If You Employ Overseas Talent, You Need A Sponsor Licence

If You Employ Overseas Talent, You Need A Sponsor Licence

When the UK fully leaves the EU at the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, EU/EEA nationals will need to obtain a visa to live and work in Britain. This constitutes a major change for employers, many of whom are facing a skill shortage once freedom of movement ends.

If you are an employer and rely on overseas talent to run and grow your business, you need to apply for a Sponsor Licence. It is best to do this sooner rather than later, as there is likely to be a rush of applications filed at the start of 2021.

Sponsor Licence eligibility requirements

To be eligible for a Sponsor Licence, your business must provide documents to show:

  • it is a genuine commercial entity and operating and trading in the UK
  • the human resources (HR) systems can meet the stringent compliance requirements, including record keeping and reporting duties
  • it can offer genuine employment in the categories it is applying to be licensed under
  • no director has a criminal record or previously breached any immigration laws

It will take up to eight weeks to be approved for a Sponsor Licence, and there is no fast-track. And several factors could lead to a delay:

  • UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) decide that a pre-licence visit is required. This is common in industries considered high-risk, such as catering, hospitality, and IT.
  • Collating the necessary documents and putting them in the correct order can take some time. Not sending your supporting documents to UKVI within five days of the application being submitted will result in a refusal; therefore, it is best practice to collate all the documentation before sending in the application.
  • Difficulty appointing key personnel (see below) to perform the required compliance roles. If you are having difficulty, you can instruct an immigration lawyer to take over many (but not all) of the compliance requirements for you.

Your organisation will also need to provide information regarding the following:

  • Why it is applying for a Sponsor Licence.
  • The sector it operates in.
  • Its opening and operating hours during the week.
  • An up to date hierarchy chart detailing any owners, directors, and board members.
  • If the organisation has 50 employees or fewer, a list of all employees and their job titles.
  • The names of all of the people who have access to the email address supplied with the online Sponsor Licence application.
  • A landline telephone number
Proof that you can meet compliance requirements

You must have a system in place that allows you to monitor migrant workers’ immigration status to ensure they do not continue working for you after their leave to remain has expired. Putting diarised reminders relating to employees’ visa expiry dates in at least two staff members calendars will mitigate the risk of a right to work follow up check being missed.

The key personnel roles and requirements

The three key personnel roles UKVI require you to have in place are:

  • Authorising Officer – this must be a senior person in the organisation. They should be responsible for recruiting migrants and ensuring Sponsor Licence compliance is met.
  • Key Contact – acts as the main point of contact between the business and UKVI. This role is often performed by an immigration lawyer.
  • Level 1 User – has full access to the Sponsor Management System (SMS) and is accountable for the day-to-day operation of the licence. They can perform several tasks, including changing details of the organisation on the licence summary, and applying for and assigning Certificates of Sponsorship.

It is advisable to have a back-up Level 1 user to provide cover in case of illness or holidays being taken.

How an immigration solicitor can assist

If you have never applied for a Sponsor Licence before, investing in experienced legal advice can make a significant difference in your chance of submitting a successful application. Your solicitor will visit your business premises in person, examine your HR systems and discuss any weaknesses that need addressing. They will also advise you on the documentation you need to collate and ensure it is presented in the correct order. Furthermore, they can run your SMS for you, ensuring it is always up to date and advise you of any changes to immigration law that may affect your compliance duties and responsibilities.

With the right professional support, applying for a Sponsor Licence is a straightforward process. Please phone our office on 0121 777 7715 to make an appointment with one of our immigration Solicitors.

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