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UK Sponsor Licence Application

Any UK employer that would like to sponsor overseas workers to come work in the UK on a visa must hold a valid sponsor licence.

If you have any questions regarding the UK sponsor licence application, you can contact our expert team of professional immigration lawyers to discuss any concerns you may have, or for some help navigating the application process. You can call us on 0333 305 9375, or contact us online via our live chat.

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    What is a sponsor licence for the UK? 

    UK employers will need to complete a sponsor licence application if they want to employ foreign workers.

    Normally, UK sponsor licences fall under the categories of a Worker licence and Temporary Worker licence. The type of employment that the organization is hiring for will determine which sponsor licence the employer needs to apply for.

    For the sponsor licence application, employers must reach the required obligations as the employer of a foreign worker, before and during employment.

    If your UK sponsor licence application is approved, the company/ business will be awarded an A-rated licence and will be listed in the register of sponsors.

    If the company/business, however, does not meet the duties as a sponsor, the sponsor licence could be downgraded to a “B rating.” If this happens, the UK visa and immigration office will provide an action plan. The business/company will need to follow the action plan to upgrade your licence back to an A-rating. An action plan costs £1,476.

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    Who requires a sponsor licence?

    Employers require a sponsor licence to employ skilled workers from outside the UK. This includes citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and worldwide. The sponsor licence extends to unpaid jobs, including volunteering.

    The following people do not require a licence to sponsor:

    • People with Irish citizenship
    • People with settled or pre-settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme
    • People with Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK
    skilled workers collaborating

    What is the sponsor licence eligibility for UK employers?

    To be eligible to become a sponsor licence holder, the employer or sponsor must:

    • Not hold any unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences with the home office or any other crimes, such as fraud
    • Not have any history of failing to carry out sponsor duties

    The sponsor licence application process is complex and requires the employer to provide detailed information on their organization.

    The Home Office may revoke your valid sponsor licence at any time if they believe that you are not meeting the sponsor licence requirements.

    Sponsor licence holders are not required to conduct a Resident Labour Market Test.

    However, the Home Office will require the company to provide evidence to show that the employment of migrant workers is necessary.

    There are two routes for two sponsor licence applications:

    1. to sponsor regular, skilled workers
    2. to sponsor temporary workers

    Depending on which, the sponsor licence application depends on the nature of work the employee will be doing.

    Should the sponsor licence application be approved, the employer will then assign a “Certificate of Sponsorship” to each foreign worker.

    What is a certificate of sponsorship?

    A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is an electronic document from the Sponsor Management System (SMS) after a sponsorship licence is approved.

    To sponsor a migrant worker, the company must first request a Certificate of sponsorship from the Home Office through the SMS.

    Once this is approved, the company/business will be required to assign the number to the migrant worker to generate a unique reference number for the candidate to submit during their visa application.

    What are the responsibilities of a Sponsor Licence holder?

    These responsibilities include:

    • Confirming that any foreign workers coming to work have the necessary skills and qualifications for the role and the ability to prove it
    • Assign Certificate of Sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship
    • to Inform the UKVI if your employee is not complying with the conditions and terms of the visa

    Sponsor Licence Ratings


    The default rating for businesses to operate with a normal sponsor licence is the A-rating.

    With an A-rating, you will be able to assign certificates of sponsorship to prospective employees. Your business will also be logged in the Home Office’s register of licenced sponsors.

    You do not have to do anything specific to achieve an A-rating; your business will automatically receive an A-rating when your application for a sponsor licence is approved.

    The only exception to this is if you’re sponsoring an employee on a UK Expansion Worker visa. In this case, you’ll receive a provisional rating rather than an A-rating (assuming that your authorising officer is not located in the UK).

    With a provisional rating, you will only have the ability to assign one certificate of sponsorship, which should be assigned to your authorising officer to allow them to enter the UK.

    After this has occurred, you can then use the SMS to upgrade to an A-rating and assign more certificates of sponsorship.


    Your business will be given a B-rating if you fail to meet the various responsibilities that you have as a sponsor of foreign workers.

    While your business has a B-rating, you will not be able to grant any new certificates of sponsorship to workers.

    You will only be able to grant new certificates once you have taken action to bring your business up to the requirements set out by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

    You can do this via an action plan supplied by UKVI. This action plan costs £1,476.

    If you’ve followed all the steps as outlined in the action plan to bring your business up to standard, you will be upgraded to an A-rating again.

    You may be at risk of losing your sponsor licence if all the steps are not completed.

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      Which visa requires a sponsor licence?

      As mentioned above, there are two types of workers that require a sponsor licence, skilled workers and temporary workers.

      Skilled Worker sponsor licence

      The Skilled Worker Visa is reserved for workers that are long-term skilled workers, who, with the visa, have the right to work for a minimum of three years, and usually five. Under the Skilled Worker Visa, there are subcategories of visas that require a skilled worker sponsor licence, too, these include the:

      • Sportsperson Visa
      • Minister of Religion Visa (Employees can work for up to three years under this subcategory)

      To be eligible for a skilled worker visa, you have to prove the following:

      • You will be working for a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office
      • Have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ (sponsor licence) from your employer with information about the role you’ve been offered in the UK
      • Will do a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations
      • Be paid a minimum salary

      You can apply for this visa up to 3 months before you are supposed to start working, and this date is listed on your certificate of sponsorship. As part of your application, you’ll need to prove your identity and provide your documents.

