How to sponsor overseas workers in the UK

Hiring staff from overseas is a great way for businesses to bring in new talent and create a diverse working environment.

There is more to it than the usual recruitment process though.

As a UK employer you will need a sponsor licence if you want to offer a job to someone from outside of the country. And your new recruit won’t be able to get a work visa unless you have the licence.

So, what is a sponsor licence and how can you apply for one?

This article looks at who needs a licence, what the process looks like and how to apply.

Who needs a sponsor licence?

A sponsor licence is needed if an employer wants to hire a skilled worker from outside of the EEA and Switzerland.

It’s also needed if an organisation wants to transfer an existing staff member from an overseas office to the UK.

Then there are two different categories of sponsorship to choose from. You can apply for a licence for both or one, depending on your business needs.

  • Tier 2 for long-term job offers
  • Tier 5 for temporary workers

You can’t just hire anyone though. There are certain conditions to meet for each tier.

Tier 2:

Tier 5:

  • Creative – entertainer or artist (for up to two years)
  • Sportsperson (up to one year)
  • Religious worker (two years)
  • Government Authorised Exchange – work experience (one year); research (two years)
  • International agreement – e.g. workers from overseas government

What is involved?

If the person you want to sponsor fits into one of the categories above, then you’re probably wondering what happens next.

The first step in the process is to appoint sponsorship management roles to existing staff in your organisation.

Managing the sponsorship process and then monitoring the sponsored employee is a key part of being granted a licence.

In fact, it’s a condition put in place by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). And your application may be rejected if the people you have appointed to the sponsorship management roles are not suitable.

The sponsorship management roles are:

  • Authorising officer for the sponsor management system (SMS)
  • Key contact for communicating with UKVI
  • Level 1 user for day-to-day management of the SMS

Once you have the licence, you can then appoint an optional Level 2 user with restricted access to the SMS. Again, this depends on your business needs.

How to apply for the licence?

The first part of the application process is completed online on the government website. Then you print out the form and submit it with supporting documents.

The main reason for the supporting documents is to prove that you are a genuine business. There are strict rules in place to stop people taking advantage of the immigration system, and this is one of them.

Also, as this part of the process varies depending on the nature of the business, there are different types of documents that can be submitted.

For example, a certificate of VAT registration, or evidence of a services contract can be used as a supporting document.

Thankfully, there is a detailed guide on the government website that explains which documents are suitable. We recommend that you read this guide before you apply.

And keep in mind that the documents have to be originals or certified copies.

How much does it cost?

As with most visa-related issues, there are costs involved in the application.

You can find them below.

For small and charitable organisations:

  • The fee is £536 for applications for Tier 2 and 5

For medium or large companies:

  • For Tier 2, the fee is £1,476
  • For Tier 5, the fee is £536

The processing time for applications is usually eight weeks.

Sponsor licence rating

If the application is successful, you will be granted an A-rated sponsor licence. This means you will be able to start sponsoring employees from overseas.

But the work doesn’t stop there.

As a licenced organisation, there are certain responsibilities to be aware of. Such as making sure the candidate is suitable for the position and telling UKVI if they don’t comply with the visa conditions.

UKVI take this seriously and even downgrade organisations to a B-rated licence if they’re found to be breaking the rules. If that happens, the organisation can’t sponsor any more workers until they have an A-grade licence again.

Beyond the application process

As you can see from this article, there are many variables involved in getting a sponsor licence for a business.

Most of it depends on the type of business you run and the staff that you want to sponsor.

For most companies though, the application process is worth it, and they go on to sponsor more workers from overseas.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for information about how to apply for a work visa, check out this Skilled Worker article by VisaFox.


Article Created By Hayley Maguire

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