Tier 2 Sponsor Licence Law Firm

If you want to employ a foreign national in the UK, you will first need to apply for a sponsor licence, which involves providing that the migrant will fill a role that cannot be filled by a settled worker. The licence also acts as a pledge from you - the sponsor - that you will accept the responsibilities of sponsorship.

Currently, the requirement to hold a sponsor licence only applies to employers wishing to employ nationals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). However, with the introduction of a new set of post-Brexit immigration rules due to be implemented on 1st January 2021, all employers who wish to employ EU nationals will need to apply for a sponsor licence.

Important action for employers: Non-resident EU nationals who are entering the UK from the beginning of January 2021 will need permission to work. It is essential that you apply for a sponsor licence now should you wish to employ EU nationals from 1st January 2021 without experiencing a delay.

To speak to a solicitor about making a sponsor licence, contact us by calling 0345 241 5053 or fill in our online enquiry form and we will get back to you. Please note JMW is unable to assist job seekers looking for an employer to sponsor them to work in the UK.

Sponsor Licence Obligations

In applying for a licence and subsequently issuing a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) to migrant workers, your organisation accepts the need for compliance with a number of requirements, including:

  • Having effective HR systems
  • Adequate record keeping and various reporting requirements
  • Regulatory compliance and co-operation with all Home Office requests

The current Tier 2 Guidance for Sponsors document details these obligations and runs to 209 pages. The document contains a myriad of obligations and requirements that create a significant burden for you as an employer. Moreover, should the Home Office find that you are unable to meet the obligations, your licence will be refused and you will be subject to a six-month cooling-off period in which you will not be able to reapply.

The experienced immigration law team at JMW can help you to make an application for a sponsor licence, and provide ongoing support to ensure that you remain fully compliant with these stringent regulations.

How JMW Can Help

Our immigration solicitors manage the Tier 2 sponsorship process for a number of employers, from small start-ups to large multinationals. The expert team at JMW takes away the stress from employers by handling the entire licensing process from the start. This includes full advice on the licence application process, including advising on supporting documents and HR processes. 

On approval of the licence, we can then provide subsequent compliance assistance, such as updating the sponsor management system (SMS) as and when required. 

We issue certificates of sponsorship (work permits) on behalf of employers for individuals who have been offered a job, as well as providing full assistance with obtaining entry clearance/leave to remain once a certificate of sponsorship has been issued.

You should get professional advice at an early stage to ensure that your systems are in place, and your application is properly prepared and lodged correctly with the Home Office. This will give you the best chance of success in the fastest possible timeframe.

Why Choose JMW to Assist You With Your Tier 2 Licence Application

We are a top 100 UK law firm with over 500 employees based in the city of London, Manchester and Liverpool. We are large enough to have the high professional standards that you would expect from an established law firm whilst also retaining the client accessibility more typical of smaller firms.

Our immigration solicitors are not only experts in business immigration law but they also specialise in Tier 2 of the Points-based System (PBS) with substantial experience of sponsor licence applications. Specialist Tier 2 knowledge and extensive experience of sponsor licence applications are essential when advising a client properly on a Tier 2 licence application.

Our approach is to form a strategic partnership with you to become your trusted business immigration advisers. We will take into consideration your particular circumstances and advise on appropriate actions to take. Our solicitors have been commended by the Home Office, which means you can trust in the quality of our applications. We will always ensure sponsor licences are kept up to date should there be any developments in immigration law.


How long does it take to get a decision on a licence application?

The Home Office sponsor licensing unit advertises a processing time of 40 days. In practice, we normally see a decision in three to six weeks. If your business is audited by the Home Office, the decision may take longer.

How do I apply for a sponsor licence?

The application form is completed online and you will be required to send documents to the Home Office in support of the application within five working days of submission.

What documents do I need to prepare to send in support of the application?

The documents that a business should send to the Home Office can be split into two categories: 

Documents that confirm your eligibility to be a sponsor. These documents will show that you are a genuine, trading business. The documents will vary depending on the business’s circumstances. However, in most cases a minimum of four supporting documents should be supplied. For example, a private limited company might send in the following:

  • Corporate bank statement
  • VAT certificate
  • Evidence of PAYE registration
  • Employer’s liability insurance certificate

It is very easy to get this element of the licence application wrong and for the licence to be rejected. The Home Office will reject an application if the supporting document is not an original or certified in the prescribed manner.

Please get in touch with us with your questions for detailed advice on supporting documents.

Documents to help the Home Office assess your suitability as a sponsor. 

You should provide a cover letter including the mandatory information as detailed in Appendix A to the Tier 2 Guidance for Sponsors document. This information will help the Home Office determine that your vacancy is genuine. 

In addition, you will want to provide any further relevant documents that support your reasons for applying for the licence. For example, if the vacancy you want to fill with a migrant has been created because you are developing a new in-house product, you might consider submitting an overview of that product. 

If the Home Office is not sure about your reasoning for applying for a licence, it may increase the chances of a pre-licence audit.

What are ‘key personnel’?

All sponsor licence applicants must name an authorising officer, a key contact and level 1 user on the sponsor licence application. 

The authorising officer should be the most senior person responsible for the recruitment of migrant workers and will be responsible for ensuring the licence obligations are met. 

The key contact is the main point of communication between the Home Office and the sponsor and this role is often filled by a legal representative. 

The level 1 user will have access to the SMS and will carry out ‘day-to-day’ sponsorship duties, like reporting, through the sponsorship management system.

What happens when the licence is approved?

Your level 1 user will receive a password and user ID that will allow them to access the SMS, an online platform that allows you to assign certificates of sponsorship (work permits) to migrant workers and carry out your sponsorship duties.

How long does a sponsor licence last?

The licence will last for four years, unless it is withdrawn by the Home Office, and must be renewed before expiry if you wish to continue the employment of the migrant worker.

Why would my licence application be refused or rejected?

Typical reasons for licence refusals or rejections include:

  • Documents being in the wrong format. For example, providing a print out of a digital document that has not been certified or providing a document that has been certified in the wrong way
  • Failure to show the Home Office that you will meet your tracking and reporting obligations should you receive a licence
  • Failure to provide the correct documents to evidence the resident labour market test
  • Failure to evidence a genuine vacancy

What is a certification of sponsorship?

A certificate of sponsorship is essentially a digital work permit that contains the details of both the migrant worker that you want to employ and the details of the job that they will be doing, e.g. the title, salary and a brief job description. It also confirms whether you have carried out a resident labour market test and involves you making a declaration that the role is genuine.

What is the shortage occupation list?

Shortage occupations are roles where there are not enough settled workers to fill available jobs in particular sectors. The shortage occupation list can be found in Appendix K to the Immigration Rules.

How much is the sponsor licence application fee?

The licence application fee is currently £1,476 for large companies and £536 for a small company. The definitions of small and large are as per the Companies Act 2006.

Small Business and Start-ups FAQs

We have only been trading for three months, can I apply for a sponsor licence?

Part of the assessment that the Home Office undertakes when a company applies to be a sponsor is whether a vacancy has been created purely to facilitate the sponsored worker’s immigration status in the UK. If you are a new business or if you are very small, you will need to provide more in depth reasoning when you apply for the licence in your cover letter to explain how the relevant role has been created and how it will be financed in the future. You are aiming to substantiate the genuineness of the vacancy.

Is there a set amount of money that needs to be in the company bank account when applying for a sponsor licence?

There is no set minimum and indeed some applicants do not provide bank statements in support of their applications. However, if you are a smaller or a newer business, you will likely need to provide a bank statement in support of your application. If your bank balance is low, you will need to provide a more substantial justification for your application to persuade the Home Office of the genuineness of the vacancy.

Job Salary and Skills Level FAQs

How do I know if the job is skilled?

You will need to look at Appendix J to the Immigration Rules, which contain the SOC codes. The SOC codes group jobs according to their skill level. The current requirement is that the job must be skilled to RQF 6 and so you will only be able to sponsor someone in the codes listed at that level. There are some exceptions to this requirement, so please get in touch with us with your questions.

Please note that from 1st January 2021, the skill level will be reduced to RQF 3. To find out more, read our summary of post-Brexit changes.

How much do I have to pay the migrant?

