You might need a sponsor licence to employ someone from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland to work for you in the UK.
This includes unpaid work, like running a charity.
Sponsoring someone does not guarantee that they’ll be allowed to come to or stay in the UK.
How to get a sponsor licence
- Check your business is eligible.
- Choose the type of licence you want to apply for – this will depend on what type of worker you want to sponsor.
- Decide who will manage sponsorship within your business.
- Apply online and pay the fee.
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may visit your business to check it’s suitable.
After you apply
You’ll be given a licence rating if your application is successful.
Your licence will be valid for 4 years. You may lose your licence if you do not meet your responsibilities as a sponsor.
To get a licence, you cannot have:
- unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering
- any history of failing to carry out your sponsorship duties
You’ll need appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees.
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will review your application form and supporting documents. They may visit your business to make sure you’re trustworthy and capable of carrying out your duties.
Types of licence
The licence you need depends on whether the workers you want to fill your jobs are:
- Tier 2 – skilled workers with long-term job offers
- Tier 5 – skilled temporary workers
You can apply for a licence covering either tier or both.
Tier 2 is for skilled workers who you want to employ long-term or permanently. It’s split into:
- General – the role must meet the job suitability requirements
- Intra-Company Transfer – for multinational companies which need to transfer employees to the UK
- Minister of Religion – for people coming to work for a religious organisation (for up to 3 years)
- Sportsperson – for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK
Tier 5 is for skilled workers you want to employ on a temporary basis. It’s split into:
- Creative and Sporting – to work as a sportsperson (up to 1 year), entertainer or artist (up to 2 years)
- Charity Worker – for unpaid workers (up to 1 year)
- Religious Worker – for those doing preaching, pastoral and non-pastoral work (2 years)
- Government Authorised Exchange – work experience (1 year), research projects or training, for example practical medical or scientific training (2 years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge
- International Agreement – where the worker is coming to do a job which is covered by international law, for example employees of overseas governments
Sponsorship management roles
You need to appoint people within your business to manage the sponsorship process when you apply for a licence.
The main tool they’ll use is the sponsorship management system (SMS).
The roles are:
- authorising officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the SMS
- key contact – your main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
- level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS
These roles can be filled by the same person or different people.
You can also appoint an optional level 2 user once you have your licence. This is an SMS user with more restricted access than a level 1 user, for example they cannot withdraw a certificate of sponsorship.
You and your staff will be checked to make sure you’re suitable for these roles. You may not get your licence if anyone involved in sponsorship has:
- an unspent criminal conviction
- been fined by UKVI in the past 12 months
- been reported to UKVI
- broken the law
- been a ‘key person’ at a sponsor that had its licence revoked in the last 12 months
- failed to pay VAT or other excise duty
You and your allocated staff must also:
- be based in the UK most of the time
- not be a contractor or consultant contracted for a specific project
- not be subject to a bankruptcy restriction order or undertaking, or a debt relief restriction order or undertaking
- not have a history of non-compliance with sponsor requirements
Your allocated staff must usually be paid members of staff, or office holders.
Read the full guidance on appointing ‘key personnel’.
HR contractors and agency staff
You must have at least one level 1 user who is your employee. You can have other level 1 or level 2 users employed by third-party organisations contracted to provide you with HR services. Your level 2 user can be a temporary member of staff supplied by an agency.
UK-based legal representatives
You can allocate any of the roles to a UK-based legal representative, apart from the authorising officer role. Your representative must be qualified to give immigration advice or services.