What is a Sponsor Licence?

A sponsor licence, also known as a sponsorship license, is permission granted by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to an organisation or employer. It allows the organisation to sponsor and hire skilled foreign workers or migrants from outside the country to fill labour shortages or to bring in specific in-demand skills. Specifically, in the context of the United Kingdom, it allows UK-based employers to sponsor non-EEA (European Economic Area) or Swiss nationals to work for them in the UK. The employer must meet specific criteria, obligations, and legal requirements to obtain and maintain a sponsor licence.

Obtaining a sponsor licence usually involves submitting an application, providing supporting documentation, and demonstrating compliance with immigration rules and regulations. The organisation needs to show that they are a legitimate business, has suitable systems and processes in place to manage sponsorship duties, and is willing to comply with the sponsor duties and responsibilities outlined by UKVI. Once a sponsor licence is granted, the organisation becomes responsible for fulfilling certain obligations, including monitoring the immigration status and activity of sponsored workers, reporting any relevant changes or events to the immigration authority, and ensuring compliance with immigration laws. Failure to meet these obligations can result in the revocation of the sponsor’s licence.

What are the Eligibility and Suitability Requirements for a Sponsor Licence?

To be eligible for a UK sponsor licence, an organisation must meet certain criteria set by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). The eligibility and suitability requirements for a UK sponsor licence include:

  • Legitimate Business: The organisation must be a genuine and legally operating entity in the UK. It should be able to provide evidence of its business activities, such as registrations, tax documents, and financial statements.
  • Suitability: The organisation and its key personnel must not have any unspent criminal convictions or history of immigration offenses. The UKVI may assess the organisation’s history, conduct, and compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
  • HR Systems and Processes: The organisation must have appropriate human resources (HR) systems and processes to meet its sponsorship duties. This includes maintaining accurate employee records, monitoring sponsored workers’ immigration status and activity, and complying with reporting and record-keeping requirements.
  • Employment Practices: The organisation should demonstrate robust and non-discriminatory employment practices. It should comply with relevant employment laws, such as equal opportunities and minimum wage requirements.
  • Skills and Knowledge: The organisation should know and understand the UK’s immigration rules and obligations associated with being a sponsor. This includes knowledge of the duties and responsibilities outlined by the UKVI and the ability to fulfil them.
  • Financial Capability: The organisation must be financially solvent and able to meet its sponsorship commitments. The UKVI may request financial statements, bank statements, or other evidence to assess the organization’s financial position.
  • Compliance Track Record: If the organisation has previously held a sponsor licence, its compliance history will be considered. Any previous breaches or non-compliance with sponsor duties may impact the decision to grant a new licence.

It’s important to thoroughly review and understand the detailed requirements and guidance the UKVI provides before applying for a sponsor licence. Alternatively, you can use an Immigration specialist such as First Migration to assist you.

Types of Sponsor Licence

The type of licence you require depends on the nature of the workers you intend to hire for your job vacancies. There are two main types of licence:

  1. Worker Licence: The Worker Licence is suitable for sponsoring individuals in various skilled employment roles. Depending on the worker’s visa, these roles can range from short-term to long-term or permanent. The Worker Licence is further categorised as follows:
  • Skilled Worker: This category requires the job role to meet the suitability requirements.
  • Senior or Specialist Worker (Global Business Mobility): This category is designed for multinational companies seeking to transfer established employees to the UK. Previously known as the Intra-company Transfer visa.
  • Minister of Religion: Intended for individuals joining religious organizations for employment purposes.
  • International Sportsperson: Reserved for elite sportspeople and coaches based in the UK.


Temporary Worker Licence: The Temporary Worker Licence allows you to sponsor individuals temporarily, including volunteering and job-shadowing. However, it is important to note that you can only obtain a Temporary Worker Licence for specific types of employment and visas. The Temporary Worker Licence is further divided into the following categories:

  • Scale-up Worker: Suitable for individuals employed by fast-growing UK businesses.
  • Creative Worker: Designed for creative industry professionals, such as entertainers or artists (valid for up to 2 years).
  • Charity Worker: Meant for unpaid workers at charitable organizations (valid for up to 1 year).
  • Religious Worker: Applicable to individuals employed by religious orders or organizations (valid for 2 years).
  • Government Authorised Exchange: Allows individuals to engage in work experience (valid for 1 year), research projects, or training. For instance, practical medical or scientific training (valid for 2 years) to facilitate short-term knowledge exchange.
  • International Agreement: Pertains to jobs covered by international law, typically involving employees of overseas governments.
  • Graduate Trainee (Global Business Mobility): Designed for workers transferring to their employer’s UK branch as part of a graduate training program.
  • Secondment Worker (Global Business Mobility): Applicable to workers transferring from overseas to work for a different UK business under a high-value contract.
  • Seasonal Worker: Enables individuals to come to the UK and engage in horticultural work (such as fruit and vegetable picking) for a maximum of 6 months or poultry-related work between 18 October and 31 December each year.

Sponsorship Management Roles

When applying for a sponsor licence, it is necessary to designate individuals within your organisation to oversee the sponsorship process. These roles are crucial for effective management and primarily rely on the sponsorship management system (SMS). The following roles are involved:

  1. Authorising Officer: This role is held by a senior and competent individual who bears responsibility for the actions of staff and representatives utilizing the SMS.
  2. Key Contact: This individual is the primary point of contact between your organization and UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
  3. Level 1 User: The level 1 user is responsible for the day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS.

These roles can be fulfilled by the same person or different individuals within your organization.

Once you have obtained your licence, you also have the option to appoint a level 2 user. This user has more limited access to the SMS than a level 1 user and cannot, for example, withdraw a certificate of sponsorship.

Suitability Checks

You and your staff will undergo checks to ensure suitability for these roles. It is important to note that your licence application may be denied if any individual involved in the sponsorship process:

  • Possesses an unspent criminal conviction for an offense listed in the sponsorship guidance.
  • Has been fined by UKVI within the past 12 months.
  • Has been reported to UKVI.
  • Has engaged in illegal activities.
  • Held a “key person” role at a sponsor whose licence was revoked within the last 12 months.
  • Failed to fulfill VAT or other excise duty payments.

Furthermore, you and your allocated staff must:

  • Be primarily based in the UK.
  • Not be contractors or consultants contracted solely for a specific project.
  • Not be subject to bankruptcy restriction orders or undertakings, debt relief restrictions, or undertakings.
  • Not have a history of non-compliance with sponsor requirements.

Generally, your allocated staff should be paid employees or office holders rather than contractors.

How Much is the Sponsor Licence Application Fee?

An application fee is payable when submitting your licence application, and the exact amount depends on the type of licence you are applying for and the nature of your organisation. UKVI classifies organisations as medium and large or small and charitable sponsors. There is a set criteria for small and charitable sponsors. If you fail to meet this criterion, you are, by default, a medium or large sponsor.

To be classified as a small sponsor, at least two of the following conditions should apply to your organization:

  • Your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less.
  • The total value of your assets amounts to £5.1 million or less.
  • You employ 50 individuals or fewer.

On the other hand, you are considered a charitable sponsor if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You are a registered charity in England or Wales.
  • You are a registered charity in Scotland.
  • You are a registered charity in Northern Ireland. If you are not listed in the register, you must provide evidence of your charitable status for tax purposes from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
  • You are an excepted charity.
  • You are an exempt charity.
  • You are an ecclesiastical corporation established for charitable purposes.

Fees for Medium and Large Sponsors

Type of licence:

Worker – £1,476

Temporary Worker – £536

Worker and Temporary Worker – £1,476

Add a Worker licence to an existing Temporary Worker licence – £940

Add a Temporary Worker licence to an existing Worker licence – no fee

Fees for Small and Charitable Sponsors

Type of licence:

Worker – £536

Temporary Worker – £536

Worker and Temporary Worker – £536

Add a Worker licence to an existing Temporary Worker licence – no fee

Add a Temporary Worker licence to an existing Worker licence – no fee

Sponsors Licence Rating

Upon approval of your application, you will be granted an A-rated licence. An A-rated licence signifies a full sponsor licence, granting you the ability to allocate certificates of sponsorship. Additionally, your business will be included in the register of sponsors.

Downgrade to B-rating

If you fail to fulfill your sponsor responsibilities, there is a possibility that your A-rated licence may be downgraded to a B-rating at a later stage.

Should this occur, you will be temporarily unable to issue new certificates of sponsorship until you have implemented the necessary improvements and successfully upgraded back to an A-rating. However, you can still issue certificates to existing employees who seek an extension of their stay permission.

Upgrading to an A-rating

To regain an A-rating, you must adhere to an action plan provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Following the guidelines outlined in this plan is essential.

Please note that there is a fee of £1,476 associated with obtaining the action plan.

Responsibilities as a Sponsor

When submitting an application for a sponsor licence, the organisation is committed to complying with specific administrative obligations to prevent illegal working. Essentially, adherence to these duties entails maintaining thorough and current records, which sponsors must be prepared to provide to the Home Office for inspection at any time. During the licence application process, the Home Office assesses the employer’s capacity to fulfil these sponsor duties.

The duties, as outlined in the Home Office’s Sponsor Guidance, encompass the following:

  • Record-keeping: Maintaining comprehensive records.
  • Monitoring and reporting: Monitoring sponsored employees and reporting any necessary information.
  • Absence monitoring: Monitoring the attendance and absences of sponsored employees.
  • Notifying the Home Office of changes in circumstances: Informing the Home Office regarding any relevant changes in circumstances.

How to Apply for a Sponsor Licence and Processing Times

To obtain your licence, you must complete an online application. After completing the online application, you are required to submit the following:

  1. The submission sheet is located at the end of the application.
  2. Supporting documents, if specifically requested.


The majority of applications are typically processed in under 8 weeks. In some cases, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may need to visit your business premises.

For expedited processing, there is an option to pay an additional fee of £500 to receive a decision within 10 working days. However, this expedited service is limited to a limited number of applications each working day. Requests for faster decisions are processed based on the order of submission (first come, first served).

Instructions on requesting an expedited decision are provided after you submit your application.