Applying for Your First Sponsor Licence as a Start-Up Business
When you are a start-up business your growth goals may require the recruitment of specialist workers from overseas. Most UK businesses need a sponsor licence to sponsor skilled worker visa applicants to recruit the overseas employee or employees they need.
In this article, our immigration solicitors break down what paperwork your start-up business needs to apply for a sponsor licence to employ overseas recruits on skilled worker visas.
UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers
Sponsor licence application rules and start-up businesses
Sponsorship Licence lawyers say it is important to know if you are classed as a start-up business by the Home Office because different rules apply to you if you are applying for a sponsor licence as a start-up business or as an established company.
Most businesses can apply to the Home Office to sponsor skilled workers from overseas as the eligibility criteria to apply for a sponsor licence do not restrict applications to firms of a certain size or turnover. However, if your firm is classed as a start-up business the sponsor licence application rules say that you need to provide different documents in support of your application in comparison to a non-start-up company. The Home Office will also carry out different checks.
The Home Office’s definition of a start-up business in a sponsor licence application
For the checks and paperwork required for your sponsor licence application, the Home Office defines a start-up business as one that has been trading or operating in the UK for less than 18 months at the date of its sponsor licence application.
The Home Office definition of a start-up business is not affected by the number of your employees, the amount of your turnover, or a company director’s previous successful history of operating a company in the UK.
The documents required for a sponsor licence application by a start-up business
The documents required for a sponsor licence application by a start-up business depend on the nature of your company and the business sector you are in. Detailed rules are contained in Appendix A.
A minimum of 4 documents are required but Sponsorship Licence lawyers can advise on whether it is best to submit additional paperwork in support of the sponsor licence application.
Evidence of a company bank account
All start-up companies need to provide the Home Office with evidence that their business has a bank account when applying for their sponsor licence.
A letter from the bank or bank account statements will suffice but business immigration solicitors warn that for the bank to be acceptable to the Home Office, the bank where the account is held must be registered by the UK Financial Conduct Authority and by the Prudential Regulation Authority.
Other documents that can be used to supply the 4 pieces of evidence in support of the sponsor licence application
In addition to the bank account evidence, your company will need to supply at least 3 other supporting documents when applying for a sponsor licence as a start-up business. If your company is not subject to industry or sector-specific rules on the exact paperwork needed you can consider supplying documents such as:
- Audited or unaudited latest available annual accounts provided the accountant who prepared the accounts included their details and they are a member of an accredited regulatory body
- Company tax return – provided it is the latest available
- VAT registration certificate from HMRC
- Letter from HMRC with PAYE and accounts office reference number
- Business lease
Industry and sector-specific paperwork needed for a sponsor licence application by a start-up business
The industry and sector-specific paperwork needed for a sponsor licence application by a start-up business very much depend on the industry and sector. That’s why it is best to get specialist business immigration legal advice from Sponsorship Licence lawyers on your first sponsor licence application. Examples of specific paperwork requirements include:
- Regulated industry documents – such as for financial service providers or care home businesses
- For pubs and licensed premises – your licence to sell alcohol
- For franchise businesses – the signed franchise agreement
When does sponsor licence application paperwork need to be supplied?
The sponsor licence application is submitted online and any documents in support of your application need to be submitted within 5 days of the application.
Sponsorship Licence lawyers say the hard work is often done before the application is sent off as it can take time to gather together the right paperwork for your particular business as well as put systems in place so you can confidently say that you can manage your sponsor licence duties if granted a sponsor licence.
The sponsor licence application process
The sponsor licence application process can be broken down into these stages:
- Assess your recruitment needs to see if they can be met within the UK or if it would be best for your business to recruit from overseas, for example, because of the general UK skills shortage or a particular science or tech expertise you need to ‘buy in’ through overseas recruitment. Remember that you don’t need a sponsor licence to employ Irish citizens or EU nationals with settled status or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or those with visas that allow the visa holder to work for an employer without a sponsor licence or those with indefinite leave to remain
- Check the jobs you want to recruit for meet the criteria for the skilled worker visa as the granting of the sponsor licence doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to recruit an overseas worker to fill the job. The job role must be on a government published list of jobs with a standard occupational classification code. The job must also meet the minimum salary threshold and skill level for the skilled worker visa. It isn’t always obvious if a job meets the criteria for a skilled worker visa because it can be difficult to assess if your proposed salary meets the going rate percentage for the job or falls within a SOC code because your job description may differ from that contained on the government list. Our experienced Sponsorship Licence lawyers can offer guidance on whether the jobs you need to fill are likely to meet the skilled worker visa eligibility criteria
- Sort out your systems and appoint key personnel to manage your sponsor licence reporting duties. Although your current HR procedures and systems may work for you, they also need to be robust enough to enable you to meet your sponsor licence duties under the Home Office online sponsor management system. If your business is a start-up, it is often a good time to look at procedures to ensure that your systems are aligned to those of the Home Office so the red tape involved in sponsoring skilled worker visa holders is as easy to manage as possible as your business expands and recruits more workers from overseas. Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help with this process by providing internal audits and training as well as sponsor licence management services for those start-up businesses who prefer to outsource the management of their sponsor licence
- Apply for your sponsor licence online with the right fee and correct paperwork for your business
Once you have got your sponsor licence it is valid for 4 years and you can start allocating certificates of sponsorship to new recruits from overseas. It is then over to the recruit to apply for their skilled worker visa to enable them to take up their sponsored employment with your business.
How will OTS Solicitors help your start-up business get its first sponsor licence?
OTS Solicitors are a young firm. We remember just how hard it was to set up our business and to make a success of it by employing the best staff. That’s why our experienced business immigration lawyers will support you through the sponsor licence application process so you know that a sponsor licence application is the right route for your business and you understand why putting the preparation work in on your systems and in your appointment of key personnel will pay off for you in the long term.
Our efficient and friendly Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help your business on your journey to securing your first sponsor licence.
UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers