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Assistance with a sponsor licence

At MASTER LEGAL SERVICES we have vast experience in dealing with sponsor licence applications. We can provide a comprehensive consultation and analyse if your company fully qualifies for being granted a licence. Our team provide the clients with exceptional immigration advice and ensures the process goes smoothly and you will get a positive outcome. We offer the most competitive fees in London. You will avoid stressful and time-consuming process of applying; as a tailored immigration firm, we will always prioritize your needs and provide the best services ever.

We have been highly successful in assisting private and corporate clients for many years and as a result we are a trusted and reliable team to work with, based on the positive reviews of our clients.

Thus, if you are still thinking of applying for a licence to be able to hire foreign workers, it is high time you contacted us today for a professional assessment of the case. Qualified immigration specialists at Master Legal Services are here ready to help with not just an application, but also to provide you with the necessary resources and guidance how to meet the requirements of the Home Office to be a sponsoring employer, to manage your duties and responsibilities, how to keep records of your employees and many other essential things you may not be aware of at the initial stage of the application.

Since the start of 2021, European Union (EU) citizens not already living in the UK have been treated the same way as those from the rest of the world. If they want to work in the UK for an employer the only possible way for them is to get skilled worker visa and this is relevant if only the company has sponsor licence.

It should be noted that more professions have been added to the list of eligible occupations for a Skilled Worker visa, a lot of these are at the professional level 3, not 6. For the applicant it means they do not need a Degree, but can show they have sufficient experience in the desired field. The new rules are applicable to all nationals, there are no exceptions based on where you come from.

New post-Brexit rules say that resident labour market test is no longer required. Nevertheless, when applying for a sponsor licence the employer will need to clarify how they identified their prospective employee (if they have one) and provide some evidence of this, e.g., screenshots of their adverts, letter from the recruitment agency, etc.

What to start with?

We have now clarified that the sponsor licence is the essential things to be able to hire personnel from overseas. Once you decided to start the process, you need to get prepared the supporting documents: these depend on how long your organisation has been trading, the size of the organisation, if you are regulated by any professional / governmental body, if you are a start-up or a franchise or a charity and many other points we need to discuss during the initial consultation with you.

Sponsor licence guidance.

Most (if not all) employers started to check our right to work in the UK from January 2021. This is because they do not want to employ an illegal entrant by mistake and be fined for their actions. Those Europeans who do not have status under the EU settlement scheme will need to be sponsored as other nationals based the Home Office general requirements.

What is a sponsor licence?

This is the permission from the Home Office to the companies based in the UK to hire workers from abroad or to employ those who are in the UK on other types of visas allowed to switch to the skilled worker route from inside the country. The company granted sponsor licence is enlisted in the register of eligible sponsors and can assign certificates of sponsorship to the candidates they identify in the recruitment process.

It is normally issued for 4 years with the automatic option for renewal if the company continues to qualify.  

Eligibility requirements for a sponsor licence.

To be eligible to apply for a sponsor licence, the organisation must be based in the UK (it can also be a UK branch of an international company) and be operating or trading lawfully in the UK. Multiple UK branches may apply for one licence to cover all linked UK entities; or a separate licence can be granted for each branch, depending on the circumstances.

There are a few categories of entities that require different set of documents when applying:

Specific bodies and organisations: public body that appears in the corporate report Public bodies 2013 summary data on GOV.UK, public body that does not appear in the corporate report Public bodies 2013 summary data on GOV.UK; Government Department; Local Authority and your website can be accessed via the search facility on GOV.UK; you are applying under International Agreement as an overseas Government, a Diplomatic Mission or an International Organisation whose employees enjoy certain privileges and immunities under UK or international law; you are listed on the London stock exchange (main market). In this case the set of documents is minimal and the Home Office can conduct the necessary checks in the relevant records or online.

Start-ups, franchises, charities and organisations subject to regulation or inspection: Start-ups: if you have been operating or trading in the UK for less than 18 months on the date you make your application, the checks are different to those carried out on more established businesses;

If you are a Franchise: You must send us your Franchise Agreement signed by both parties.

