We use cookies on this site to ensure the most desirable user experience. By continuing to browse this website you are giving implied consent. Find out more.

Sponsorship licence – a way to become a sponsor in Great Britain

An opportunity to employ foreign specialists
You get the sponsorship licence within one month from the application date

What do you need a British sponsorship licence for?

If your company or educational institution are registered in the United Kingdom and conduct business activities in this country, you will need a licence issued by the state to employ foreigners or enrol them as your students. Previously, this regulation was relevant only for the organisations that invited foreigners from non-EU countries. However, with the Brexit process ending on December 31 2020, the sponsorship status is necessary for all the organisations that plan to employ foreigners or provide them with educational services on both temporary and permanent basis.

Immigration lawyers from Imperial & Legal have vast experience and know well how to answer the two questions listed below:

  • What regulations should a sponsor comply with?
  • How can a sponsor obtain an official British licence without too much of red tape?

Our lawyers will help your company to get a British sponsorship licence for employing foreign specialists within one month only, all conditions observed. We will also provide you with all necessary related services.

5 steps to get a British sponsor licence

Contrary to popular belief, it is not difficult to obtain a sponsorship licence for hiring foreign specialists as it might seem after looking up information on the official website of the British government.

With guidance of Imperial & Legal specialists, every British company can employ a valuable foreign specialist if you comply with five simple requirements:

  1. A prospective sponsor should be an established company that is registered in Great Britain and conducts its main activities in this country.
  2. You need to provide proof that your job offer is real.
  3. In your company, hiring and further work of your employees should be controlled.
  4. You should also keep track of your company’s fulfilling its obligations as a sponsor.
  5. In your company, there should be an authorising officer living in the United Kingdom.

These requirements established by the immigration authorities are rather simple and will not cause any problems in terms of the main activities of the company. On the one hand, you prove legibility of your future status as that of a sponsor. A real sponsor conducts their activities in Great Britain and the company has a representative, an authorising officer, who works with sponsor licence. On the other hand, the candidate proves their qualification to get the licence: the job offer for a foreign specialist exists and implies high qualification, the company controls hiring and further work of the staff and is ready to go through a check of the immigration authorities.

Sponsorship licence for hiring foreign specialists

Requirements of the immigration authorities to a prospective sponsor

Your organisation will not be granted a British sponsor licence in the following cases:

  • it has been prosecuted for breaches of the British immigration laws or involved in any other criminal activities, such as fraudulent practices or money laundering;
  • the sponsorship licence of the company was revoked within 12 months prior to the application.

Alongside with the filled-in application, a prospective sponsor is expected to provide the British immigration authorities with at least four pieces of evidence. The list of the documents necessary for the sponsor licence varies depending on the area of your activities and on the specialist you would like to employ in Great Britain. As a rule, the following documents are included in this list:

  • bank statement of the corporate account;
  • bank confirmation letter;
  • audited annual accounts of the company;
  • taxpayer registration certificate (with UTR number);
  • statement issued by the regulating authority.

You can find a more detailed list on the government website or during a consultation with Imperial & Legal specialists.

Home Office performs other activities as well, apart from checking your documents and visiting your company, to be sure that it really exists and is able to fulfil all sponsorship obligations.

Monitoring the employees

Each employer should monitor their employees. The following is achieved through this process:

  1. To control the immigration status of specialists from other countries.
  2. To keep copies of the documents provided by each employee of the organisation, including copies of passports, education and professional qualifications certificates.
  3. To track and record employees’ presence at work.
  4. To update contact details of the employees.
  5. To notify the immigration authorities timely about any arising problems. For instance, if your foreign specialist has not come to work for some time.

Sponsorship management system

Before you apply for a British sponsorship licence, some employees are appointed to key personnel roles, an authorising officer, key contact, level 1 user and level 2 user, in order to control the process of obtaining the licence and further manage the sponsorship system. To fill in the above mentioned positions, the employees are supposed to have a clean criminal record, no breaches of immigration law and to possess the required qualification, etc.

