Employment To-The-Point

With labour and skills shortages being experienced across the economy, businesses are increasingly needing to recruit non-UK nationals from overseas to fill vacancies.  In order to do this, employers need to apply for an immigration sponsor licence. 

For businesses going down this route it is important to consider at the outset the purposes for which they would use a sponsor licence in practice and what they need to have in place to support a sponsor licence application. 

Sponsorship licences – the options

By far the most commonly used category of sponsor licence is the Skilled Worker licence. This route enables businesses to sponsor workers to come to or stay in the UK to carry out eligible jobs. 

Multi-national businesses may also be interested in the Global Business Mobility: Senior or Specialist Worker and Graduate Trainee routes. These routes provide the option for workers at linked overseas entities within a group of companies to take on temporary work assignments within the UK.

Other types of sponsor licence with narrower applications are also available.

Practical tips on sponsorship applications

One of the first things for a business to consider is the roles for which it intends to sponsor migrant workers. It will then need to focus on gathering the relevant supporting documents. The Home Office expects sponsor licence applicants to explain which roles they are interested in filling with sponsored workers including the skills, experience and qualifications required for the role and any specific candidates who have been identified. Without this information, the Home Office could refuse the application or refuse to grant certificates of sponsorship required for prospective employees to apply for a work visa.

If there are multiple corporate entities within the group that employ staff, consideration should be given to the best way of structuring the sponsor licence and which group entities should be included. Usually, it is preferable to include all the entities on a single licence as this removes the administrative burden of having multiple licences, provided that the entity applying for the licence has HR oversight across the group.  If they do not, separate licences may be required. 

Businesses should also bear in mind the length of time which it can take for a sponsor licence and subsequent sponsored visas to be granted. The Home Office's target period from application to outcome is 8 weeks. Although a priority service is available, access to the priority service is subject to daily limits and is not guaranteed.

Applying for a sponsor licence can bring additional scrutiny in relation to right to work checks. It can therefore be a helpful step to carry out a right to work audit of current employees ahead of any sponsor licence application to make sure that current processes and records are in order.  

Focus – Hospitality Sector

Businesses in the hospitality sector have been experiencing difficulties recruiting for various roles in the UK.  Whilst not all roles in the hospitality sector are eligible for sponsorship, there are some roles which are, subject to salary requirements being met – for example, chefs, chef- managers, head chefs and pastry chefs, restaurant and bar managers, catering managers and events organisers.  Hospitality businesses are sometimes asked additional questions when applying for sponsor licences, and certificates of sponsorship, and we can assist with these requests. 

Focus – Start-ups and new businesses

Businesses which have been operating in the UK for less than 18 months on the date of the sponsor licence application often find it difficult to provide the necessary supporting documents. If immigration sponsorship is part of a new business' recruitment strategy, it is important to give some thought to the supporting evidence required for the sponsor licence application at the outset.  

Where a new business is an entity within a more established group, it may be possible for the new entity to be added to an existing group sponsor licence. However, this process is not necessarily any quicker than applying for a separate sponsor licence and the business will need to weigh up the options at an early stage.

We can help with all aspects of the visa sponsorship process, from applying for the initial licence to the sponsorship of individual migrants.

Key Contacts

Sarah Harrop

Sarah Harrop

Partner, Employment & Immigration

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Will Jepson

Will Jepson

Associate, Employment

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