If you are required to be registered with and/or inspected/monitored by a regulatory body to operate lawfully in the UK, the Home Office will need to check that you are registered and to see your last inspection report where appropriate, such as: nursing/care homes and other businesses, which must be inspected by Ofsted or the Care Quality Commission or the equivalent bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland;

financial or insurance businesses carrying out regulated activities which must be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority;

healthcare and medical providers, who must be registered with the General Medical Council or General Dental Council;

If you are a food business and you are required to be registered with or approved by a food authority.

Specific routes if you are applying under: International Sportsperson route; Temporary Work – International Agreement because you want to sponsor contractual service suppliers or independent professionals; Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange; Temporary Work – Seasonal Worker; Intra-Company routes.

It is your duty to prove to the Home Office that the vacancy is genuine, you clearly understand what duties and responsibilities your candidate is going to have, what qualification and experience they need to fulfil their work, you are able to pay the correct salary as requested by the Home Office.

The Home Office can conduct any checks they need to ensure you meet these requirements and to be satisfied that you are able to continue holding your licence.

Due to current new rules there is no need to conduct a resident labour market test. Nevertheless, you must indicate which jobs are currently vacant and for which you intend to assign a CoS. If you have already identified someone that you wish to employ via the sponsorship system, you should provide evidence of how you identified this person. If you identified this person as a result of a recruitment process, you should include copies of advertisements placed to recruit for the job, details of any applicants and why they were not suitable for the job. You should confirm whether the person is already working for you (if they are in the UK, for instance, as a student).

If you have not advertised the job and the person you wish to employ is not currently working for you, you should confirm how you identified that this person was the most suitable for the job.

Our experience in sponsor licence applications is quite vast. The successful outcomes of the cases is a good proof that we can deal with your company as well and that you will be one more happy holder of the sponsor licence to be able to bring exceptionally skilled candidates to the UK.

Sponsor licence application expenses

The fee for a sponsor licence depends on the size and type of organisation. This application fee is payable every time the sponsor renews their licence (every four years). Fees are usually reviewed annually by the Home Office which publishes them on its website.

You need to pay a fee when you apply.

Type of licence Fee for small or charitable sponsors Fee for medium or large sponsors
Worker £536 £1,476
Temporary Worker £536 £536
Worker and Temporary Worker £536 £ 1,476
Add a Worker licence to an existing Temporary Worker licence No fee £940
Add a Temporary Worker licence to an existing Worker licence No fee No fee

You’re usually a small sponsor if at least 2 of the following apply:

  • your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less
  • your total assets are worth £5.1 million or less
  • you have 50 employees or fewer

You’re a charitable sponsor if you’re:

  • a registered charity in England or Wales
  • a registered charity in Scotland
  • a registered charity in Northern Ireland – if you’re not on the register, you must provide proof of your charitable status for tax purposes from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • an excepted charity
  • an exempt charity
  • an ecclesiastical corporation established for charitable purposes

Registered Charities are considered to be “small” sponsors.

Your licence rating

You’ll get an A-rated licence if your application is approved.

An A-rated licence lets you start assigning certificates of sponsorship.

Your business will be listed in the register of sponsors.

Downgrading to B-rating

Your A-rated licence may be downgraded to a B-rating at a later stage if you do not continue to meet your sponsor responsibilities. If this happens, you will not be able to issue new certificates of sponsorship until you’ve made improvements and upgraded back to an A-rating. You’ll still be able to issue certificates to workers you already employ who want to extend their permission to stay.

Upgrade to an A-rating

You need to follow an ‘action plan’ provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to upgrade your licence. You have to pay £1,476 for an action plan.

You must pay the fee within 10 working days of the date UKVI tells you about the downgrade. If you do not, you’ll lose your 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 do not 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’ll have to pay the fee again.

If you get a second B-rating 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.

How to reapply

You cannot appeal if your licence is revoked, but you can reapply. You have to wait at least 12 months before reapplying. You need to start a new application when you reapply.

The Home Office can suspend/revoke a licence without downgrading you to a B-rating. The choice of action taken by the Home Office will depend on the seriousness of the breaches which have been identified.