If you face any difficulties with appointing key personnel responsible for managing the system of sponsorship, we are happy to support you with getting your staff ready and, if necessary, offer you our own specialists to fill in these positions.

The access to the sponsorship system is given to the organisation only after its registration as a sponsor. With this system, your company will be able to do the following:

  1. to manage and renew the British sponsor licence;
  2. to appoint new employees to key personnel roles: an authorising officer, a key contact, level 1 and 2 users;
  3. to issue and assign certificates of sponsorship (CoS) to new employees;
  4. to notify timely about changes in circumstances of sponsored employees;
  5. to inform about changes directly related to the business.

Changes related to business include the following:

  • change of the company owner;
  • change of the address;
  • termination of business and bankruptcy;
  • significant changes in the company’s activities;
  • merges and acquisitions.

How much does it cost to get a UK sponsor licence?

In order to get a UK sponsor licence to employ foreign specialists, British companies need to pay a licence fee which depends on the size and type of the organisation. The fee is annually reviewed by the Home Office and published on its official website. A company will need to pay the fee every four years to have its UK sponsor licence extended.


UK Sponsor Licence Fee

Type of licence Small sponsors Medium or large sponsors 
Worker licence£536£1,476
Temporary Worker licence£536£536

A business is a small sponsor if at least two of the following three criteria apply:

  1. Annual turnover up to £10.2 million
  2. Total assets value up to £5.1 million
  3. Number of employees up to 50 people

Small sponsors also include officially registered charities. Four types of organisation are inherently considered large sponsors: public limited companies, insurance companies, banks, e-money (a company’s electronic liabilities) issuers.

If you already have a UK sponsor licence to employ foreign specialists, you will not have to pay additional fee to cover an additional category. For example, if your UK sponsor licence allows you to sponsor applicants for UK Skilled Worker visa, but you are going to sponsor those applying for Intra-company visas, all you need to do is to send an application using the sponsor management system without paying any fees to the Home Office.

Regardless of what type of organisation you are, it is free of charge to add a Temporary Worker licence to your Worker licence. However, if you want to add a Worker licence to your Temporary Worker licence, it will be free of charge only if you are a small sponsor; if, however, you are a medium or large sponsor, it will cost you £940.

How long does it take to get a UK sponsor licence?

If you intend to employ a foreign worker by a set deadline, remember that as soon as you have applied for a UK sponsor licence, it takes at least eight weeks to get it. The Home Office officials might have questions regarding your documents or need to visit your business, so experienced immigration advisors recommend adding about four to five weeks to this period.

If you do not feel like waiting for two or three months, you can get a decision within 10 working days – you will have to pay extra £500 to have your application fast-tracked.

After getting a sponsorship licence

Once you have received your sponsor licence, your company will be included in the “A” rating in the Register of Sponsors. Now, you will be able to issue certificates of sponsorship and employ foreign specialists. As we have mentioned above, the sponsor is expected to keep copies of documents, track the immigration status of foreign specialists and observe their activities at work as well as to inform timely about any changes and breaches.

The specialist you are going to hire should have a required qualification and experience to show successful performance in your company. The employer should offer the foreign specialists salary at the level that is above the minimum established for this job.

If you do not perform your duties as a sponsor, your rating might be downgraded to “B” level, in which case your opportunities will be limited.

What happens if UK sponsor licence is downgraded?

If your licence has been downgraded to a B-rating, you will still be able to sponsor foreign workers who you already employ, but you will not be able to employ new foreign workers or issue new certificates of sponsorship.

However, you will not be able to keep working for long with a downgraded rating. As a rule, when your licence is downgraded, the Home Office will provide you with an action plan to address the issues discovered during the inspection. If you choose to ignore the recommendations, you will lose your UK sponsor licence.

Remember that downgrading a UK sponsor licence is not all the Home Office may do. In fact, the immigration authorities have the right to revoke your licence altogether should any gross misconduct be revealed.

