UK Sponsorship Visa Guide

Alterations to the UK immigration system in the wake of Brexit radically altered the approach British business must adopt to the legal hiring of workers from the EU and non-EEA territories. There are various pathways by which an individual may pursue employment within the UK, which in most instances are now dependent on sponsorship by an eligible employer.

Consequently, organisations looking to hire workers from overseas must now apply for and obtain an appropriate sponsorship licence, in order to do so. Due to the complexities involved in complying with all terms and conditions set out by the Home Office, it is advisable to consult with a trained legal professional before submitting a sponsor licence application.

For more information or to discuss overseas worker sponsorship in more detail, contact a member of the team at Aristone Solicitors for an obligation-free consultation.

UK Sponsorship Visa Routes

Current immigration legislation makes sponsorship from an eligible employer mandatory for a worker to obtain any of the following visas:

  • Skilled Worker visa
  • Health & Care Worker visa
  • Temporary Worker visas
  • Global Business Mobility visas
  • Scale Up worker (initial 6-month sponsorship)

Eligibility requirements and qualification criteria vary significantly from one visa type to the next, and must be carefully considered before applying. In some instances, it is possible for existing visa holders to ‘switch’ from their existing visa to one of the visa categories outlined above. For example, an individual legally working in the UK under the Graduate Visa scheme (which grants a maximum of 2 to 3 years leave to remain) will need to transition to a longer-term visa, in order to continue living and working in the UK.

This typically involves switching from a Graduate Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa, where the individual in question meets all eligibility requirements published by the Home Office. This guide will focus primarily on the Skilled Worker Visa.

UK Sponsorship Visa Requirements

Individuals looking to gain entry to the UK (or remain in the UK) under the Skilled Worker pathway must satisfy the requirements of the points-based system. This means containing the required number of points combined over a series of attributes – primarily salary, skill level, and language. For example, the job applicant must be able to speak English at a level considered acceptable by the Home Office, and the vacancy needs to have a minimum required skill level of RQF3. In terms of salary, the vacancy must offer a guaranteed salary that meets the minimum general threshold of £25,600, or the ‘going rate’ for the specific job – whichever is higher.

Exceptions apply where an individual has a PhD of relevance to the job, or where a vacancy features within the Shortage Occupation list. In such instances, points may be traded on other characteristics against salary, but the salary attached to the role must not be lower than £20,480.

Skilled Worker Sponsorship Visa Applications: Key Considerations

Each of the following must be carefully considered and understood by any business looking to hire Skilled Workers from overseas:

• It is a legal requirement for any business looking to take on employees under the Skilled Worker pathway to hold an appropriate sponsor licence. This applies in all instances, unless the individual already has the legal right to live and work in the UK, having obtained settled or pre-settled status, for example.

• For migrant workers to gain employment in the UK under the Skilled Worker pathway, they must obtain a minimum of 70 points (in accordance with the requirements of the current points-based system).

• The current minimum salary threshold for job roles offered to overseas workers under the Skilled Worker pathway is £25,600, or the going rate for the job in question – whichever of the two is higher.

• There are no restrictions on the number of skilled workers who can be sponsored by a UK business, or the size or type of business that can apply to become a licence holder.

For more information on any of the above or to discuss becoming a sponsor in more detail, contact a member of the team at Aristone Solicitors today.

Applying for a UK Sponsorship Licence

Applications for sponsorship licences must be submitted by eligible UK businesses through the online Sponsor Management System (SMS). Once the application form has been completed and submitted, all supporting documentation and evidence must be received by the Home Office within five working days.

A minimum of four types of evidence are required to verify the legitimacy and eligibility of the organisation applying for the sponsorship licence. The types of documents that need to be submitted vary in accordance with the type of business applying for the licence, and the type of license they require.

If the Home Office is not satisfied that sufficient evidence has been submitted within the five-day deadline, the application may be delayed or rejected outright. A decision will be returned to the business from the Home Office by email, which in the case of rejection will include an explanation.

Where applications are declined on the basis of anything but basic technicalities, the organisation will usually have to wait a minimum of six months before re-applying once again.

UK Sponsorship Visa Licence Fees

A standard application fee is payable at the time of submission, which in all instances is non-refundable. Any subsequent applications that need to be submitted following rejection will carry the same standard costs.

It is therefore important to ensure your application is complete and accurate, and is submitted with as much supporting evidence as possible. Consulting with a qualified legal representative before applying comes highly recommended, which could spare your business the costs and complications of application rejections.

Sponsor Licence Application Costs

The fee payable for a sponsorship licence application is determined by organisation size and type. There are three different classifications of business sizes outlined by the Home Office – “Small”, “Medium” and “Large”.

