With the introduction of the new Skilled Worker visa, as an employer you now need to secure a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence. By doing this, you are able to issue Certificates of Sponsorship to potential applicants, allowing them to obtain their visa.
In addition to Skilled Worker Sponsor Licences, you are also able to apply for the following Sponsor Licences:
- Intra Company Transfer;
- Ministers of Religion (T2) / Temporary Worker - Religious (T5);
- Sportsperson visa (T2);
- Temporary Worker - Creative and Sporting (T5)
- Temporary Worker - Charity (T5)
- Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange (T5)
- Temporary Worker - International Agreement (T5)
- Temporary Worker - Seasonal Worker (T5)
Some of the above licences can be applied for collectively, such as Intra Company Transfer and Skilled Worker Licences. Others, such as the Religious or Sporting categories, have their own separate application process.
In order to apply for a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence, you must satisfy certain eligibility and suitability criteria.
Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence Eligibility Criteria
As a sponsor, you must submit evidence demonstrating that you are a genuine employer, with a lawful trading presence in the UK. In order to meet the eligibility criteria, you must provide at least four pieces of evidence as listed in Appendix A, in support of your application.
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.
Specified Evidence Required
In addition to information about the organisation, the proposed job role, and the candidate in mind, you must also tell the Home Office why you are applying for a Skilled Worker Licence.
The Home Office also requires you to nominate certain individuals to take on roles in respect of the Sponsor Licence. Anyone nominated must be primarily in the UK, and the main roles are:
- Authorising Officer - Usually someone senior within the company or organisation, who is involved with recruitment and/or HR. This person will be ultimately responsible for the licence, and ensuring that Sponsor Licence duties are met;
- Key Contact - The primary point of contact for the Home Office. A legal representative can undertake this role for you; and
- Level 1 User - This person will be responsible for all day-to-day management of the Sponsor Licence through an online portal, known as the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). This person must be an employee at the time of application, however once the Sponsor Licence has been assigned, others, including legal representatives can be set up at Level 1 Users, or Level 2 Users who are able to undertake certain limited tasks on the SMS.
When deciding who to nominate for the above roles, it is important to consider whether any one of them have any adverse history - whether that be past criminal convictions, or any adverse involvement with the Home Office. Applications for Sponsor Licences have been refused in the past as a result of one or more persons character or history.
Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence Suitability Criteria
Unlike the eligibility criteria, the suitability criteria requires a much broader assessment. The Home Office will be wanting to see that your organisation is honest, dependable, and reliable, and capable of fulfilling the responsibilities that it expects from Sponsors.
The department will check the following:
- That the sponsor has the human resource and recruitment systems in place to meet, or continue to meet their sponsor duties - the Home Office will judge this by either visiting the sponsor before or after the licence is granted;
- That the Home Office are able to visit and conduct checks to ensure that the sponsor duties are being complied with on an immediate,
- unannounced basis; this includes checks at any physical addresses where the sponsored employees would carry out their employment duties;
- That the sponsor can offer a genuine vacancy which meets the criteria of the category the sponsor is applying to be licensed for;
- If any of the key personnel within the business have an unspent criminal conviction for a relevant offence; and
- Any evidence of previous non-compliance by the sponsor.
You must also be able to demonstrate that you can offer genuine employment that meets the skill and salary requirements under the skilled-worker route.
The Home Office will want to be satisfied that your organisation has the HR or recruitment procedure in place to meet the sponsorship duties. Sponsorship duties include reporting certain information about sponsored workers and using the sponsorship management system. If something needs to be reported, this must be done within 10 days of the event. Events that require reporting are those such as changes to start dates, or change of work location for a skilled worker.
Your sponsorship duties also include keeping records of things such as contracts of employment, salaries, and evidence of genuineness of any vacancies advertised. Appendix D: keeping records for sponsorship 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 the 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. 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.
How to Submit an Application for a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence
Your application will be made using an online application form, where you can choose the categories that you would like the Sponsor Licence to cover. You will also have to give information about the key personnel you are appointing, as well as what documents and evidence you are providing to meet the eligibility criteria set out above.
A legal representative can help you complete the form, but the guidance clearly states that it must be submitted by the Sponsor themselves.
The fee for submitting varies 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.
Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence Processing Times
You might be waiting for a decision on your application for up to 8 weeks. There is a priority service which costs £500.00, and will return a decision within 10 working days.
If your application is granted, you will be issued with a Sponsor Licence valid for 4 years from the date of decision. If, however, your application is refused, there is no right of appeal and there is a six-month cooling off period.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.