Categories of foreign specialists you need a licence for

Permanent work permission

  1. Skilled worker
  2. Intra-company transfer:
    • Long-term staff
    • Graduate trainee
  3. Sportsperson
  4. Minister of religion

Temporary work permission

  1. Charity worker
  2. Creative or sporting worker
  3. Government authorised exchange worker
  4. International agreement worker
  5. Religious worker
  6. Seasonal worker

What foreign specialists can be employed in Great Britain without the sponsorship licence?

  1. Swiss citizens as well as EEA (European Economic Area) nationals that arrived to Great Britain before December 31, 2020 if they apply for an official status in the UK before June 30, 2021.
  2. European citizens who have acquired settled or pre-settled status in the framework of bilateral agreements between the EU and the British government.
  3. Irish citizens that have arrived in England, including those coming after December 31, 2020.

Starting from 2021, citizens of other countries, including EEA and Swiss nationals, will need to find a sponsor and get a visa if they want to find a job in Great Britain.

Certificates of Sponsorship

A certificate of sponsorship (CoS) is a mandatory document for applicants of all work visa categories mentioned above. A certificate of sponsorship is an electronic document created using the sponsorship management system. All data needed for a CoS are entered into the system, and a foreign specialist is given a unique identification number for their CoS.

There are two types of certificate of sponsorship: defined and undefined.

Defined Certificates are issued for foreign specialists who are outside the UK. An employer applies to the Home Office for a certificate of sponsorship for a concrete specialist, and once it is received, the specialist may apply for a UK work visa. Until recently, a sponsor was permitted to issue only a limited number of certificates of sponsorship a year. Now it is possible to apply for an unlimited number of certificates of sponsorship using the sponsorship management system.

Undefined Certificates are issued for those who are already inside the UK and are switching to a UK work visa from another visa category. A sponsor may apply to the Home Office for an unlimited number of undefined certificates for job candidates who then may apply for a UK work visa. Undefined Certificates are issued for a year and are valid for a tax period which runs from 5 April of the current year to 6 April of the following year; if a sponsor does not use them, they are cancelled.      

  • Thorough analysis of the circumstances our client is in
  • Checking a prospective sponsor for compliance with all the necessary criteria
  • Mitigation of licence rejection risks
  • Support in collecting and preparing documents
  • Training responsible staff or providing you with specialists you need
  • Legal guidance and consultation at each stage
  • Getting a sponsorship licence within a month
  • Complete confidentiality

Отказ в визе в Великобританию

Sponsorship licence for enrolling foreign students

If an educational institution conducts its legal activities in the United Kingdom according to all British quality standards, it can be registered as a sponsor and enrol students from other countries.

Requirements for sponsor licence applicants

  1. A prospective sponsor is supposed to appoint authorised employees and send their contact information to the immigration authorities. These employees are expected to have had no convictions or unfinished litigations on serious breaches of law, etc. Just as in the case of a sponsoring employer, the staff responsible for sponsorship management should include an authorising officer, a key contact, level 1 and level 2 users. These positions are usually distributed between different employees, but one person can also perform several functions, it is not limited by law.
  2. An educational institution should go through a check by a corresponding British regulating body. That might be a regular check, in the framework of current activities of the institution, or it might be applied for specifically for sponsorship licence purposes, depending on the type of institution.
    Besides, a fire check should be completed as well, the institution should be VAT-registered and get all necessary insurance policies and permissions.
  3. A prospective sponsor is to indicate how many foreign students they plan to enrol within the first 12 months after being granted the licence. If educational services are provided on different campuses or in different affiliated institutions, you need to indicate the ones where your foreign alumni/alumnae will study. Along with the application form, additional documents should be provided, such as registration certificates and permissions. The sponsor is to prove that they are located in the UK, have sufficient facilities to conduct their activities and do that on the legal basis.
    Home Office has a right to come to your institution – school, college, university or courses – with a check, both with and without a notice.
Imperial & Legal specialists are ready to provide you with a detailed consultation that will help your institution get ready for acquiring a sponsor licence. With our support, you will be able to complete an application correctly, calculate and pay the necessary fees, collect the required documents, find and train the key personnel.