An organisation is considered to be “Small” by the Home Office if it meets at least two of the following requirements:
• annual turnover of £10.2 million or less
• total assets worth £5.1 million or less
• 50 employees or fewer
All registered charities are also classified as “Small” sponsors, irrespective of their size.

For businesses that fall within the “Small” sponsor classification, a standard licence fee of £536 is payable (renewable every four years). All other businesses that do not meet these requirements are categorised as “Medium” or “Large” sponsors, and are liable for the higher £1,476 fee (renewable every four years).

There are some instances where no fee is payable. For example, where a business has already been granted a ‘Worker’ sponsor licence (formerly known as Tier 2 sponsor licence) and decides to add a subcategory, an additional fee does not need to be paid.

Organisations classed as charitable sponsors also qualify for the lower fee, which includes any:
• registered charity in England or Wales
• registered charity in Scotland
• registered charity in Northern Ireland
• excepted charity
• exempt charity
• ecclesiastical corporation established for charitable purposes

All organisations that do not fall within one of these categories or classifications are liable for the full £1,476 application fee. Along with the initial application fee itself, there are other costs that must be taken into account for businesses looking to hire skilled workers from overseas.
Examples of these include the following:
• Sponsor Licence (£535 – £1,476)
• Each Certificate of Sponsorship issued to foreign workers (£21 – £199)
• Immigration Skills Charge for specialist roles (initial cost of £364 – £1,000)

For more details on sponsor licence application costs or to discuss any aspect of your requirements in more detail, contact a member of the team at Aristone Solicitors today.

Certificate of Sponsorship Assignment

There is also a set fee payable for each Certificate of Sponsorship the organisation assigns to a foreign worker. This is currently set at £199, and is issued in the form of an electronic code/record via the SMS. Irrespective of how many Certificates of Sponsorship the business issues, the same £199 fee applies per employee.

Sponsorship Licence Renewal Costs

There is no automatic renewal system in place for sponsorship licences, which makes it the responsibility of the organisation to renew its license before it expires. Sponsorship licences are valid for four years, after which renewal can be requested via the SMS.

The same fee applies as when submitting a new sponsorship licence application for the first time, and is again determined by the size and type of business submitting the application.

 Additional UK Visa Sponsorship Costs

In accordance with the Immigration Skills Charge Regulations 2017, licensed sponsors must pay the appropriate Immigration Skills Charge for every overseas worker they sponsor by way of the points-based system. This additional fee is payable at the time the Certificate of Sponsorship is issued to the worker. “Small” businesses and charitable organisations are liable for a fee of £364 for any period of employment up to one year, plus an additional £182 for every additional six months stated on the CoS. All other organisations are liable for the “Large” fee of £1,000 for any period of employment up to one year, plus an additional £500 for every additional six months stated on the CoS.

It is the responsibility of the organisation to inform the Home Office of any changes that may affect the Immigration Skills Charge liabilities of the business. This notification must be provided within 10 working days of the changes, and enforcement action may be taken against those who fail to meet their Immigration Skills Charge liabilities (knowingly or unknowingly) for any reason.

Contact Aristone Solicitors Today

Applying for a sponsorship licence can be a complex and costly process, with no guarantees of success. This is why it is essential to seek expert legal support at an early stage, in order to ensure the best possible chance of a positive outcome. At Aristone Solicitors, we can provide you with the tailored legal support you need to submit a complete and convincing application to the Home Office. Whether applying for the first time or dealing with the fallout of a rejected application, we would be delighted to hear from you to discuss the options available. Call Aristone Solicitors today to learn more, or email us anytime and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

UK Visa Sponsorship: FAQs

Who can get sponsorship for a UK visa?

Migrant workers must obtain sponsorship from a licensed UK business to submit an application for a sponsored worker visa. It is not possible to apply for a sponsored work visa without having first been provided with a formal job offer from an eligible sponsorship licence holder.

How much does it cost a company to sponsor a visa UK?

For businesses that fall within the “Small” sponsor classification, a standard licence fee of £536 is payable (renewable every four years) All other businesses that do not meet these requirements are categorised as “Medium” or “Large” sponsors, and are liable for the higher £1,476 fee (renewable every four years).

Can you work in the UK without visa sponsorship?

There are some UK visa pathways that do not call for sponsorship, including the Global Talent visa. In the wake of Brexit, however, the overwhelming majority of work visas issued to non-UK residents fall within the Skilled Worker category. Most foreign workers seeking employment in the UK are therefore required to obtain sponsorship from an eligible employer.

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