You will need to sponsor any overseas national you wish to employ if they are not a settled worker or do not otherwise have immigration permission to work for you in the UK. This includes most EU, EEA and Swiss nationals who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020. In order to sponsor a worker you will need to be authorised by the Home Office as a licensed sponsor under the category you wish to sponsor.
Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence
To satisfy the Home Office that you are a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK, you will need to provide at least four specified documents as set out in Appendix A of the sponsor guidance. The exact documents you will need to provide will vary depending your circumstances.
Appendix A is split into four tables. Table 1 confirms that a public authority or a company listed on the London Stock Exchange does not have to submit documents other than those specific to the licence they are applying for. Table 2 covers starts-ups (organisations that have been trading for less than 18 months), as well as franchises and charities. Table 3 lists the specific evidence that needs to be sent for a particular tier.
Table 4 then lists all the other possible documents you could provide, one of which must be the latest set of audited accounts if the organisation is legally obliged to submit them.
In addition to information about your organisation, the proposed job role, and the candidate in mind, you will also need to explain to the Home Office why you are applying for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence.
When assessing whether you are honest, dependable, reliable and are not engaging and have not engaged in behaviour or actions that are not conducive to the public good, the Home Office will look at the history and background of your business, the backgrounds of the Key Personnel named in your application (see below) and also the backgrounds of any people involved in the day-to-day running of your business.
If you are granted a sponsor licence, you will need to fulfil various sponsorship duties, including reporting duties, record-keeping duties and a duty to comply with UK immigration law.
In order to assess whether you are capable of carrying out your sponsor duties and evidencing your compliance in a timeframe and manner set out in sponsor guidance, the Home Office will look at your current human resources and recruitment procedures to make sure that you will be able to fulfil your sponsor duties.
Sponsorship duties include reporting certain information about sponsored workers, your business and using the sponsorship management system. If something needs to be reported, this must be done within either 10 or 20 working days of the event, depending on the matter to be reported. Events that require reporting for a skilled worker include changes to start dates and change of work location.
Your sponsorship duties will also include keeping records of employment such as contracts of employment, salaries, and evidence of genuineness of any vacancies advertised. Appendix D sets out further details.
You should be aware that the Home Office can visit you as part of the Sponsor Licence application process, to check that your systems are sufficient. This will usually occur if your organisation is newly formed, or, if the application is high risk. Not only can the Home Office inspect your organisation during the application process, they can also visit at any time whilst you are a Sponsor Licence holder. Home Office visits may be announced or unannounced, meaning it is essential to ensure that sponsor duties are complied with, especially in relation to record-keeping. During the visit(s), the Home Office will check your HR systems, and speak to the appointed Authorising Officer. They may also ask to interview sponsored employees.
If the Home Office finds that you are not meeting your duties and obligations, they can revoke or suspend your licence, resulting in curtailment of any sponsored workers visas.
You must satisfy the decision maker that
Upgrade to an A-rating
You need to follow an ‘action plan’ provided by the Home Office, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to upgrade your sponsorship licence. At the end of the action plan you’ll be upgraded to an A-rating if you complete all the steps and there’s nothing else you need to improve. You’ll lose your licence if you don’t complete all the steps.
If you need to make other improvements, you’ll be given another B-rating and will have to follow a new action plan.
You can only have 2 B-ratings in the 4 years that your licence is valid. You’ll lose your licence if you still need to make improvements after your second action plan.
Once you are satisfied that you will be able to meet the above-mentioned sponsorship requirements of the Skilled Worker route, you should appoint an Authorising Officer to manage your sponsorship licence, a Key Contact to act as the main contact between your business and the Home Office and nominate at least one Level 1 User to carry out day-to-day sponsorship activities using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).
These key personnel will need to be in place when you apply for your Skilled Worker sponsor licence. The roles can be filled by the same person or a combination of different people.
Each of your Key Personnel must be based in the UK for the period they will fill the role you have appointed them to, not have any unspent criminal convictions, civil penalties or other adverse history (including adverse immigration history) and be a paid member of your staff or engaged by you as an office holder (unless an exception applies).
When you apply for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence, you will be asked to estimate and justify the number of Undefined CoS that you wish to assign in your first year as a licensed sponsor.
If your sponsor licence application is approved, the Home Office will notify you of your CoS allocation for the year. You will then have up to 12 months to use your CoS.
It is possible to apply to increase a CoS allocation part way through a CoS year. However, it typically takes 18 weeks for an in-year allocation increase unless a priority service is used.
Although unused CoS cannot be carried over to the next CoS year, during the validity period of your licence it will be possible to apply for a further allocation for the next CoS year.
The fee for submitting a sponsor licence application will vary depending on the size of your organisation. A small company or charity will be charged £536.00, and a medium or large sized company will be charged £1,476.00.
If your Skilled Worker sponsor licence application is successful, your licence will be valid for 4 years. If you wish to continue to sponsor skilled workers after the end of the 4 year period you will need to apply to renew your sponsor licence before it expires.
If, however, your Skilled Worker sponsor licence application is refused, there is no right of appeal and there will be a six-month cooling off period.
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