A guide on how to apply for a Home Office sponsor licence to sponsor skilled workers
From the 1 December 2020 UK employers can start to recruit non-EEA workers on the new skilled worker visa to start their Employment as soon as their visa applications are processed. Furthermore, UK employers can recruit EU workers on skilled worker visas with the visas operative from the 1 January 2021 (as prior to the 31 December 2020 EU citizens can enter the UK to live and work without needing a work visa under the principle of free movement). With the introduction of the new points based Immigration system and the skilled worker visa necessitating more UK employers to apply for their first Sponsor Licence our sponsor licence solicitors look at how to apply to the Home Office for a Sponsor Licence to sponsor skilled workers.
UK Sponsor Licence and skilled worker visa solicitors
London based OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration law and have an expert team of work visa and sponsor licence solicitors .For advice on applying for a Sponsor Licence and the new skilled worker visa call the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.
Does my business need a Sponsor Licence?
The end of free movement for EU nationals on the 31 December 2020 means many more UK businesses are having to decide whether or not to apply for their first Sponsor Licence as the new points based Immigration system requires all EU and non-EU nationals coming to the UK to work to be sponsored by an employer with a Home Office issued Sponsor Licence. Without a Sponsor Licence your business will be restricted to recruiting UK or settled workers or those with pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme and you won't be able to recruit skilled overseas workers.
How does a business apply for a Sponsor Licence?
To employ overseas workers on Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer visas or skilled worker visas your business will need a Sponsor Licence issued by the Home Office. The Sponsor Licence is granted to the business rather than to a named individual or employee, such as the managing director or HR director of the company.
Sponsor licence solicitors say that it is important that business owners understand what their Sponsor Licence duties and responsibilities will be if granted a Sponsor Licence so that they can weigh up the benefits of a Sponsor Licence application as well as understand the implications for their business and sponsored employees if their Sponsor Licence is suspended or revoked.
The first step in the Sponsor Licence application process is working out what type of Sponsor Licence your business requires. If you want to transfer overseas workers from an overseas branch to the UK branch of your business you will need a Sponsor Licence to sponsor Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer visa applicants. However, most companies will need a skilled worker visa Sponsor Licence enabling them to sponsor new recruits from overseas.
The eligibility criteria for a skilled worker visa Sponsor Licence are that:
- Your business is genuine and is operating or trading lawfully in the UK
- The company or business is based in the UK
- The company has or will have genuine job vacancies that meet the skilled worker visa eligibility criteria
- The business has systems in place to comply with sponsor licence management and reporting duties
- The company doesn’t present a threat to Immigration control and there hasn’t been previous Immigration non-compliance by the business.
What are the Sponsor Licence duties?
It is important to understand Sponsor Licence reporting and management duties so that your company can put the right systems in place before your Sponsor Licence application is submitted to the Home Office. In essence, to comply with the Immigration Rules on sponsor licences your business will need to keep and maintain records of sponsorship actions and sponsorship of overseas workers. The company will also need to make those records available to the Home Office for inspection if required to do so.
Sponsor Licence duties include:
- Record keeping such as retaining right to work records
- Monitoring sponsored workers, for example, absence from work
- Reporting matters on the Home Office Sponsor Licence management system
- Notifying the Home Office of a sponsored worker’s change in circumstances, for example, a change in address.
What does monitoring and reporting under a Sponsor Licence involve?
To successfully secure and retain your Sponsor Licence a business must be highly organised and have in place procedures and systems to record actions and monitor sponsored employees. Attention to detail and organisation is required as your company has to report to the Home Office within ten working days if, for example, a sponsored worker leaves your Employment or doesn’t start their Employment on the agreed date or if there is evidence that the sponsored worker has breached their visa conditions or has had ten days or more of consecutive non-agreed or unauthorised absence.
Absence monitoring can feel a bit like ‘big brother’ and unduly onerous but with the right HR staff and systems in place or through use of a sponsor licence management service reporting duties can be managed to ensure that you secure your first Sponsor Licence and your business is able to retain its Sponsor Licence.
Appointment of personnel to manage the Sponsor Licence
The Home Office Sponsor Licence application process requires your company to name its specified ‘key personnel’ when applying for the Sponsor Licence. These are the staff who will have Sponsor Licence management responsibilities to manage the Sponsor Licence. The Home Office identifies the key personnel as:
- The authorising officer - this person should ideally be a senior manager or HR department employee in the business
- The key contact - this person is the allocated Home Office contact on an ongoing basis. The key contact can be a sponsor licence solicitor
- The level 1 user - the person who uses the Home Office Sponsor Licence management system on a daily basis. Whilst there should only be one authorising officer and key contact your business can appoint more than one level 1 user
- The level 2 user - a person who uses the Home Office Sponsor Licence management system for administrative purposes and who has less authority or permissions than the level 1 user or users.
A person can hold more than one role in the key personnel tasks but the key personnel need to be named on the Sponsor Licence application form. The Home Office rules on Sponsor Licence applications say that the key personnel must be suitable, for example, not have an unspent criminal conviction for an Immigration offence and must be based in the UK whilst being nominated as key personnel. One of the common reasons for the refusal of a Sponsor Licence application is the unsuitability of one or more key personnel so it is best to check the suitability and eligibility criteria for key personnel with your sponsor licence solicitor.
Genuine job vacancies for skilled workers
As part of the Sponsor Licence application process your business will need to be able to demonstrate that it needs to recruit works from overseas on skilled worker visas. The company doesn’t need to have already started the recruitment process for an overseas worker before making their Sponsor Licence application as evidence can be presented of recruitment needs.
The Sponsor Licence application
The Sponsor Licence application has to be submitted to the Home Office online but it needs to be accompanied by supporting relevant paperwork as identified by the Home Office. The documents that your business is required to submit depend on the type and nature of your company but can include documents such as the latest audited annual accounts for the company or latest company bank statement or certificate of registration for VAT purposes.
In addition to the supporting company paperwork it is essential to explain why your business needs and wants a Sponsor Licence and other required information about the company, for example, the nature of the business and the names and job roles of the company employees if the business employs fifty or fewer employees. It is best to get a sponsor licence solicitor to help with the identification and checking of the supporting paperwork and the drafting of the letter in support of the Sponsor Licence application.
What happens after a Sponsor Licence application is submitted to the Home Office?
After a company has submitted a Sponsor Licence application the Home Office can decide to conduct a visit to the company or process the application without a pre-Sponsor Licence compliance visit or audit. Sponsor licence solicitorssay that it is best to assume that Home Office officials will conduct an audit and therefore be well prepared for the visit through arranging for your sponsor licence solicitor to conduct a mock audit to ensure that you have robust systems and procedures in place to manage the Sponsor Licence.
The length of time that it will take the Home Office to process your Sponsor Licence application will depend on whether Home Office officials conduct a compliance visit. Sponsor licence solicitors can advise on the likelihood of such an audit as much depends on whether your business is perceived as ‘high risk’ by the Home Office and the number of employees the company employs.
The hard work continues after your Sponsor Licence has been granted as it is vital that the Sponsor Licence is managed efficiently to avoid your Sponsor Licence being suspended, downgraded or revoked or to avoid renewal issues when your business comes to renew its Sponsor Licence after the initial four year grant.
Sponsor Licence solicitors
OTS Solicitors are specialist sponsor licence solicitors with the expertise to guide your business through the Sponsor Licence application process and to manage your sponsor licence for your business .
OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration and employment law and are recommended in the two leading law directories, The Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession. For Sponsor Licence advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.