What is Sponsor Licence?

The UK's points-based immigration system provides several sponsored work visas for individuals outside the UK who wish to work in the UK. These include:

  • The Skilled Worker visa for individuals with a job offer in a specific skilled occupation.
  • Global Business Mobility visas for individuals transferred by their employer or coming to the UK for business purposes.
  • Health and Care Worker visa tailored for medical professionals.
  • Temporary Worker visas for short-term employment in various sectors.

To employ overseas workers under these visas, a UK employer must obtain a Sponsor Licence. Applying for a Sponsor Licence involves submitting a request to the Home Office, along with the payment of applicable fees. The Home Office assesses whether the roles and prospective sponsored employees fulfil the necessary criteria and whether the employer has robust Human Rights systems to adhere to stringent sponsorship regulations.

A Sponsor Licence allows an organization to legally sponsor non-UK residents within its business operations. It is essential to note that this is extended only to organizations and not to individual employers.


In the process of obtaining a UK Sponsor Licence, companies must demonstrate their integrity and lawful operation within the UK. Here's a simplified overview of the key criteria and steps:

Sponsor license eligibility criteria

A company must be a bona fide entity, actively conducting business and/or trading legally in the UK. This includes all forms of business, from PLCs and limited companies to LLPs and sole proprietorships. New businesses are eligible to apply but those established for less than 18 months need to provide evidence of a corporate bank account held with a UK bank regulated by the FCA and PRA.

Sponsor license suitability criteria

To be considered suitable, businesses must prove their reliability and trustworthiness.

  • They should have a clean record with no unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or financial misconduct.
  • A clean record with no history of non-compliance with sponsorship regulations.
  • Additionally, they should have a history of compliance with sponsorship regulations, not have had a licence revoked in the previous year
  • Have the appropriate HR systems to fulfil sponsorship duties
  • The Home Office may perform site inspections to ensure compliance both before and after the licence is granted.

Genuine Business Need

There must be a legitimate requirement for hiring foreign workers, which entails passing the genuineness test for sponsorship. Businesses should be offering genuine vacancies that meet the Skilled Worker criteria and must provide the information regarding the types of roles they need to fill through sponsorship and any candidates being considered. Furthermore, they may be asked to provide extra information to confirm the validity of the roles and their responsibilities.

Key Personnel

The application must include details of all key personnel. The key personnel must be UK residents or citizens, without criminal convictions, on the company payroll, and, lastly,  not related to the prospective sponsored employees.

  • Authorising Officer: This is a senior and competent person within the organisation responsible for the overall management of the licence, ensuring compliance with immigration laws and that sponsorship duties are met.
  • Key Contact: This individual acts as the principal point of communication with the Home Office regarding the Sponsor Licence.
  • Level 1 User: A level 1 user is an appointed staff member who operates the Sponsor Management System (SMS) on a day-to-day basis, ensuring that the system is used in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the Home Office.
  • Level 2 User: Similar to a level 1 user, a level 2 user also manages the SMS but may have more restricted access compared to a level 1 user. This role involves the daily administrative tasks associated with sponsorship.


The duties associated with holding a UK Sponsor Licence are crucial for compliance and include the following responsibilities:

  • Record Keeping: Maintain accurate records of sponsored employees, including personal contact details and a copy of their immigration status document.
  • Reporting: Inform the Home Office of significant events, such as if a sponsored employee fails to show up for their first day, if they are absent for more than 10 consecutive days without permission, or if their contract is terminated earlier than expected.
  • Monitoring: Track and record the attendance and absences of sponsored workers, ensuring any excessive or unauthorised absences are reported as required.
  • Updating SMS: Promptly update the Sponsor Management System (SMS) with any changes in the circumstances of the business or the sponsored employees.
  • Skills Verification: Ensure that sponsored workers possess the necessary skills, qualifications, and professional registrations to fulfil their role and meet the criteria of their specific UK sponsorship visa.
  • Right-to-Work Checks: Conduct and keep records of right-to-work checks to ensure that all employees are legally allowed to work in the UK.
  • Document Storage: Keep a copy of relevant documents for each sponsored worker, such as their CV, job description, pay and contract of employment, which must be stored for the duration of their employment and for one year afterwards.
  • Event Reporting: Notify the Home Office of certain changes within the business or significant events affecting sponsored workers, such as mergers, acquisitions, or any changes in the nature of the business that might affect sponsorship.

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Alexandra Mokrova

Alexandra Mokrova

Co-founder of Emigral, Immigration Lawyer