experience

Service Supplier: Workers hired to provide any kind of service in the UK as part of a contract between yourselves and a UK business. Where the individual is hired by a business outside the UK they must have worked for their overseas employer for at least 12 months, or if they are self-employed must have at least 12 months of experience. They can hold this visa for either 6 months or 12 months depending on the relevant trade agreement they are relying on.

Senior and Specialist Workers: Individuals working for an overseas business may come to the UK for up to 9 years in any 10-year period to complete activities such as implementation of a new project or system, managing the business for a number of years. To meet the requirements of this category the role is required to meet strict requirements. Migrants must be employed by their overseas employer for at least 12 months unless they fall under the exemption.

Secondment Workers: If you have a high value contract with a UK-based client, you may bring over a worker from your overseas business on secondment to the particular firm. Individuals must have worked for their employer overseas for at least 12 months. These visas can be held for up to 12 months.

No Prior Service Required

Creative Workers: Workers who work in any creative field will be considered creative workers. For example, an artist, musician etc. This visa can be held for up to 12 months.

Charity Workers: Charities can employ charity workers to volunteer with them to complete unpaid work. Migrants can work for up to 12 months.

Government Authorised Exchange: If you want to hire employees to complete internships, work experience, training or research, then this visa category is the best for your business. Those applying under this category will need sponsorship from an approved body with a sponsor licence. The goal of this employment is to provide a short-term transfer of knowledge. This visa can be held for up to 24 months.

International Agreement: This covers workers that are coming under an international agreement, and includes workers that are from an overseas government, a recognised international organisation or private servants of a diplomatic household. The length that this visa can be held is up to 2 years or 5 years depending on the individual’s role. 

Religious Workers: Employees working with a religious organisation or order can be sponsored to work in the UK on a temporary basis. This visa can be held for up to 24 months.

Scale-up Worker: The UK has lots of booming businesses. Employers are always looking to hire the best talent. If a fast-growing business wants to hire talent from outside the UK, the employee could apply for a scale-up visa. This will allow the individual business to scale up its operations with the best staff. Under this category are able to apply for settlement after they have been in the UK for 5 years, but their visa will be granted initially for up to 2 years.

Seasonal Workers: Seasonal workers are migrants that will complete horticultural farm work such as picking fruit or poultry production. There are caps on the number of workers that can come in to the UK under these categories and the length of their visa depends on the role they are completing in the UK. You should note that those undertaking Poultry production also have restrictions on when they can work in the UK.

UK Expansion Workers: If workers are sent to the UK set up a new subsidiary or a UK branch, they may be eligible for a UK Expansion Worker visa. These visas can be held for up to 2 years.

When to Apply for a Sponsor Licence?

You should apply for a Sponsor Licence well in advance of when you anticipate needing it. The timing of your application depends on several factors, including your organization’s specific circumstances and the type of workers you plan to sponsor. Here are some general guidelines for when to apply for a Sponsor Licence:

Plan Ahead: It’s advisable to start the application process as early as possible. The process can take several weeks, and sometimes longer, so don’t leave it to the last minute.

Before Hiring Migrant Workers: You should apply for a Sponsor Licence before you intend to hire migrant workers. This includes workers who will require a Skilled Worker (formerly Tier 2 General) or Global Business Mobility (formerly Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer) visa, among others. Give yourself enough time to obtain the licence and go through the necessary steps before your intended hire date.

Before the Expiry of an Existing Licence: If your organization already holds a Sponsor Licence and it’s due to expire, you should apply for a renewal in advance of the expiry date. Failing to do so could disrupt your ability to employ migrant workers.

When Expanding or Diversifying Your Workforce: If you’re planning to expand your workforce and intend to hire foreign workers, apply for a Sponsor Licence well in advance of your hiring plans. This is particularly important if it’s your first time sponsoring workers or if you’re branching into new sponsorship categories.

When Preparing for Compliance: Preparing for a Sponsor Licence application includes gathering the necessary documentation, appointing Key Personnel, and ensuring that your organization meets the required standards. Allow ample time to complete these tasks.