Apply for your licence

You need to apply online for your licence.

Once you’ve finished the online application, you need to send in:

  • the submission sheet at the end of the application
  • your supporting documents

How to send the documents

You can scan or take pictures of your submission sheet and supporting documents. Send them to the email address given on the submission sheet. Make sure your files:

  • are in PDF, JPEG or PNG format
  • have descriptive titles, with 25 or fewer characters
  • are high enough quality to be read

If your documents are not in English or Welsh, you must include a certified translation.

How long it takes to get a decision

Most applications (8 out of 10) are dealt within 8 weeks. UKVI may need to visit your business. You may be able to pay £500 to get a decision within 10 working days. You’ll be told if you can after you apply.

Applications refused because of a mistake

You can apply to request a review of your application if you think it was refused because:

  • the caseworker processing your application made a mistake
  • your supporting documents were not considered. Please note that the Home Office has the right to request additional documents at any stage of the application consideration.

You cannot apply just because you disagree with the decision.

Documents you need to apply for a sponsor licence

You normaly need to submit a minimum of four specified mandatory documents with the sponsor licence application. The required document list depends on the type of organisation you are. Some easy to obtain documents may include:

  • Latest business bank statement.
  • Employer’s liability insurance from an authorised insurer.
  • Certificate of VAT registration.
  • Evidence of registration as an employer with HMRC – i.e. PAYE and Accounts Office Reference Number.
  • Proof of ownership or lease of business premises or rent agreement.
  • Latest audited or unaudited accounts (audited accounts are mandatory if your company is legally obliged to file audited accounts).
  • If you are required to be registered with and/or inspected/monitored by a regulatory body to operate lawfully in the UK, evidence of your registration.

Certificates of sponsorship

You must assign a certificate of sponsorship to each foreign worker you employ. This is an electronic record, not a physical document. Each certificate has its own number which a worker can use to apply for a visa.

When you assign the certificate to a worker, they must use it to apply for their visa within 3 months. They must not apply for their visa more than 3 months before the start date of the job listed on the certificate.

Defined certificates: These are for people applying on a Skilled Worker visa from outside the UK.

You must apply for defined certificates for these workers through the sponsorship management system (SMS). You’ll get access to the SMS when you get your licence.

When you get the certificate: Applications are usually approved within one working day. It may take longer if UKVI need to carry out further checks on the information in your application.

Defined certificates will appear in your SMS account once they have been approved. You can then assign them to a worker.

Undefined certificates: These are for Skilled Workers applying from inside the UK, and applicants on all other visas.

A person cannot apply in the UK if they on the following visas:

  • on a visit visa
  • on a short-term student visa
  • on a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • on a seasonal worker visa
  • on a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • on immigration bail
  • because you were given permission to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds

You must leave the UK and apply for a Skilled Worker visa from abroad if you’re in one of these categories (hence, the certificate of sponsorship should be in the category “defined”).

When you apply for your licence you’ll be asked to estimate how many undefined certificates you’ll need for Workers and Temporary Workers in the first year.

Certificate costs

Certificates are free for citizens of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden or Turkey.

For other citizens, you need to pay for each certificate.

Type of licence Cost per certificate
Worker (except workers on the International Sportsperson visa) £199
Temporary Worker £21
International Sportsperson – where the certificate of sponsorship is assigned for more than 12 months £199
International Sportsperson – where the certificate of sponsorship is assigned for 12 months or less £21

If you assign a certificate of sponsorship to a worker on a Skilled Worker or Intra-company Transfer visa, you might also need to pay the immigration skills charge.

Immigration skills charge

You might have to pay an additional charge when you assign a certificate of sponsorship to someone applying for a Skilled Worker or Intra-company Transfer visa. This is called the ‘immigration skills charge’.