      If you are inside the UK, you should get a decision on the visa within 3 weeks or 8 weeks if you are outside the UK.

      Temporary Worker Sponsor licences

      Temporary Worker sponsorship licence will allow business to hire from the international pool of talent by sponsoring workers to come and work in the UK. The Temporary Worker Visa is reserved for skilled workers who will do temporary work in the UK. The Temporary Worker Visa is broken into the following subcategories:

      • Creative Worker: Permits two years for eligible creative workers
      • International Sportsperson: Permits up to one year for the sports person but up to two years for an entertainer or artist
      • Charity worker: Permits up to one-year
      • Religious worker: Permits up to two years
      • International agreement worker: For instances when work is covered by international law
      • Government Authorized Exchange

      To be eligible for a Temporary Worker Visa, you must prove the following:

      • Have a certificate of a sponsorship reference number
      • Have sufficient finances to support yourself in the UK (At least £1,270 (unless you’re exempt)
      • Be 18 years old or older when you apply
      • Your work is covered by international law

      colleagues discussing work matters

      How can an organization/business apply for a sponsor licence? 

      To apply for a sponsor licence, a company must submit an online sponsor licence application form, along with a minimum of at least four supporting documents as evidence of its presence in the UK, and a cover letter detailing background information about the company.

      Sometimes, the Home Office may require additional documents such as evidence of the company’s Human Resources processes to assess whether the compliance requirements and sponsorship duties will be met. During an assessment of the licence application, the Home Office authorizing officer may also conduct a compliance visit at the business premises.

      The standard processing time for applications is 8 weeks.

      What documents are required for a sponsorship licence application?

      The required document list from the home office is extensive and will depend on whether the company or organization is registered as a public body, start-up, franchise or small and medium enterprise. As there are many sponsor licences, each type will require different supporting documents.

      While the list will vary, some documents may be:

      • The most recent bank statement for the business/company
      • Proof of employer’s liability insurance of at least £5 million from an authorized insurer.
      • Certificate of VAT registration.
      • Evidence of registration with HM Revenue and customs
      • Proof of ownership or lease of business premises or rental agreement papers
      • Latest audited or unaudited accounts
      • If applicable, evidence of registration from a regulatory body to operate lawfully in the UK

      All sponsor licence documents need to be given within five working days of the online application. The documents should be in their original form.

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        Sponsor Licence Application Processing Time

        After you submit your application for a sponsor licence, it will normally take UKVI up to 8 weeks to process it.

        If you wish to receive a faster decision on your application, you may be able to pay an additional fee for priority processing.

        This will cost £500 and will ensure that your application is processed within 10 working days.

        There is a limited number of allocated priority processing slots available each day, and are given on a first-come, first-serve basis.

        What are the Sponsorship Management Roles?

        As part of the sponsor licence application, company’s/businesses need to appoint people within your business to manage the sponsorship process when you apply for a licence through the SMS.

        The specific roles required are:

        • A key contact who will act as the main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration.
        • An authorizing officer should be a person in a senior role. They will be responsible for the actions of the staff and representatives
        • A level 1 user, who will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the sponsor licence

        Depending on the business, these roles may be held by just one person. At least one level 1 user has to be an employee of the company, whereas other levels 1 and level 2 users could be employed by a third-party organization.

        Every person who works within the sponsorship process will need to undergo certain checks, including any unspent criminal convictions and whether the person has been reported to the UKVI.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  A Sponsor licence number is a unique number or code that is issued to Sponsor licence holders. As a Skilled Worker or Temporary Worker, the Sponsor licence number will be located on your Certificate of Sponsorship.

                  The Home Office may refuse the application for a variety of reasons which will be explained to you in the refusal letter.

                  The most common reasons include:

                  • Business’ failure to pass the Home Office’s Compliance Audit
                  • Business’ failure to retain sufficient documentation
                  • The business has not informed the Home Office of significant changes to their workforce
                  • The business has not responded to the Home Office’s enquiries
                  • Business does not pass its ‘genuineness test’
                  • Business does not comply with the Home Office’s security standards

                  A Sponsor licence lasts for four years if it’s due to expire before 6th April 2024. One can extend the licence if the sponsor meets the eligibility requirements.

                  After four years, the sponsor has to renew their licence if they wish to extend.

                  If the sponsor licence is due for renewal on or after 6th April 2024, you will not need to manually renew or pay a fee. It will be automatically renewed, and it will be valid for 10 years.

                  Should there be any changes to your business/organization, the UKVI has to be told within 20 working days.

                  If you do not, the sponsor licence could be affected.

                  Examples of Significant changes could be:

                  • The business has gone under, stopped, or stopped trading
                  • The type of business has changed
                  • The business is undergoing a merger or take-over
                  • If your business moves or allocated roles change