Before Bid or Contract Deadlines: If your organization is bidding for contracts or projects that involve employing migrant workers, apply for a Sponsor Licence well before the submission deadlines. Having a valid licence can be a requirement in some cases.

During Steady Operations: Applying for a Sponsor Licence during a period of stable operations can reduce the stress associated with the application process. Avoid applying during times of significant organizational changes or crises.

Consult with Immigration Experts: It’s often beneficial to consult with immigration experts or legal counsel who can provide guidance on the timing of your application based on your specific situation. At WestBridge Business Immigration, we have a strong track record of assisting businesses with Sponsor Licence applications and can offer you the right consultation for your needs.

Remember that processing times for Sponsor Licence applications can vary, so it’s essential to check the current processing times on the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) website and plan accordingly. Applying well in advance ensures that your organization can meet its staffing needs while remaining compliant with UK immigration regulations.

What is the Sponsor Management System (SMS)?

The Sponsor Management System (SMS) serves as a convenient and indispensable online platform designed to facilitate the management of your Sponsor Licence and the allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship to specific individual migrants. 

This system plays a pivotal role in the administrative processes associated with sponsoring migrants in the United Kingdom. Within the SMS, there are two distinct types of access levels, each tailored to accommodate different responsibilities and roles within your organization.

The first level, known as Level 1 access, is typically granted to key personnel who play a central role in overseeing the sponsorship process. Level 1 users are entrusted with significant responsibilities, such as the management of the overall sponsorship license, including its renewal and maintenance. 

These users have the authority to allocate Certificates of Sponsorship, which are essential documents allowing migrants to apply for visas to work in the UK under your sponsorship.

On the other hand, Level 2 access within the SMS is designed for individuals who perform more specific tasks related to the sponsorship process. This level of access is typically granted to those who may need to assign Certificates of Sponsorship to migrants but do not require the broader administrative control afforded to Level 1 users. Level 2 users, while important, operate under more limited permissions within the system.

In essence, the SMS streamlines and facilitates the essential functions of sponsoring migrants in the UK by providing distinct levels of access to ensure that the right individuals in your organization have the appropriate tools and permissions to fulfill their respective roles effectively. 

This comprehensive system is pivotal in ensuring compliance with UK immigration laws while also offering flexibility in managing your sponsorship obligations.

What are Certificates of Sponsorships (CoS)?

A CoS is an electronic record on the Sponsor Management System (SMS) containing the migrant’s personal and work details. A sponsor licence holder needs to assign a CoS to each worker they sponsor. Each certificate of sponsorship will have a unique number too, which needs to be linked on the applicant’s visa form.

Workers can use the CoS to apply for a visa. Therefore, you need to assign a certificate of sponsorship before the employee can apply for a visa. There are 2 main types of certificates of sponsorship (CoS).

Defined CoS

All Skilled Workers outside the UK need to be assigned a Defined Certificate of Sponsorship (DCoS) by your business.

The first steps is to apply for a defined CoS through the SMS. Only Level 1 users can request Defined Certificates of Sponsorships. The time required for Home Office approval does not take long. Usually, it takes about 1 or 2 days. However, the process could take longer if more checks are required. Once your application for a DCoS is approved, you can view it in the SMS and finalise it ready to be assigned.

Undefined CoS

Another type of Certificate of Sponsorship is an undefined CoS. Undefined CoSs can be obtained for Skilled Workers inside the UK, and can also allow individuals to change employers and visa categories. 

You will also need to assign undefined CoS for temporary workers.

Costs of CoS Table


Cost (GBP)

Skilled Worker (Assigned for over 12 months)


International Sportsperson (Assigned for over 12 months)


International Sportsperson (Assigned for 12 months or under)


Temporary Worker (Assigned for 12 months or under)


What Is Sponsor Licence Rating?

Compliance is a key part of your Sponsor Licence success. There are 2 different ratings – an A rating and a B.

You will be automatically granted an A-rated Sponsor Licence and to retain it, you must remain compliant. Those with A-rated Sponsor Licences can continue to hire staff from around the world. On the other hand, a B-rating means you failed to remain compliant and you will be on an Action Plan issued by the Home Office, and there are limits as to what you can use your Sponsor Licence for. As an example, A-rated sponsors can sponsor staff from around the world, B rated sponsors can not sponsor any new staff until they have been improved and been upgraded to an A-rated sponsor.