Probationary sponsor status

Once the application is approved, you are given a licence number under which your organisation is included in the Register of Sponsors. Alongside with it, you will get your password of the sponsorship management system that allows you to issue enrolment certificates for foreign students. The number of such certificates is limited by the number of students during the first 12 months of your sponsorship status starting from the date indicated in the application form.

Your responsibilities include institution’s and students’ record keeping as well as notifying about any changes, for example, termination of the student’s certificate, their absence for a long time, etc.

The British authorities check educational institutions very thoroughly so even after approving your application, they will grant you a probationary status. This transition period lasts 12 months. During this period, you need to show the immigration authorities that you are capable of fulfilling all your obligations as a sponsor of foreign students. After 12 months, you submit a new application to the Home Office and after another check of your institution, the decision is taken whether to extend or revoke your sponsorship licence.

If the organisation does not fulfil its obligations as a sponsor, corresponding measures (orders, fines) are taken by the immigration authorities and at the end of the day the licence might be revoked. In order not to lose the sponsor status, we recommend you to use legal guidance of Imperial & Legal specialists.

Success Stories on Sponsorship licence

FAQ about British sponsor licences

What are British sponsorship licences necessary for?

With the sponsor licences system introduced for employers in Great Britain, the authorities reach several goals:

  1. They get specialists applying for positions that for some reasons cannot be filled in by British workforce.
  2. They secure a suitable salary level for foreign specialists and a guaranteed flow of taxes and tariffs paid by private businesses to social funds.
  3. They achieve absolute transparency in flow of foreign workers and employees and reduce a possibility of mistakes in workflow of the immigration authorities.

Why has the sponsorship licence system been introduced for British educational institutions?

Partly, the goals are similar to the ones mentioned in the previous section: the authorities control enrolled foreign students, secure transparency of immigration flow to Great Britain and mitigate risks of mistakes in the workflow of the immigration authorities. Besides, the sponsor licence system in education is a convenient tool of quality control.

Great Britain is proud of its system of education and the sponsorship licence system allows the authorities to conduct additional checks of an institution to see if it complies with all the strict quality standards in terms of education and conditions of the facilities for both living and studying.

Which requirements, apart from having no convictions, are there for authorised staff in educational institutions applying for sponsorship?

  1. A prospective authorising officer is expected to have committed no breaches of immigration law, e.g. they should have no fines issued by Home Office during the last 12 months.
  2. The appointed authorising officers should live in Great Britain on a permanent basis.
  3. They should be directly related to the school/university/college officially working either on paid or non-paid basis.
  4. Their impeccable reputation in terms of business is important, too. This position is connected with a great responsibility and cannot be given to bankrupts.
  5. The position of the authorising officer cannot be given to anybody who is supplier or supplies consultants in this institution at the same time.

What should an employee do if they are in Great Britain and their sponsor’s licence has been revoked?

In case the sponsor’s licence has been revoked:

  1. The CoS of a foreign specialist gets automatically annulated.
  2. A work visa of this specialist is limited to 60 days, regardless of what period was indicated in it before the sponsor’s licence termination (even if the remaining time is less than 60 days).

During the given 60 days, an employee without a sponsor should either obtain a new visa or leave the British Isles. If they are valuable specialists and their qualification is in high demand in Great Britain, they can be hired by another company and get a new visa – in Skilled Worker category – with a new sponsorship licence. In exceptional cases, when the licence has been revoked because of the employee’s actions, they should leave the country immediately.

What happens to an employee that has not arrived in the country yet and whose sponsor’s licence has been revoked?

Unfortunately, in this case you will not be granted a British visa. If it has been issued, it will be annulated so that you could not enter the country. With legal guidance of Imperial & Legal, you will get a new CoS and a permission to come to the country.

Want to employ a foreign worker?

We will support you in becoming a Tier 2 or Tier 5 sponsor in order to be able to employ people from abroad. Contact our team today to start your application.