Your licence rating

You’ll get an A-rated licence if your application is approved.

UK visa sponsorship for employers

Apply for your licence

Apply online for your licence.

Print out the submission sheet at the end of the application – you need to post it to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) with the correct supporting documents.

Sponsor casework operations
Sponsor applications team
UK Visas and Immigration
PO Box 3468
S3 8WA

Most applications (8 out of 10) are dealt with in less than 8 weeks. UKVI may need to visit your business.

Supporting documents

You need to send the correct supporting documents to prove that you’re a genuine business. Your application could be refused if you do not.

You need to provide at least 4 documents – unless:

  • you’re a public body recognised by the UK government, for example a local authority
  • you’re a company listed on the London Stock Exchange Main Market

The documents must be the originals or certified copies.

Check whether you’re a public body and what documents you need to provide before you apply.

Certify a copy of a document

A copy of a document can be certified by either:

  • the issuing authority
  • a practising barrister, solicitor or notary

The certifier must provide a statement confirming that the document is an accurate copy of the original document and write their name, signature and the name of the organisation they represent on every page of the copy.

Printouts of documents sent as an email attachment can be certified if the person certifying them has seen the original email containing the file.

Licence fees

You need to pay a fee when you apply.

Type of licence Fee for small or charitable sponsors Fee for medium or large sponsors
Tier 2 £536 £1,476
Tier 5 £536 £536
Tier 2 and Tier 5 £536 £ 1,476
Add a Tier 2 to an existing Tier 5 No fee £940
Add a Tier 5 to an existing Tier 2 No fee No fee

You’re usually a small business if:

  • your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less
  • you have 50 employees or fewer

Contact the Business Helpdesk if you’re unsure which category your business fits into.

You can join the premium customer service scheme to get extra support from a licence manager – this costs at least £8,000 a year.

Applications refused because of a mistake

You can apply to correct a mistake with your application if you think it was refused because:

  • the caseworker processing your application made a mistake
  • your supporting documents were not considered

You can only do this if you applied on or after 1 April 2016.

You cannot apply just because you disagree with the decision.

Help and advice

Sponsors can get advice from the sponsorship, employer and education helpline:

Sponsorship, employer and education helpline
Telephone: 0300 123 4699
Monday to Thursday, 9am to 5pm
Friday, 9am to 4:30pm
Find out about call charges

UK businesses and Tier 1 (Investors) can get help from the Business Helpdesk:


A-rating – full sponsor licence

An A-rated licence lets you start assigning certificates of sponsorship.

Your business will be listed in the register of sponsors.

Downgrading to B-rating

Your A-rated licence may be downgraded to a B-rating at a later stage if you do not continue to meet your sponsor duties.

If this happens, you will not be able to issue new certificates of sponsorship until you’ve made improvements and upgraded back to an A-rating.

You’ll still be able to issue certificates to workers you already employ who want to extend, or who are switching from a Work Permit.

Upgrade to an A-rating

You need to follow an ‘action plan’ provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to upgrade your licence.

You have to pay £1,476 for an action plan.

You must pay the fee within 10 working days of the date UKVI tells you about the downgrade. If you do not, you’ll lose your licence.

At the end of the action plan

You’ll be upgraded to an A-rating if you complete all the steps and there’s nothing else you need to improve.

You’ll lose your licence if you do not complete all the steps.

If you need to make other improvements, you’ll be given another B-rating and will have to follow a new action plan. You’ll have to pay the fee again.

If you get a second B-rating

You can only have 2 B-ratings in the 4 years that your licence is valid.

You’ll lose your licence if you still need to make improvements after your second action plan.

How to reapply

You cannot appeal if your application is unsuccessful, but you can reapply. You may have to wait before reapplying – the time will depend on your circumstances.

You need to start a new application.

You have to wait up to 12 months before reapplying if you’ve been fined for employing illegal workers and you lost your licence.

Sponsorship certificates

You must assign a certificate of sponsorship to each foreign worker you employ. This is an electronic record, not a physical document. Each certificate has its own number which a worker can use to apply for a visa.

Certificates must be used within 3 months from when they’re assigned.

Unrestricted certificates

When you apply for your licence you’ll be asked to estimate how many Tier 2 and Tier 5 certificates you’ll need.

These are called unrestricted certificates because you can get as many as your business needs. You’ll need to give evidence that you need the amount of certificates that you’ve asked for.

Restricted certificates

These are for:

  • Tier 2 (General) workers currently abroad who’ll be paid less than £159,600 a year and are not in an inward investment post
  • family members (dependants) of Tier 4 migrants who are switching to a Tier 2 visa

You must apply for restricted certificates for these workers through the sponsorship management system (SMS). You’ll get access to this when you get your licence.

There’s a limited number of restricted certificates available each month. Each application is assessed using a points system – you can see how the system works in the Immigration Rules appendix A.

