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Sponsor Licence and UK Business Immigration

Businesses will often wish to employ the best possible candidates outside the UK in order to thrive in the UK’s international and competitive economy. As a result, these businesses must be alert as there are constant changes to UK business immigration law. Employers must keep up with the increasing complexity of the requirements to legally employ workers from outside the UK. The strict rules and complicated guidelines set by the Home Office have rendered many businesses unable to fulfil their obligations. Subsequently, they incur penalties and financial losses.

Call now to speak to an immigration expert on 0203 5245439

Corporate Immigration
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Sponsor Licence and sponsoring workers from outside the UK

The guidance on hiring workers from outside the UK changed on 1 January 2021 after the Brexit transition period ended. As there is now a points-based system, to employ most workers from outside the UK it is likely that businesses will need a sponsor licence. If you are a business that employs foreign nationals it is your responsibility to fulfil your obligations as a sponsor. Any employee a business wishes to recruit from outside the UK (excluding Irish citizens) will need to meet certain requirements and apply for permission. While the requirements are different for each visa, applicants for positions will usually have to possess a specific skill set and education, and attain the minimum salary requirements. If you are granted a sponsor licence, you must then apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship in order to allow the prospective employee to apply for a Skilled Worker visa with you as their sponsor.

It is your responsibility as an employer to ensure that job applicants have the legal right to work in the UK before starting their employment. Right to Work checks can be used by employers to confirm whether an employee has the legal right to work in the UK. Employers should record the date that they made the check and maintain the identification documents of their employees. If as an employer, you fail to carry out this responsibility it could result in your business facing liability.  

Responsibilities under the sponsor licence

You have a variety of audit and compliance responsibilities as a visa sponsor. It is vital that you keep a record of any relevant documents of your sponsor licence, of the employee(s) you are sponsoring and report any changes in your business’ or the employee’s circumstances to the Home Office. The UKVI carries out unannounced audits of sponsor licence holders. A breach of any of your obligations, however small, can have serious consequences for your business and your employees. In addition to facing heavy penalty fines, your business may have its sponsor licence revoked immediately. This will considerably limit your ability to employ foreign workers and thus may have a detrimental effect on your business activities.

Previous Tier 2 sponsorship requirements for EEA nationals before Brexit

Before Brexit businesses were free to employ EEA nationals due to the free movement rules between the UK and the EU. However, any business that wanted to employ non-EEA nationals had to obtain a Tier 2 sponsorship licence to do so. Similarly, to the current sponsor licence requirements the Tier 2 sponsorship licence meant that businesses that wanted to employ non-EEA nationals had to prove that there was a genuine vacancy. Furthermore, non-EEA nationals had to possess a certain skill set and meet minimum threshold salary requirements to apply for roles in the UK.

Since 1 January 2021, the guidance on sponsoring employees from outside the UK has changed. If a business wants to employ anyone from outside the UK, including EEA nationals, it must obtain a sponsor licence. Furthermore, there are differences in the types of visas that a foreign worker can now obtain.

UK business immigration
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How can NA Law Solicitors assist with UK Business immigration?

NA Law Solicitors can offer you assistance throughout each stage of the application process for a sponsor licence. We will help you comply with and implement your ongoing obligations once you have obtained your licence. We will also advise you on the latest developments in immigration law in the Brexit negotiation process and how best to prepare your business for the UK’s departure from the EU.

NA Law Solicitors can advise on the following corporate immigration matters:

  • Sponsor Licence applications, including Genuine Vacancy tests
  • Certificates of Sponsorship
  • Audit and Compliance
  • We can act as a key contact and/or a level 1 user for your sponsor licence
  • How to conduct Right to Work checks in accordance with prescribed Home Office guidance
  • Skilled Worker visa applications for future employees once your business has acquired a sponsor licence and certificate
  • Dealing with closure notices and civil penalty notices
  • Assisting multi-nationals to bring their overseas staff to the UK to work on assignments via the Intra-Company Transfer visa route
  • Advice on the continued or new employment of EEA nationals after Brexit
  • Contact us for an initial 15-minute consultation.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

You need a sponsorship licence if you plan on hiring employees from outside the EEA.

To meet the requirements, you must:

  • be a genuine business or sole-trader which is legally operating in the UK.
  • be able to demonstrate a genuine need for migrant workers.
  • have no unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences, money laundering, or fraud.
  • not pose any kind of threat to the UK via your company or any of its personnel.
  • not have a history of failing to carry out sponsorship duties.
  • have organised HR systems and records.

The Home Office fee depends on the type of business you have. For small businesses and charities the Tier 2 sponsorship fee is £536. For medium and large businesses the Tier 2 sponsorship fee is £1476. You are a small business if you have an annual turnover of £10.2 million and less than 50 employees.

Some of the most common reasons for Tier 2 sponsor visa rejection are:

  • Non-compliance with the Home Office security standards
  • Failing the genuineness test
  • Failing to retain documentation on sponsored migrant workers

The Home Office will award you with a license rating. Your business will be placed on the UK Sponsorship Licence register. You will be able to issue Certificates of Sponsorship. Your license will be valid for 4 years.

Applying for a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence is a lengthy and complex process. NA Law Solicitors can assist with your business immigration needs by managing the entire Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence application process. We can help you adhere to your duties as a Tier 2 sponsor and steer you towards a successful outcome. Subsequently, NA Law can assist with the following:

  • Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence applications
  • Audit existing HR and record keeping systems
  • Acting as a key contact and/or level 1 user for your Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence
  • Advising on Right to Work checks as set out by the Home Office guidance
  • Applying for a restricted or unrestricted CoS and assigning it to the relevant workers
  • Advising on how to deal with closure notices and civil penalty notices
  • Assisting multi-nationals to bring their overseas staff to the UK via the Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer visa route
  • Advising on Brexit-related issues faced by EEA national workers
  • Advising on all other corporate immigration matters

During the sponsor licence application, the Home Office may come to conduct a compliance visit at the company premises. Our specialist team at NA Law Solicitors can conduct a mock audit for you. This will decrease the chance of an unsuccessful sponsor licence. Contact us for further information, advice or guidance.

Most applications are dealt with within 4 weeks. UKVI will contact the applicant once a decision is made.

Prior to making a decision on a Student sponsorship licence application or as a means to ensure a sponsor is adhering to its Student sponsor duties, UKVI may make an unannounced visit to inspect the sponsor’s HR policies and confirm they have sufficient measures in place to fulfil their obligations.

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