When applying for a UK Sponsor Licence to enable you to hire non-EEA migrants, it is imperative that you understand the procedure. Compliance is a vital part of the UK Sponsor Licence process; failure to follow the correct approach will most likely result in your application being refused.
When applying for a sponsor licence under Tiers 2 and 5 of the Points-Based System (PBS), an organisation must complete the following steps:
- decide which categories/tiers it wishes to include on its licence
- assess its eligibility and suitability for each category/tier and make any relevant changes to its HR systems
- decide who will be the ‘Key Personnel’
- collate appropriate documents for submission with the application
- decide how many Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) you need
- submit the online application and hard-copy documents
- prepare for a Home Office site visit
- receive the decision
It is wise for an organisation to apply for all relevant categories of Tier 2 and 5 they wish to register under, at the outset of their application. For example, a company with several offices overseas may wish to register under Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) (ICT) to transfer an employee to its UK office for an urgent project. But when applying for the Sponsor Licence, HR directors should evaluate whether it is likely at any point over the next four years the business will need to recruit any non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals under Tier 2 (General).
There is no extra cost to applying for multiple categories.
Assess eligibility and suitability for each category/tier and make any relevant changes to the HR systems
Before making an application, it is imperative to engage an experienced Immigration solicitor who will provide you with the best advice on how to meet the eligibility requirements of a UK Sponsor Licence. OTS Solicitors can perform a mock audit on your HR systems and provide a full report on the strengths and weaknesses of your processes and procedures so you can make changes before applying to the Home Office for a Sponsor Licence.
Decide who will be ‘Key Personnel’
Your Key Personnel will consist of:
- Authorising officer
- Key contact
- Level 1 user
- Level 2 user
One person can fulfil all these roles if your organisation is small. You may find that appointing an Immigration solicitor is a good way of ensuring these functions are best performed; however, at least one Level 1 user must be an employee of the organisation.
It is important that the contact details of the key personnel are kept accurate on the Home Office Sponsorship Management System (SMS). Email addresses must be secure and personal to the user. Where a role is outsourced to a third party such as an Immigration lawyer, the main business address of the third party should be provided as part of their contact information.
Collate appropriate supporting documents
The type of supporting documentation you need to send alongside your application depends on the size and type of your business and the category of Tier 2 migrant you plan to employ.
For example, if you are a food business, the Home Office will want to see evidence of your registration and approval with the local food authority. Start-ups will need to show proof of a current UK corporate bank account.
Collating the required supporting documentation is likely to take more time than you think. It always pays to have an expert advise you on what you include with your submission.
Decide on how many unrestricted CoSs you need in the first year
Under Tiers 2 and 5, a sponsor uses the online Sponsorship Management System (SMS) to assign a CoS when it is happy that a person meets the requirement of the relevant category. Except for restricted CoS under Tier 2 (General), there is no prior approval required from the Home Office. When the CoS is assigned, this will generate a CoS number which must be used in the person’s entry clearance or leave to remain application.
The online sponsor licence application form asks the applying organisation to estimate how many CoSs they anticipate using over the next year in each category/tier that they are applying under. The number of certificates issued is at the Home Office’s discretion.
There are only a certain number of restricted CoSs provided by the Home Office each year, and these must be applied for on an ‘as and when’ basis.
Submitting the application and supporting documents for a UK Sponsor Licence
It is crucial that the application form is filled out correctly and you have all the necessary supporting documents. Otherwise, a great deal of time and money will be wasted as your application is likely to be rejected. Instructing an experienced Immigration solicitor to project manage the application process will give your organisation the best chance of succeeding on first submission.
Prepare for a Home Office site visit
There is a high chance that the Home Office will want to visit your business and check that you have the HR processes and procedures in place to meet the requirements that come with a UK Sponsor Licence.
Having a mock audit of your organisation’s HR systems conducted by an Immigration solicitor prior to making an application massively mitigates the risk of Immigration officials finding something of concern.
Receive the decision from the Home Office
The amount of time it takes to receive a decision from the Home Office following the submission of an application for a Sponsor Licence often depends on the size and complexity of your organisation. Generally, the process for obtaining a Sponsor Licence takes around two to three months.
Instructing an Immigration solicitor to manage the process for you from start to finish will ensure your chances of receiving a positive decision within this time frame is achievable.
At OTS Solicitors, we have the experience required to swiftly put together a strong application for a Sponsor Licence, follow through the process on your behalf, leaving you to get on with managing and growing your business.
OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected immigration law firms in London. By making an appointment with one of our Immigration Solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today. We can assist you with all aspects of Sponsor Licence and Tier 2 (General) and ICT Visa applications.
If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0207 936 9960.