When you get the certificate

Applications are considered on the first working day after the 10th day of the month. This is called the ‘allocation date’. If you apply after the 5th day of the month then your application will be held until the next month’s allocation date.

Your application may also be held until the next month’s allocation date so that the details of your application can be checked.

Your restricted certificate will appear in your SMS account on the allocation date if your application has been approved. You can then assign a certificate to a worker.

You can apply again if your application is not approved.

Urgent applications

A restricted certificate can be issued before the next allocation date in exceptional circumstances. This does not include applications which have been delayed for reasons which you could have avoided.

Use your SMS account to make the application and then email explaining why it’s urgent.

Certificate costs

You need to pay for each certificate of sponsorship. Certificates are free for citizens of Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey.

Type of certificate Cost per certificate
Tier 2 £199
Tier 5 £21

If you assign a certificate of sponsorship to a worker with a Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer) visa, you might also need to pay the immigration skills charge.

Immigration skills charge

You might have to pay an additional charge for each foreign worker you employ. This is called the ‘immigration skills charge’.

You must pay this if they’re applying for a visa to work in the UK for 6 months or more under either a:

  • Tier 2 (General) visa
  • Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa

If the worker has applied for their visa from within the UK, you must pay the charge even if they’re applying for less than 6 months.

When you do not need to pay

You will not pay the immigration skills charge if the worker you’re sponsoring:

You will not need to pay the charge for any of the worker’s dependants, for example their partner or child.

How to pay

You pay the immigration skills charge when you assign a certificate of sponsorship to the worker.

How much it costs

The SMS will work out how much you need to pay based on:

  • the size of your organisation
  • how long the worker will work for you, using the start and end dates on their sponsorship certificate
Period Small or charitable sponsors Medium or large sponsors
First 12 months £364 £1,000
Each additional 6 months £182 £500

If the worker will be in the UK for longer than 6 months but less than a year, you must pay for at least 12 months.

You must pay the full charge in one go.

Contact the Business Helpdesk if you’re not sure which category your business fits into.

As the longest you can sponsor a worker for is 5 years, the most you have to pay will be:

  • £1,820 (5 x £364) if you’re a small or charitable sponsor
  • £5,000 (5 x £1,000) if you’re a medium or large sponsor

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will contact you if you do not pay the charge or pay the wrong amount. You’ll have 10 working days to pay the charge – the worker’s visa application will be refused if you do not.


You’ll get a full refund if the worker’s visa application is:

  • refused or withdrawn
  • successful, but they do not come to work for you

You’ll get a partial refund if the worker:

  • gets less time on their visa than you sponsored them for
  • starts working for you but then changes to another sponsor
  • leaves their job before the end date on their certificate of sponsorship

How long it takes

You usually get a refund within 90 days of:

  • telling UKVI that the worker did not come to work for you
  • the expiration date on the worker’s certificate of sponsorship, if they did not use it to apply for a visa
  • the date the worker’s visa application is refused or withdrawn

If the worker’s visa application is refused, they can ask for the decision to be reviewed. This is known as an ‘administrative review’.

If they do not ask for an administrative review, you’ll get a refund within 90 days of the deadline for applying for one.

You’ll get a refund within 90 days of the administrative review being dismissed if the worker applied for one and were unsuccessful.


Your responsibilities

You must:

  • check that your foreign workers have the necessary skills, qualifications or professional accreditations to do their jobs, and keep copies of documents showing this
  • only assign certificates of sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship
  • tell UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) if your sponsored workers are not complying with the conditions of their visa

Your licence may be downgraded, suspended or withdrawn if you do not meet them.

Read the full guidance on sponsor requirements and duties and check workers have the right to work in the UK.

Monitoring employees

You must have HR systems in place that let you:

  • monitor your employees’ immigration status
  • keep copies of relevant documents for each employee, including passport and right to work information
  • track and record employees’ attendance
  • keep employee contact details up to date
  • report to UKVI if there is a problem, for example if your employee stops coming to work

Changes to your business

You must report any significant changes in your own circumstances within 20 working days, for example if you:

  • stop trading or become insolvent
  • substantially change the nature of your business
  • are involved in a merger or take-over

You must also tell UKVI if you’re changing your details, like your address or allocated roles.

To register a change of circumstances use the sponsorship management system (SMS).

Requests can take up to 18 weeks. You can register a change within 5 working days instead if you use the priority service. It costs £200.

Sponsoring under-18s

You must make sure that foreign workers under 18 have suitable care arrangements for their:

  • travel to the UK
  • arrival in the UK
  • living arrangements in the UK

You must also get a letter from their parents giving consent to the care arrangements.

You must get a Disclosure and Barring Service check on any of your workers who need it.

You’ll lose your licence if you do not do this.

Children under 16

You must get a licence from the local education authority in the area where the child will work.

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