A visa sponsorship licence is needed by any business who want to employ someone from outside of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. A licence is needed whether the employee will be doing paid or unpaid work.

Why businesses need a sponsorship licence

It is essential to obtain a sponsorship licence if you want to employ foreign workers, which can be very beneficial for your business. If you fail to get a licence, you will be employing any migrant workers illegally which can end up in you being penalised.

The penalty given to businesses who have failed to follow the correct immigration and employment rules are specifically designed to impact future business operations, meaning that you could end up at a large disadvantage for not abiding by the law.

Who is eligible to apply?

Any business who does not have unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences, or certain other crimes like fraud or money laundering, and has no history of failing to carry out previous sponsorship duties is eligible to apply for a visa sponsorship licence.

If your company wants to apply for a licence, then there needs to be appropriate systems in place to monitor any employees that you sponsor. When you apply for your licence, you will have to appoint people currently working within your business to manage the whole sponsorship process.

You and your staff will have to undergo checks to make sure that you are suitable to be appointed to manage a sponsorship process. The checks are rigorous, and if you or anyone in your company fail it may mean that your sponsorship licence is denied.

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Who can your business sponsor?

Your business can sponsor workers who want to come to the UK temporarily or permanently, or you can opt to sponsor both. You must make sure that if you plan to employ foreign workers under the age of eighteen, they have suitable care arrangements for their travel to and arrival and living arrangements in the UK. You also are required to get a letter of consent to care arrangements from their parents.

If any of your workers require a Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS), you must carry this out. If you don’t, your sponsorship licence will be revoked.

Types of sponsorship licences

The type of licence you need and therefore apply for will depend on what type of workers you plan to employ. You can apply to employ Tier 2 skilled workers with long-term job offers, Tier 5 temporary skilled workers or both. It can be complicated knowing what sponsorship licence type you can and should apply for, so it is always best to seek the advice of an immigration lawyer from a professional firm like AWH Solicitors in Manchester.

A Tier 2 sponsorship licence will allow you to employ workers long-term or permanently. You can employ general workers from another country or workers from a foreign branch of your company. If you are a religious organisation, you can also use this sponsorship licence to employ people for up to three years. You can also employ elite sportspeople and coaches under a Tier 2 sponsorship licence.

A Tier 5 sponsorship licence will allow you to employ workers on a temporary basis. These workers can be seeking to come to the UK for a variety of reasons, including working:

  • In a creative or sporting role
  • For a charity
  • As a religious worker i.e. preaching, pastoral and non-pastoral work
  • Under the government authorised exchange doing work experience or training
  • Under an international agreement i.e. doing a job covered by international law
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Because all of these visa categories are for temporary workers, there are time limits on how long employees you hire using a Tier 5 sponsorship licence can work for you. Some are up to a year, and some can be for two years with the possibility of switching to another visa category after that.

Applying for your licence

You have to apply for your visa sponsorship licence online. Once you reach the end of your application, you will receive a submission sheet which you will then need to post to UK Visas and Immigration with at least four supporting documents to prove that your business is genuine.

Your application should be dealt with and you should get a response within eight weeks. If they feel the need to, UK Visas and Immigration may visit your business to carry out a check in order to confirm that you qualify as eligible to apply for a sponsorship licence.

Your business’ responsibilities

If your company is granted a visa sponsorship licence, you will be given certain responsibilities for hiring and continuing to employ foreign workers. You must check that all foreign employees have the right skills, qualifications or professional accreditations to do their jobs properly. You also have to keep documents which prove that this.

You have a responsibility to only assign sponsorship certificates to workers if the job is suitable for sponsorship. If you do not carry out your responsibilities properly, your sponsorship licence can be downgraded, suspended, or even withdrawn.

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