Worker- Sponsor licence

Since Brexit took effect on 31 December 2020, freedom of movement between the UK and EU has ended. Now, all businesses wishing to recruit staff from outside of the UK and Ireland - including those from the EU - are required to hold the correct sponsor licence. This is a guide for navigating the sponsor licensing process, choosing the licence best suited for your business, and keeping up your duties as a sponsor.

Overseas staff are extremely valuable for UK business 

Many employers value the contribution of overseas workers due to the knowledge and skills they can contribute. Businesses hire staff from outside the UK for many reasons, including:

  • Hiring for vacancies on the shortage-occupation list created by the government (specialist areas where the UK lacks skills)
  • Facilitating secondments or transfers from an overseas division of the business
  • To fill temporary vacancies requiring a pre-existing skillset
  • To manage seasonal labour shortages in the UK

What is a UK sponsor licence?  

Under the UK's points-based immigration system, the main visa-routes for non-UK residents working here require a sponsorship by a licensed employer. UK businesses must hold the appropriate licence before being able to support the worker's application to relocate to the UK, or to transfer employment within the UK.

To be eligible to apply for a sponsor licence, your organisation must have a UK registered presence and be lawfully operating/ trading here.

Despite political pressure against migration, it is now easire to employ overseas workers under a sponsor licence. Changes were introduced to the Immigration Rules from December 2020 to partially manage the increased demand for sponsor licencing and recruitment of migrant workers caused by Brexit:

  • The former resident labour market test has been scrapped, cutting licensing processing times by at least 4 weeks
  • The minimum salary threshold for skilled workers has been reduced
  • The cap on the number of migrant workers allowed in the UK has been eliminated
  • In-country switching of visa routes is now permitted for more categories of visa
  • 'Cooling-off' periods have been removed from the rules, which prevented some categories of migrant from securing status in a sponsored category if they held a similar permission before
  • The required skill level for migrant workers has been reduced

Which type of sponsor licence?  

There are various tyhpes of sponsor licence, each requiring an application with different supporting documents. It is also possible to apply for multiple categories of sponsor licence where necessary.

There are categories for recruiting migrant workers:

  • Skilled Worker Visa - this is the category that most migrant workers are sponsored under, the route is designed for migrants who have been offered a job in the UK
  • Intra-Company Transfer Visa - this category is used if your organisation plans to transfer overseas workers to a UK branch or subsidiary of the business
  • Sportsperson - for professional sportspersons and coaches
  • Minister of Religion - for migrants who have been offered a position within a faith community
  • Temporary Worker - there are several sub-categories here covering short-term employment options for seasonal workers, creative workers, internships, and ore

For more information on which type of sponsor licence you need, visit the government website.

Responsibilities as a licensed sponsor 

By agreeing to become a licensed sponsor, businesses also commit to complying with duties identified by the Home Office. These include:

  • Record-keeping of right-to-work documentation, NI numbers, and contact details
  • Monitoring sponsored individuals, and notifying the Home Office of any changes in circumstances
  • Absence monitoring

Getting professional support with your licensing and overseas recruitment process is beneficial 

If a mistake is made on your sponsor licence application, a six-month cooling off period may be triggered to prevent you from making another application - this could affect your business plans.

To give your business the best chance of success with your sponsor licence application and avoid any lengthy delays, immigration specialists can advise you on the preparation and application process. Immigration experts will also help manage your sponsor licence duties and responsibilities and keep you up to date with any changes to relevant regulations.

If you have any further questions in relation to sponsor licensing or need assistance on your current immigration situation, please contact our specialist immigration team on 0300 131 6767, or complete the contact form below.


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