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How do I get a sponsor licence for my business?

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There are some sectors of the UK economy that are booming and others that, despite coping with the financial effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic, are recruiting to fill vacancies where staff were let go during lockdowns. Whether you are in the construction industry or the hospitality sector or in the transport business there is one common post-Brexit question being asked of immigration solicitors , ‘How do I get a sponsor licence for my business?’

UK online and London based immigration solicitors

For specialist advice on applying for a sponsor licence call the immigration law team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available by phone or video call.

Getting a sponsor licence for your business

Applying for a sponsor licence for your business can appear very complicated. If you are running a busy restaurant or trying to manage construction staff adding applying for a sponsor licence to your already hectic schedule may not be a realistic way to progress a sponsor licence application.

It is best to be honest and first decide whether you or your HR staff have the time to devote to applying for a Home Office issued sponsor licence. If you don’t then you can outsource applying for your sponsor licence to an immigration solicitor. Once the sponsor licence is secured you can even ask your immigration solicitor to manage the sponsor licence for your business. You may think that is lazy but sometimes getting an expert in early means you get your sponsor licence quickly and without fuss. That has the advantage of leaving you to concentrate on other aspects of the business. Cost wise it can also work out cheaper as it enables you and your staff to focus on what you are experts at and should ensure that you get your sponsor licence first time round.

It is also best for a business immigration solicitor to be honest with you as to whether the vacancies you need to fill and are struggling to do so within the UK talent pool will meet the criteria for a skilled worker visa or other type of work visa. Some UK businesses assume that the jobs they have available will not be viewed as ‘skilled’ by the Home Office as an employee will not need a degree or PhD to do the job. However, the skill level for a skilled worker visa is set relatively modestly by the Home Office.

Can I get a sponsor licence?  

A sponsor licence isn’t issued by the Home Office to an individual person, whatever your role or status in the business. The sponsor licence application therefore has to be made by a business entity but you don’t need to be a PLC as non-listed companies can apply as well as partnerships or limited liability partnerships and other types of business structure.

Getting a sponsor licence fast

You can apply for an expedited or fast track sponsor licence but sometimes paying the Home Office extra to speedily process the application isn’t worth it. That’s because, with careful preparation, a sponsor licence can be submitted  to the Home Office and processed by them in a matter of weeks. In addition, you can't get overseas skilled migrant workers to start work until they have secured a skilled worker visa. The process may appear long winded and complicated but the best way to get a quick sponsor licence is to ensure your application covers all the key points and that your business is prepared in case the Home Office decide to conduct a pre-sponsor licence audit.

Once the sponsor licence has been secured then a skilled worker visa applicant can obtain aa work visa relatively quickly once they have been allocated a certificate of sponsorship by your business if they have the right support.

Is the business eligible to apply for a sponsor licence?

When it comes to sponsor licence applications, size doesn’t matter. A business therefore does not need a minimum turnover or a set number of years of trading history or have a required minimum of employees or be incorporated. However, there are some eligibility criteria for a business to be able to apply for a sponsor licence, namely:

  • You can't have unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences. Appendix B to the sponsor licence guidance sets out all the various immigration offences.
  • You can't have unspent criminal convictions for some other crimes, such as, fraud or money laundering.
  • You cannot have had a Home Office issued sponsor licence revoked in the twelve months before submission of the new sponsor licence application.

Will the Home Office scrutinise a sponsor licence application?

Given the reported UK skills shortage and recruitment crisis in industries such as construction or hospitality and the often-repeated desire to get the UK economy back to pre-pandemic levels it isn’t surprising to learn that many UK employers think that any sponsor licence application will just be nodded through without any real examination of the application or supporting paperwork.

Immigration solicitors say that isn’t the case. With the easing of lockdowns and COVID-19 related restrictions the Home Office has recommenced pre-sponsor licence audits but throughout the pandemic the Home Office continued to rigorously examine sponsor licence applications. That is because sponsor licence holders are seen as the gatekeepers of immigration as the Home Office has to rely on their honesty and integrity and compliance with sponsor licence reporting and recording duties to make the sponsor licence system work.

What does a business need to do to get a sponsor licence?

First thing you need to do is to work out the type of sponsor licence your business needs. That will depend on the size and nature of your business. For example, you may want to hire temporary workers or transfer a worker from your overseas base to the UK branch of your company on an intra company transfer visa. Alternatively, you may have an urgent recruitment need, combined with the UK skills shortage in some areas, and need to hire skilled migrant workers as soon as possible on skilled worker visas.

It can be best to take expert business immigration law advice on the sponsor licence options so your business applies for the right type of sponsor licence, or more than one type of licence, to allow the business to sponsor a range of overseas workers.

Once you know the type of sponsor licence you need then before you submit your formal application you need to look at your current office and admin procedures and see if they are compliant with Home Office reporting and recording sponsor licence duties. If they are not, or if you know that procedures are followed in a haphazard manner, then get an immigration solicitor in to advise on file management and sponsor licence reporting and recording duties. Getting an internal audit done before the formal sponsor licence application is submitted should avoid too many nasty surprises during any Home Office pre-sponsor licence audit.

Immigration solicitors say that lockdowns and remote working have meant that many firms have not been able to follow their established practices or have had to change them. An application for a sponsor licence is an opportune time to ensure that current HR practices and file management and record keeping with meet the sponsor licence standards on reporting and recording.

The next step is ensuring you have the right key personnel appointed to manage the sponsor licence as some need to be named on the sponsor licence application. Often businesses think that it doesn’t matter who they appoint but immigration solicitors advise that one of the main reasons for sponsor licence applications being refused is the choice of key personnel. It is therefore essential that the business gets the critical key personnel appointments right. For example, the logic may be to appoint the most senior admin staff member as the level one user but that may be a bad idea if the firm where they previously worked in a key personnel role had their sponsor licence revoked or if they are not highly organised and efficient and will not follow procedures to the letter.

The final thing that your business needs to do is to make sure that your sponsor licence application is supported by the right paperwork  and payment of the correct sponsor licence fee.

Can you apply for a sponsor licence without using an immigration solicitor?

Your business can apply for a sponsor licence without using a business immigration solicitor but you may find it hard work or find that it takes longer than you anticipated or takes an inordinate amount of staff time.

That is why most businesses look to their company solicitor for sponsor licence advice. If the solicitor who usually advises you is an expert in corporate transactions, commercial contracts or employment law it may be best to get expert immigration law advice on your sponsor licence needs and the application process to ensure the application has the best chance of a successful outcome.

A discussion with an immigration solicitor will also help you understand the ongoing process of sponsor licence renewal (every four years) as well as the sponsor licence management process and your options. The solicitor can  help you carry out a cost benefit analysis of keeping things in-house or employing a sponsor licence management service or doing a mix of the two with your HR staff consulting your chosen business immigration solicitors on the skilled worker visa application process or any of the unexpected things that might arise during the operation of the sponsor licence.

UK online and London based immigration solicitors  

For expert legal advice on making a sponsor licence application call the business immigration law team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available by phone or video call.

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