To retain your A rating, you must have all the required paperwork and processes in place to fulfil your duties as a sponsor.

Your organisation needs to be able to perform 4 main duties:

  • Reporting duties
  • Record keeping duties
  • UK laws and Immigration laws
  • Act for the public good


Reporting Duties

All sponsors need to report events to the Home Office within the relevant time frame. You can categorise various reporting duties as actions of that your organisation must take make sure the information of your sponsored employee and your organisation details are correct.

Reports to be made involving sponsored employee

You need to report any of the following activities:

  • Report if a sponsored employee is not present for over 10 days without approval and/or permission
  • If a sponsored employee has not started work
  • Report if the employee’s work ends before their work end date on their Certificate of Sponsorship
  • Report changes in an employee’s employment such as duties and responsibilities (where an employee changes Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code a report will not be sufficient, and they will need to be re-sponsored for their new role and apply for a new visa

Reports to be made regarding changes to your organisation

You also need to report any of the following activities:

  • If you have sold your business or a part of it
  • Your organisation is taken over or is merging with another business (in some circumstances you may need to apply for a new sponsor licence within 20 working days)
  • Report if you changed the nature of your business
  • You entered the insolvency and need to surrender your licence.
  • Report if you changed your business name or branch name
  • To remove branches and add additional branches to your business
  • Key individuals on your licence have changed such as the Authorising Officer

Record Keeping Duties

Businesses are required to keep a number of documents and details about employees. You will need to hold onto a copy of this information for the relevant required period.

  • Copy of visas, passports, contact details (current and past), biometric residence permits, absences, and DBS check if needed
  • Documentation about the worker’s skill levels. It should include qualifications and registrations (especially where there is a legal requirement such as those working in the health, education and legal sectors
  • Copy of salary information. Documents need to include payslips along with the NI number, tax code, allowance and deductions

 UK Laws and Immigrations Law Compliance

All sponsors are legally responsible for complying with all UK and immigration laws. This includes remaining compliant with employment laws in the UK. This is why working with an expert Immigration lawyer will help you with making sence of the Sponsor Licence process.

Here are the things you need to ensure from your business’s side:

  • Employ workers who have the necessary immigration permission
  • Hire only workers that qualify for the job and have the necessary experience and registration
  • Only issuing CoSs for genuine roles
  • Have the employee only perform jobs and work in roles they are sponsored to do
  • Remain compliant with employment laws such as minimum wage

Always Act for the Public Good

Another very important thing you need to keep in mind is always acting for the public good. As a result, you are not allowed to engage in activities harmful to the community and the public. Such as:

  • Justifying, glorifying or fomenting terrorism
  • Rejecting or discriminating against the rights of individuals or groups based on protected characteristics
  • Fostering hatred for inter-community division 

Reasons Why Your Sponsor Licence Might Be Refused?

Application for a sponsor licence can be rejected for many reasons. Where your application for a Sponsor Licence is rejected, there is a mandatory cooling off period of normally six months.

Here are some of the most common ones:

Incorrect Documents

Businesses can get confused as to what documents are required to a Sponsor Licence application and provide incorrect documents or documents in the incorrect format. However, hiring an immigration lawyer can help you with sending the correct paperwork to the Home Office.

Documents can be provided to the Home Office in a number of formats including original hard copies, electronic copies and links to public websites which contain the relevant documents.

Filing Supporting Documents Late

The Home Office are very strict with their timelines and late submission of the required documents can also cause your application to be rejected. All the documents needed by the Home Office to process your application must be submitted within 5 working days of the date your application is submitted online.

Falsifying Supporting Documents

Falsifying documents when applying for a sponsor licence is a major offence. As a result, your application will be immediately rejected. This should not be taken lightly. 

Key Personnel Problems

All Sponsor Licences need to have someone assigned  to them as key personnel. They will be responsible for managing the licence. 

The key personnel will also need to be compliant with all the rules. If there are any issues with the business’s key personnel, then the application can be rejected.