You must pay the immigration skills charge if they’re applying for a visa from:

  • outside the UK to work in the UK for 6 months or more
  • inside the UK for any length of time

You will not pay the immigration skills charge if you’re sponsoring someone:

  • on an Intra-company Graduate Trainee visa
  • who is on a visa to study in the UK, and switches to a Skilled Worker or Intra-company Transfer visa – if they then extend their stay on the new visa, you will not have to pay the charge

You will also not have to pay the charge if you’re sponsoring someone with one of the following occupation codes:

  • chemical scientists (2111)
  • biological scientists and biochemists (2112)
  • physical scientists (2113)
  • social and humanities scientists (2114)
  • natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified (2119)
  • research and development managers (2150)
  • higher education teaching professionals (2311)
  • clergy (2444)
  • sports players (3441)
  • sports coaches, instructors or officials (3442)

You also might not have to pay the charge if you’re sponsoring a worker who was assigned a certificate before 6 April 2017.

You will not need to pay the charge for any of the worker’s dependants, for example their partner or child.

If the person you’re sponsoring changes jobs: If you’ve assigned a certificate of sponsorship to someone in your organisation who then moves to a new job in your organisation, you’ll need to assign them a new certificate. They will use this to apply for a new visa.

You only need to do this if the new job has a different occupation code.

You must pay the immigration skills charge for the full length of their visa. If the new certificate of sponsorship allows the worker more time on their visa, you’ll need to pay for this extra time.

How to pay

You pay the immigration skills charge when you assign a certificate of sponsorship to the worker.

The amount you need to pay is based on:

  • the size of your organisation
  • how long the worker will work for you, using the start and end dates on their sponsorship certificate
Period Small or charitable sponsors Medium or large sponsors
First 12 months £364 £1,000
Each additional 6 months £182 £500

If your application is refused

If your licence application is refused, you may be able to:

  • ask to review the decision through the ‘Error correction request’ process, if you believe there has been a simple caseworking error
  • apply again – but only after the appropriate ‘cooling-off period’, if applicable, has ended

Error correction request

There is no right of appeal against the refusal of an application for a licence. However, if you believe the refusal decision is the result of either:

  • a caseworker error – for example, if a cooling-off period has been incorrectly applied and you send evidence to show that this is the case;
  • evidence sent as part of your application not being considered by the Home Office – for example, if a specific piece of information has not been considered and you send evidence to show this was received by the caseworker.

The request must be sent within 14 calendar days from the date of the refusal decision letter. The reply will be received within 28 working days of the receipt of your error correction request form.

Note that you cannot send any additional documents which were not provided with the initial application.

The cooling-off period depends upon the reason of refusal and may last from no cooling-off period (your application was sent by a representative or you did not provide documents or information we requested by a specific deadline for reasons outside your control) to 6-12 month- / 5-year / indefinite cooling-off period (revoked licence, a civil penalty for employing an illegal worker, more than one civil penalty has been issued to an owner, a director or an authorising officer of your organisation, an unpaid civil penalty or charge).

Reasons of sponsor licence application refusal

The most common reasons are:

  • Failure to pass the Home Office’s Compliance Audit
  • The business does not have appropriate policy and procedure in place to meet its sponsorship duties
  • The business does not pass its ‘genuineness test’
  • Failure to retain sufficient documentation on migrant workers
  • The business has not responded to Home Office enquiries on time

The ultimate reason(s) of refusal will be indicated in the Home Office letter and depending on the reason you should think about the re-submission.

You can employ foreign workers without a sponsor licence if only they have other types of visas: EU citizens with settled / pre-settled status, EU dependent family members, PBS dependent family members, investor visa holders, spouse visa holders, student visa holder (up to 20 hours during term-time), all holders of indefinite leave to remain (if they have not lost it).

Employing foreign workers can be quite beneficial for UK employers if they need specialists speaking rare languages and being at the same time qualified professionals in their field, having excellent knowledge in the local markets. It can be essential for business growth and company development.

Thus, if you are planning to hire highly skilled personnel from abroad and need more information regarding sponsor licence, do not hesitate to contact us today and to talk to an exceptionally qualified immigration specialist at Master Legal Services.


T : 020 8935 5205

M : +44 7710987064

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About us

Master Legal Services is a company Registered in England & Wales No.10309474. We are authorised to provide immigration advice and services by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).


7 Bell Yard London,





020 8935 5205