ArticleHow can UK employers obtain a skilled worker sponsor licence?

As the United Kingdom transitions away from EU-free movement, the primary visa route for non-British and non-Irish nationals seeking to work in the UK is the Skilled Worker visa. This visa operates under a sponsorship system, requiring foreign workers to secure a job offer from a UK employer who holds a Skilled Worker sponsor licence.

Understanding Sponsor Licences

Non-educational organisations in the UK can apply for various sponsor licences, each corresponding to different types of sponsored work visas. The key categories include:

  • Skilled Worker
  • Senior or Specialist Worker
  • UK Expansion Worker
  • Scale-up Worker
  • Ministers of Religion / Temporary Worker – Religious
  • International Sportsperson
  • Creative Worker
  • Charity Worker
  • Government Authorised Exchange
  • International Agreement
  • Seasonal Worker

This article focuses specifically on the Skilled Worker sponsor licence, which forms the backbone of the Points-Based Immigration System and is the most common application within work-based migration.

Initiating the Application Process

The process begins with reviewing Part 1 of the Home Office’s guidance for sponsors, detailing the sponsor licence application process. Two critical criteria must be met: eligibility and suitability.

Eligibility Criteria:
  • The sponsor must provide evidence of being a genuine employer with a lawful trading presence in the UK.
Suitability Criteria:
  • The Home Office assesses whether the organisation is honest, dependable, reliable, and capable of meeting sponsorship responsibilities. This includes verifying human resource and recruitment systems, ensuring genuine job vacancies, and checking the criminal records of key personnel.

Demonstrating a Genuine Vacancy

A crucial part of the application is demonstrating that the sponsor can offer genuine employment that meets the skill and salary thresholds of the Skilled Worker route. The Home Office evaluates the necessity of the role within the business’s current structure and the feasibility of remote working.

Key Personnel for the Licence

The application requires the nomination of specific roles:

  • Authorising Officer: A senior person involved in recruitment or HR, responsible for the licence and compliance with sponsor duties.
  • Key Contact: The main point of contact with the Home Office, preferably a legal representative.
  • Level 1 User: Manages the day-to-day operations of the sponsor licence via the sponsorship management system (SMS).

It is essential to ensure that nominated personnel have no disqualifying factors, such as criminal conduct or adverse involvement with the Home Office.

Sponsorship Duties and Compliance Visits

Sponsors must report specific information about sponsored workers via SMS and maintain detailed records, such as employment contracts and salary details. The Home Office can conduct compliance visits to assess whether the organisation meets these duties. Non-compliance can lead to suspension or revocation of the sponsor’s licence, risking operational and reputational damage.

Application Submission and Decision Timeline

After submitting the online form and paying the relevant fee (£536 for small companies/charities and £1,476 for medium/large companies), the sponsor must send supporting evidence within five working days. Decisions typically take four to six weeks but can be expedited for an additional fee of £500.

Future of Sponsorship

The need for sponsorship has increased significantly, and while some improvements have been made, the system remains cumbersome and overly burdensome for many employers. Upcoming changes aim to streamline the process, initially for a small trial group, with a broader rollout expected over the next two to four years.


Applying for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence is a detailed process requiring careful preparation and understanding of Home Office requirements. Ensuring compliance with eligibility and suitability criteria is essential for a successful application, enabling businesses to hire the overseas talent they need to thrive in a post-Brexit UK.

Get in touch:  For a comprehensive understanding of your options or queries on UK immigration matters, contact GigaLegal Solicitors at 02074067654 or click here to book a no-obligation consultation with an immigration expert.