Caseworker Error

An application can be rejected due to an error too. However, if you notice an error on the decision letter such as not considering documents, notify the Home Office within fourteen calendar days from the date of refusal.

The Home Office might have overlooked the supporting documentation you provided, which may have the rejection. You must notify them within the given period.

Failing Genuineness Test

There are a number of issues with failing the genuineness test, if the Home Office believe that you acted in good faith there would be no cooling off period in this case. However, you would need to collate your evidence and a strong business case as to why you need the specific foreign worker. 

However, the punishment could be severe if the Home Office determines that your business tried to engage in fraudulent activities such as presenting a role at a higher level than it is. Your organisation may get a 6-month to 5-year cooling-off period. You will not be able to apply for a sponsor licence during this time. However, you can apply to challenge the decision of the Home Office if you believe the Home Office were factually wrong based on your circumstances. 

A well-versed immigration lawyer can help you understand whether your business will meet these requirements.

Previous Breaches

One of the trickiest situations to navigate is applying for a sponsor licence after any previous breaches or revocation of your previous Sponsor Licence.

Your business will need extensive preparation and legal work. Hiring an expert firm to help you with all the hard work involved in making sure that your business can evidence future compliance. 

Failed Compliance Visit

The Home Office can conduct site visits before granting licences. These visits aim to check whether your recruiting and HR practices are will allow you to remain compliant with your sponsor duties. They also check the compliance and capability of the key personnel. 

If these are unsatisfactory, your business will fail the compliance visit. As a result, your application might be refused.

Understanding Sponsor Licence Cooling Off Period: When Does it Apply?

You have seen us talk about the ‘cooling off’ period above. So, what does that mean? If your licence application is rejected, you will be given a cooling-off period. This is a certain number of months (sometimes years) before which you cannot apply for a tier 2 sponsor licence.

Typically, the cooling-off period is six months. In major offences, it can be up to five years. 

Due to Brexit and labour shortages, being hit with the cooling-off period can be disastrous for some businesses. It is always best to hire expert UK immigration lawyers to ensure you comply with all the rules.

Reasons for getting hit with a cooling-off period

It is ultimately the Home Office’s decision to give an organisation a cooling-off period. It can be due to many reasons. Here are some:

  • Being a threat to the integrity of the immigration system
  • Provided falsified information to the Home Office such as sponsoring someone for a role which is not genuine
    • Consistent breaches of your immigration duties such as not keeping the correct records
  • Hiring illegal workers or breaches to the Immigration rules such as paying them below the minimum salary requirements as per their visa and role in the UK

Consequences of Employing Workers Without a Sponsor Licence

One thing you should never do is employ illegal workers in the UK. An illegal worker is someone that does not have permission to work in the UK but does work, even if they have a UK visa (some UK visas have restrictions that do not allow individuals to work). You should always work in compliance with UK immigration law. Just because you don’t have a sponsor licence does not mean that you will not be issued with a civil penalty. All businesses from your local newsagents to a large multi-national have a responsibility to make sure that they are completing the Right to Work checks to avoid those illegal working inside the UK.

Responsible persons can be imprisoned for up to five years and receive an unlimited fine. Hiring an illegal worker can cause issues for directors who could also be banned from serving as a director in all businesses. 

Remember, all the Right to Work checks are required by all businesses. Failing to complete the check or doing it incorrectly is not a defence to hiring an illegal worker. The business could receive a number of different penalties, including:

  • Civil penalty of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker
  • Prosecuted on charges of major crimes such as trafficking. It could lead to 14 years imprisonment
  • Reputational damage – the Home Office name and shame individual businesses that have hired illegal workers. The last thing your business wants is Enforcement Officers turning up at your door unannounced and your staff being arrested
  • Refusals on future applications for Sponsor Licences
  • Downgrading or immediately revoking your sponsor licence, which could also have you issued with a cooling off period of 1 year
  • Losing sponsored staff and struggling to fill roles – if your sponsor licence is revoked your sponsored employees will need to find a new sponsor or leave the UK before their leave is cancelled

As you can see, the penalties are quite severe. If you have any concerns that you have hired an illegal worker you should contact an immigration lawyer to understand how to navigate the situation.

