British immigration rules don’t allow work immigrants and foreign students to get visas and enter the UK without having already found a place of work or studies. To regulate the process of hiring foreign nationals permanently or temporarily and accepting foreign students for studies, special documents were introduced, namely sponsorship licences.
If a UK-registered company wants to employ foreign nationals, this article will explain how to do it right.
It is important to keep in mind that according to the Brexit deal, since 1 January 2021 the term “foreign” also includes EEA and Swiss nationals. So, now the British companies need a sponsorship licence to hire French and German employees, as they have always needed for Russian or Chinese nationals, for example.
However, sponsorship licence in itself and certificate of sponsorship issued to a foreign national are not a guarantee that a foreign worker or student will be granted a visa and allowed to enter the UK.
No matter how long you plan to employ a foreign national for, first of all, you have to obtain a sponsorship licence. You may need such a licence even if you invite a foreign volunteer, for example, to work in the charity fund.
Sponsorship licences in the UK are issued by the British immigration service, commonly known as the Home Office. Before registering and applying for a sponsorship licence, you have to keep in mind at least two important things:
The type of a sponsorship licence depends on the category of foreign workers that you plan to employ. In other words, the type of licence is determined by the documents that foreign nationals will need to enter the UK.
Your sponsorship licence can allow to invite foreign workers from one particular visa category or from both categories at once. As it was mentioned earlier, employer must provide the invited workers with full assistance.
For your application to be approved in the UK, you must have people in your business taking required management roles.
To manage the sponsorship system, the following specialists are required:
All the functions listed above can be performed by different employees or by the same person. But the company must have at least one level 1 user.
Home Office requires all the employees managing the sponsorship system to be suitable for their positions. They must spend most of the year in the UK, have relevant knowledge, have no criminal or immigration offences, have no tax debts, and they can’t be majority shareholders of the company whose sponsorship licence was revoked in the last12 months.
Imperial & Legal can assist you in preparing all the necessary documents, confirming that your business really operates in the UK.
At least 4 pieces of supporting evidence must be submitted with the application:
Home Office officials may not be satisfied only with the documents you submit. They may visit your business to confirm that you are a reliable sponsor.
Commercial organisations that want to become sponsors must pay a licence fee that depending on the category of foreign workers and the size of the company ranges from £536 to 1,476.
In most cases, it takes the Home Office up to 8 weeks to review and approve the application. Sponsorship licence in the UK remains valid for 4 years. Before it expires, employer can renew it. It is also possible to pay a fast-track fee and get sponsorship licence in 2 weeks.
If everything is done correctly, all the necessary documents are submitted in time and your business is confirmed to be reliable, you get an A-rated licence and are included in the register of sponsors. An A-rated licence allows to issue certificates of sponsorship and, if all other requirements are met, employ foreign nationals.
However, if your company fails to fulfil one or more duties as a sponsor, for example, if you fail to pay your foreign employee the amount of salary prescribed by law, you may be downgraded to B-rating. With a B-rated licence, you cannot issue new certificates of sponsorship but can renew the already issued work visas.
If you fail to fulfil your duties, you will not only be downgraded. After getting a B-rated licence, you must contact the Home Office within 10 days to obtain the so-called plan of action that will give you instructions how to upgrade to an A-rating. If you fail to contact the Home Office, it will revoke your licence. In a 4-year period, you cannot be downgraded more than 2 times. If this limit is exceeded, your sponsorship licence will be void.
If your licence is revoked, it will be difficult to obtain another one. Even if you lost your licence for objective reasons and the Home Office admits it, you will be able to apply for a new sponsorship licence only in 12 months. That’s why, it pays to ask for help an experienced advisor.
It will be easier for a British company to get a sponsorship licence if it gets assistance from qualified advisors from the very beginning and fulfils the requirements of the Home Office.
A prospective sponsor must prove that they are suitable for a sponsor status. The company must:
Home Office officials also pay a lot of attention to whether the company can meet certain requirements:
British companies and international companies that expand their business in the UK must be able to give full answers to these questions. Imperial & Legal, on its part, will provide reliable legal support that will allow to obtain a sponsorship licence in less than 1 month.
After years of fruitful work, our qualified specialists have earned the reputation of reliable partners who can provide effective legal support for any business process in the UK – from registering a UK company and opening a bank account to business management and tax optimisation. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Imperial & Legal specialists.
Depending on the services that you need to get from a foreign worker, there are the following types of sponsorship licences:
What’s more, depending on the sponsor’s reliability, the licence can be A-rated or B-rated (downgraded with limited possibilities). The rating of the licence is determined by the Home Office. The sponsors themselves are divided into large, medium and small-sized. Small-sized sponsors include the companies:
If at least two of these characteristics are applicable to your company, you are a small-sized sponsor.
Our experts have compiled a table that includes all the possible categories of workers who can be employed temporarily and the maximum time they can spend in the UK.
Professional sports people
Charity workers (volunteers)
Ministers of religion
Specialists who come to the UK to exchange experience as part of a government programme
Specialists who come to the UK to exchange experience in the R&D field
Yes, it is possible if the company requires a permanent foreign worker, for example, worker on a Skilled Worker visa.
If you are a small-sized sponsor and have a licence for employing workers temporarily, you can obtain licence for employing workers permanently free of charge. Medium and large-sized sponsors will have to pay an additional fee amounting to £940.
If the Home Office officials detect serious offences and the sponsorship licence is downgraded to B-rating, you must contact the Home Office within 10 days. For an additional fee, you will obtain the so-called plan of action that will give you instructions how to upgrade to an A-rating.
If you fail to contact the Home Office, it will revoke your licence. Besides, B-rated licences offer only limited opportunities. For example, you won’t be able to issue new certificates of sponsorship till you are upgraded again.
We will work with you to find a customised solution for your immigration, second citizenship, business, tax and other needs.
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