You need to pay a minimum of £30,000 where the migrant is 26 years old or above or £20,800 if the migrant is under 26 or is switching from Tier 4 and you are sponsoring the migrant for less than three years. 

Please note that the SOC codes also contain salary information. If the SOC code for the job requires that you pay more than £30,000/£20,800, you must pay the higher amount stipulated in the SOC code.

This requirement will also change from the beginning of 2021 due to the post-Brexit immigration changes. Read the summary of post-Brexit changes here.

Can I prorate the salary?

Many of the salaries stipulated in the SOC codes are based on 39 hours per week and you can reduce the salary should your role require fewer hours. However, you must pay the minimum of £30,000/ £20,800 regardless of working hours. 

It is important that you meet the minimum salary requirements before you consider sponsoring a migrant, so please get in touch with us with your questions.

Resident Labour Market Test FAQs

What is the resident labour market test?

The resident labour market test (RLMT) is there to protect the settled work force and is a fundamental part of the Tier 2 sponsorship process as it now stands. It evidences that the employer has been unable to find a suitable settled worker prior to sponsoring the Tier 2 employee.

Please note that the resident labour market test requirement will be removed from 1st January 2021 due to the post-Brexit immigration changes.

How do I run the resident labour market test?

The resident labour market test involves advertising the relevant job role in two forms of media, typically a recruitment website like Indeed, and also the Find a Job website (this is normally compulsory unless an exemption applies) for a minimum of 28 days.

It is equally important that you document the recruitment process fastidiously and in compliance with Home Office requirements to avoid the risk of being in breach of licence obligations.

Are there any exemptions to the resident labour market test?

Yes, there are some exemptions to the resident labour market test. The most common exemptions are:

  • Post-study work exemptions - for example, where you want to employ a migrant who is on a Tier 4 (General) visa and who has graduated from their UK university you may be exempt
  • High earners - where the migrant will earn £159,600 or more, you will not need to run the RLMT
  • Jobs on the shortage occupation list

It is critically important that you get the resident labour market test right - please get in touch with us with your questions

I have already advertised the role, do I really need to re-advertise?

It is very common for clients to tell us that they have already advertised the position. The resident labour market test is not simply advertising the role, it involves specific documentary requirements and this is where clients often make mistakes. In these cases, we will need to analyse your advert and recruitment evidence to see if further advertising is required.

Pre-licence Home Office Audit FAQs

Will the Home Office audit me before I receive a decision on the licence application?

It is impossible to say whether you will be audited or not. Those at higher risk for a pre- licence audit are small companies, very young companies and applications where the justification for applying is unclear. 

As detailed below, the Home Office wants to check that your organisation is both eligible (a genuine trading business) and suitable (is offering a genuine vacancy and has relevant HR procedures in place).

What can I expect at the audit?

The first point to note is that the Home Office can turn up to your premises unannounced so you should notify your staff of this possibility. If the Home Office does notify you first, they will normally call the authorising officer/key contact and follow up with an email confirming the time/date/location of the audit as well as the documents they will want to see. 

The audit is carried out by a compliance officer who will interview the authorising officer or key contact. 

At the audit itself, the Home Office will want to determine:

  • Whether your business is a genuine trading entity - common lines of questioning will concern the employer’s business: what the business does, how many clients the business has, what their income is and who is who in the organisational hierarchy
  • Whether the vacancy itself is genuine - typical questions will relate to how the vacancy has come into being. For example:
    • Is the position newly created or unoccupied after an employee departure?
    • How did the business find the migrant worker they want to sponsor?
    • Was the position advertised and, if so, who was invited to interview, when were they interviewed and who was chosen? 

The compliance officer will normally ask to see your advertising screenshots, all of the shortlisted CVs and your interview notes. 

  • Whether your business will be able to meet its obligations under the licence, should it be granted - the compliance officer will want the employer to demonstrate that it is able to meet the sponsor licence obligations. You should, therefore, have HR systems in place that cover the relevant obligations. 

Talk to Us

If you are looking for legal assistance with the sponsor licence application process, get in touch with JMW today. Simply call us on 0345 241 5053, or fill in our online enquiry form and we will get back to you.