If you have doubts 

If you have any of the following doubts, you should immediately look into the case further. Always ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has the worker’s leave expired?
  • Are their details on their visa correct (i.e. do they match their passport)?
  • Are there any restrictions detailed on their visa?
  • Do the documents not look or feel genuine?
  • Is the potential worker trying to avoid completing Right to Work checks?
  • Does their visa restrict them from working in the role they have been offered?

How To Get Your Sponsor Licence Number?

The Sponsor Licence number can be found in the Sponsor Licence summary section of the Sponsor Management System (SMS) or alternatively, will be on the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). 

How Many Sponsor Licences Do You Need?

This depends on your business needs. Most businesses apply for one sponsor licence with multiple sub-categories (i.e. they can hold a Skilled Worker, Global Business Mobility (GBM): Senior and Specialist worker, GBM: Graduate Trainee licence) and can access them with one log in. Other businesses like to keep their Sponsor Licences separate (i.e. they may hold 2 or more Licences with different log in details). Some businesses also like to apply for two licences under the same category for two separate businesses that they own (even if the businesses are linked by common ownership).

If you own a business with multiple branches, it is not necessary to apply for a licence for each branch, one can will be enough to cover all branches.  

That is why you should work with experts in UK immigration to navigate the complex process of Sponsor Licences. We at WestBridge Business Immigration, provide the best possible advice and provide you with outstanding assistance to make this process seamless. 

Are You Eligible to Get a Sponsor Licence?

To successfully obtain a Sponsor Licence, you need to be eligible for the relevant licence you are applying for. The process can be pretty confusing to those not versed with the complexities of UK Immigration law. To help you get the ball rolling, you can speak to one of our immigration lawyers to arrange a immigration consultation.

However, the Home Office has strict rules on who can get a sponsor licence. Here are the major eligibility criteria:

Have a Presence in the UK

To be able to apply for a sponsor licence, your business needs to have a presence in the UK. Moreover, it also needs to be trading in accordance with UK laws.

Be Registered with Inspecting Body (If required)

This criteria only applies to certain businesses. If your business needs to be registered with any kind of statutory body for monitoring, proof of said registration must be provided.

No Unspent Criminal Convictions

To be eligible for a sponsor licence, your business cannot also have any criminal record or violation of UK immigration law. Moreover, you cannot have charges for any other crimes either.

Be Able to Meet Responsibilities

You need to provide evidence that your business has the right procedures in place to be able to monitor sponsored employees properly. 

Your HR systems should let you:

  • Keep copies of relevant and important documents such as right to work documents
  • Monitor the immigration status of employees
  • Keep track and record employee attendance
  • Reporting to UKVI if there are any changes
  • Keep all employee contact details up-to-date

In addition to this, you also need to have people who will take on the required roles and manage the Sponsor Licence. When applying for a Sponsor Licence, you need to be able to meet all these requirements.

It can get quite daunting and overwhelming. That is why we at WestBridge Business Immigration work closely with you and your team to make the process seamless.

Salary Requirements for Sponsor Licence

The Immigration Rules have very specific salary requirements in place for those wishing to be sponsored meaning that they will want to consider this when deciding a Sponsor Licence application. As a result, you will need to make sure that the salary you pay the migrant worker meets these requirements.

In addition to this, UKVI will also want to know that you are paying your current employees in accordance with relevant UK employment laws such as the minimum wage. 

The sponsored worker must be paid at least £38,700 per year, they must also be paid the hourly rate of £15.88 per hour, or the going rate (according to their SOC code minimum), whichever is higher. This means that the salary will need to meet all of those detailed above.

Applying For a Sponsor Licence

When applying for a Sponsor Licence, there are some prerequisites and UKVI can also make a visit to your premises to check your procedures are up to standard. Doing these internally with a qualified immigration lawyer will help you not miss any small nuances and avoid costly refusals for your business.

Our lawyers are all highly-trained UK immigration law experts. Therefore, you do not need to take on the hassle of applying for a Sponsor Licence alone and receive the guidance required. 

