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You’ll usually need a sponsor licence to employ someone to work for you from outside the UK. This includes citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020.

This includes unpaid work, like running a charity.

You will not need a licence to sponsor certain groups, for example:

  • Irish citizens

  • those with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme

  • those with indefinite leave to remain in the UK


To get a licence as an employer, you cannot have:

  • unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering

  • had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months

You’ll need appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees and people to manage sponsorship in your business.

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will review your application form and supporting documents. They may visit your business to make sure you’re trustworthy and capable of carrying out your duties.


Job suitability

You can sponsor a worker if the job they’re going to do has a suitable rate of pay and skill level, or meets the other criteria needed for their visa.

Read more about job suitability, if you’re sponsoring:

Types of licence

The licence you need depends on whether the workers you want to fill your jobs are:

  • ‘Workers’ - for skilled or long-term employment

  • ‘Temporary workers’ - for specific types of temporary employment

You can apply for a licence covering one or both types of worker.

Worker licence

A ‘Worker’ licence will let you sponsor people in different types of skilled employment. The skilled work can be for a short time, long-term or permanent depending on the worker’s visa.

The licence is split into:

  • Skilled Worker - the role must meet the job suitability requirements

  • Senior or Specialist Worker visa (Global Business Mobility) - for multinational companies which need to transfer established employees to the UK, previously the Intra-company Transfer visa

  • Minister of Religion - for people coming to work for a religious organisation

  • International Sportsperson - for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK

Temporary Worker licence

A ‘Temporary Worker’ licence will let you sponsor people on a temporary basis, including for volunteering and job shadowing. You can only get a Temporary Worker licence for specific types of employment and visas.

The licence is split into:

  • Scale-up Worker - for people coming to work for a fast-growing UK business

  • Creative Worker - to work in the creative industry, for example as an entertainer or artist (up to 2 years)

  • Charity Worker - for unpaid workers at a charity (up to 1 year)

  • Religious Worker - for those working in a religious order or organisation (2 years)

  • Government Authorised Exchange - work experience (1 year), research projects or training, for example, practical medical or scientific training (2 years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge

  • International Agreement - where the worker is coming to do a job which is covered by international law, for example, employees of overseas governments

  • Graduate Trainee (Global Business Mobility) - for workers transferring to their employer’s UK branch as part of a graduate training programme

  • Service Supplier (Global Business Mobility) - for workers with a contract to provide services for a UK company (6 or 12 months)

  • UK Expansion Worker (Global Business Mobility) - for workers sent to the UK to set up a new branch or subsidiary of an overseas business

  • Secondment Worker (Global Business Mobility) - for workers transferring from overseas to work for a different UK business as part of a high-value contract

  • Seasonal Worker – allows people to come to the UK and work in horticulture (for example, picking fruit and vegetables) for up to 6 months, or poultry from 18 October to 31 December each year


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’ll use is the sponsorship management system (SMS).

The roles 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 UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)

  • level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS

These roles can be filled by the same person or different people.

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, for example they cannot withdraw a certificate of sponsorship.

Suitability checks

You and your staff will be checked to make sure you’re suitable for these roles. You may not get your licence if anyone involved in sponsorship has:

  • an unspent criminal conviction for an offence listed in the guidance for sponsors

  • been fined by UKVI in the past 12 months

  • been reported to UKVI

  • broken the law

  • been a ‘key person’ at a sponsor that had its licence revoked in the last 12 months

  • failed to pay VAT or other excise duty

You and your allocated staff must also:

  • be based in the UK most of the time

  • not be a contractor or consultant contracted for a specific project

  • not be subject to a bankruptcy restriction order or undertaking, or a debt relief restriction order or undertaking

  • not have a history of non-compliance with sponsor requirements

Your allocated staff must usually be paid members of staff, or office holders.

HR contractors and agency staff

At least one level 1 user must be your employee.

You can have additional level 1 or level 2 users who are employed by third-party organisations that provide you with HR services.

A temporary member of staff supplied by an agency can be a level 2 user.

UK-based legal representatives

You can allocate any of the roles to a UK-based legal representative, apart from the authorising officer role. Your representative must be qualified to give immigration advice or services.

For a more detailed discussion regarding your case, please book an appointment or call us now on 07835601240 

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