The process of applying for a Sponsor Licence is a step by step process. You can see the process detailed below: 

Step 1 – Assess the role you want to sponsor

Not all roles can be sponsored, and there is no point applying for a Sponsor Licence if you are not going to use it!

The role must meet all the salary criteria (e.g. £38,700 per year, £15.88 per hour and the going rate) and the skill level requirements (RQF 3) to enable you to successfully sponsor a migrant.

Step 2 – Understand your obligations

Applying for a Sponsor Licence involves signing up to additional obligations and by applying for a Sponsor Licence, the business is agreeing to meet all those requirements.

The obligations are as follows:

Reporting: for example, letting the Home Office know when the migrant hasn’t turned up to work or where there are certain changes to your business, like a change of address;

Record keeping: for example, keeping records of relevant documents on file for each role such as degree certificates and employer references, application forms to show the migrant has the relevant skills and experience for the role;

Right to Work checks: Completing the Right to Work checks, (i.e. is the employee allowed to work in the UK?) before the individual starts working for you.

Compliance with general sponsor duties: for example, these are having HR systems in place that will allow you to remain compliant with your sponsor duties

You will also need to decide who will act as key personnel in the business. Read more about these positions here.

Step 3 – Prepare supporting documents

You will need to supply at least four mandatory supporting documents to show that you are a genuine trading business. Some documents are mandatory documents and must be sent to the Home Office.

Our immigration lawyers can provide you with guidance and support on what documents are required for your application.

Note that the documents must be sent to the Home Office within 5 working days of submitting the online application.

Step 4 – Make an online application

Sponsor Licence applications are made via an online portal and require the business to provide key information for the Home Office to make a decision on your application. 

Once the application has been completed, businesses must submit the application online and the Authorising Officer must sign the application submission sheet and send it along with the supporting documents to the Home Office.

Step 5 – Wait for the Home Office’s decision

The advertised processing time for Sponsor Licence applications is eight weeks, but this time can be reduced by thoughtfully preparing the supporting documents. In addition to this, the Home Office does offer a priority service which will speed up processing to 10 working days from the date the payment is received. 

There is an additional cost for this service and permission must be sought from the Home Office to use this service, as they have a daily limit of 30 requests approved per day, and some licence requests can be excluded from obtaining this approval.

Pre-Licence Visit Before Sponsor Licence

When your business applies for a Sponsor Licence, the Home Office might decide to complete a pre-licence approval compliance visit.

If you fail this visit, your application for a sponsor licence will be refused. The visit is simply to check whether or not you are capable of meeting the sponsor licence duties. 

Here is what you can expect to be assessed on:

  • Whether you have a genuine need for a sponsor licence
  • Whether you have appropriate HR practices and systems are in place 
  • Whether you have conducted right-to-work checks correctly
  • All the documents you submitted are accurate 
  • If you are sponsoring multiple employees, the Home Office will check whether the roles are genuine
  • You will also be assessed on whether your business could threaten immigration control.

Once you know what you will be assessed on, it gets easier to prepare. However, there is still the chance that your Sponsor Licence application could get refused after the visit.

This is why preparation is key here. You can do the following things to increase your rate of success:

  • Have properly trained personnel to handle sponsorship in your business
  • Regularly check for immigration law updates to keep your business compliant
  • Check the HR processes and decide whether they will allow you to meet your Sponsor Licence obligations
  • Keep job descriptions detailing the tasks each sponsored worker will do
  • Keep all documents and records updated
  • Keep employee records like passports, visas, salary, job descriptions and titles, details of absences, contact information and address updated
  • Set up a calendar reminder to periodically check for issues and compliance

You can work with WestBridge Business Immigration, offering excellent UK immigration advice to give you the best chance of success.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Sponsor Licence?

The Home Office processes applications in the order that they receive them. It can take approximately eight weeks for the Home Office to process applications. However, you may pay £500 to get your licence in ten days. Permission needs to be sought from the Home Office before this service can be used.

Moreover, as we mentioned, the Home Office might visit to check your compliance.

Difficulties Associated with Getting a Sponsor Licence in the UK

The process can be daunting if you have never applied for a Sponsor Licence before. However, if you keep some common pitfalls in mind, you can better navigate the whole process.

Common challenges associated with applying for a Sponsor Licence overall are similar to reasons for getting a rejection. 

Before applying, go over the process and requirements with your immigration lawyer. Here are some common challenges businesses face:

Not understanding the process

From start to finish, the process of applying for a sponsor licence and then finally getting approved can be very complex. As a result, many businesses fail to collect all the required documents or provide the Home Office with the required information.

In addition, the complex nature and small nuances can be time-consuming. Therefore, many businesses get rejected for not filing the applications on time.

When you are working with a reputed and qualified law firm like WestBridge Business Immigration, we can advise you on the right way to do it.

Assigning the wrong person

The Home Office is very specific when it comes to key personnel. Key personnel are individuals that are assigned to manage the licence at key positions. Therefore, you should pick the right person from your team.

Assigning the wrong person for the job is a common challenge many businesses face. The Home Office can find that the key personnel are not fit to manage the sponsor licence and rejects your application.

Preparing for compliance visit

Compliance visits from the Home Office can be stressful. And it is another challenge businesses face when applying for a Sponsor Licence.

The best way to deal with compliance visits is to be proactive. Regularly check whether your HR team, that your recruiting and monitoring practices are compliant.

Can a Sponsor Licence Be Revoked?

The Home Office can choose to revoke a Sponsor Licence for various reasons. As we mentioned, the sponsors (your business) have certain duties and responsibilities once you get a licence.

If you fail to fulfil those duties, your licence can be revoked. If you provided false information on purpose, your licence could be revoked.Moreover, if you hire a worker that does not have the necessary skills to perform the role, your licence can be revoked.

Getting your Sponsor Licence downgraded to a B rating can put your licence at risk, especially where you are not successful in completing your Home Office issued action plan.

Your licence can also be revoked if you fail to maintain proper records and do not monitor your workers properly. Revoking your licence can have negative consequences for your organisation and your workers. 

Once a Sponsor Licence is revoked, all your sponsored worker’s visas will be cancelled. Your organisation will also be hit with a cooling-off period of 12 months (potentially longer if the Home Office decides you did it on purpose), meaning that during this period, you will not be able to apply for a new sponsor licence.

How Long Does the Sponsor Licence Remain Valid?

A sponsor licence is valid for ten years from the date it is granted. However, you might lose your licence if you do not fulfil your duties. Please refer to the previous sections to familiarise yourself with your duties.

Having a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) does not guarantee an individual will be issued with a relevant visa.

Subjective Test For a Sponsorship Licence

A subjective test for a sponsor licence is a test of the suitability of the sponsor. The Home Office carries out this assessment to determine whether you can fulfil its obligations as a sponsor.

In addition, it also checks whether the sponsor is genuine in its intentions to sponsor foreign workers. The subjective test covers various aspects of the sponsor’s operations, including the following:

Genuine vacancy: The Home Office will check whether your organisation genuinely needs to recruit a foreign worker for a particular role.

Reporting duties: The sponsor must report any changes in the circumstances of its sponsored workers to the Home Office.

Record keeping: The sponsor must keep accurate records of its workers. Records, including details of their immigration status and employment, are necessary.

Right-to-work checks: All organisations need to carry out the necessary right-to-work checks on all workers before they start working for your organisation.

Monitoring and compliance: The sponsor must monitor the compliance of its sponsored workers and make sure that they remain compliant (i.e. they are completing a role they were sponsored for) and take appropriate action if there are any breaches.

The outcome of the subjective test will determine whether the Home Office grants your application.

Moreover, it’s important to note that the subjective test is a continuous process, and sponsors must maintain their suitability to keep their licence valid. This means that your Sponsor Licence can be downgraded or revoked once it has been approved. 

Who is a Settled Worker?

A settled worker is a term used to define many kinds of working professionals that live and retain their right to work in the UK. To be classified as a settled worker, the person needs to fulfil one of the following requirements:

  • Be a British or Irish citizen
  • Be an EU national that holds pre-settled or settled status
  • Be a dependant of an EU national that holds pre-settled or settled status
  • Hold Indefinite Leave to Remain
  • Hold a Certificate of Entitlement

What is the Immigration Skills Charge?

The Immigration Skills Charge is a payment you must pay when assigning a CoS in addition to the CoS fee. This charge applies to most individuals who work in the UK for 6 months or more. This charge only applies to the sponsored migrant and not their dependants.

Exceptions for the Immigration Skill Charge

Certain roles and job codes do not need any skill charge. Here is a list of the jobs and their codes that do not need a charge:

  • Clergy – 2444
  • Chemical scientist – 2111
  • Higher education teaching professionals – 2311
  • Sports, officials, instructors or coaches – 3442
  • Sports players – 3441
  • Research and development managers – 2150
  • Physical scientists – 2113
  • Social and humanities scientists – 2114
  • Biochemists and biological scientists – 2112
  • Social and natural science professionals – 2119

Other Cases Where You Do Not Have to Pay

Apart from the job codes, there are other cases where an immigration skill charge is not necessary:

  • Sponsoring workers assigned a CoS before 6th April 2017
  • Students switching their visa to their visas to a work visa
  • They full under an exemption under the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation agreement

Immigration Skill Charge Rates

The actual rate of the skill charge depends on the size of your organisation and how long the worker will be sponsored for. You can check the time frame by looking at the start and end date of the CoS.


Charitable or Small Sponsor Rate

Medium to Large Sponsor Rate

Initial 12 months



Each additional 6 months



An immigration lawyer will be able to walk you through the charges and when they apply. 

How WestBridge Can Help You Apply for a Sponsorship Licence?

At WestBridge Business Immigration, we take full responsibility for your Sponsor Licence application, and can assist your employee with their visa application. From advising on supporting documents, drafting the application form, finalising cover letters, liaising with the Home Office on your behalf and supporting your migrant employee with their visa application, we can take care of it all. 

We are business immigration specialists with years of experience and have worked with a variety of industries. This means we have in-depth expertise and knowledge regarding the Sponsor Licence application process and subsequent visa processing. 

apply for a sponsor licence

Our experience means that our lawyers have helped a diverse client base, from start-ups to PLCs. We offer fixed fees, so you will know the costs up front. Each client has a dedicated senior associate providing a comprehensive service.

In addition, we prioritise our client’s time and provide rapid responses. Our service standard for replying to emails and telephone messages is the next business day. We offer this to all of our clients no matter your size.



Q. Is it difficult to get a sponsor licence?

The registration and application process can be quite complex. Employers must provide many documents and proof of suitability to get a Sponsor Licence. Therefore, we always recommend working with a qualified immigration lawyer.

Q. What happens if an employer does not fulfil their responsibilities?

If a sponsor fails to fulfil their duties such as record keeping and monitoring, their licence can be revoked. In addition, they might also get issued with a cooling-off period.

Q. Is the Immigration Skills Charge refundable?

Yes. You will get a refund if the worker’s visa is withdrawn or rejected. In addition, you will also get a refund if your application was successful, but the worker did not come to work for you, or they leave their employment with you before their sponsorship end date (i.e. if they are sponsored for 2 years and leave after 1 year, you will get a refund of year of of the Immigration Skills Charge.

Q. How long do immigration skill charge refunds take?

It takes up to 90 days for the refund to be fully processed. However, the time frame is counted from when you report it to the Home Office.

Q. What is an administrative review?

Administrative review is asking the Home Office to revisit the decision of a visa application. If the Home Office rejects the application, you, as the sponsor, can request this review but you must pay £80 which is refundable if your administrative review is successful. The Home Office will re-review the application based on the documents they have received, meaning additional documents cannot be sent to the Home Office.

Q. Is a Certificate of Sponsorship and Sponsor Licence the same thing?

No, a Sponsor Licence is a licence that makes you eligible to issue a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) to a worker.

Q. Can I apply for a Sponsor Licence on my own for my business?

You can, however, since the process is complex, many employers prefer to work with an expert immigration lawyer to ensure a successful application.

Q. How do I get upgrade from a B rating to an A rating?

The Home Office provides an action plan to sponsors downgraded to a B rating. Employers must follow this action plan to improve their rating. 

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