How Hard Is It to Get a Sponsorship Licence in the UK?


In the UK, many employers are finding it extremely difficult to recruit workers to fill roles in their companies. This could be because:

  • the vacancies require up-to-date, specialist skills, which the job applicants simply don’t have.
  • widespread resignations are causing labour shortages at companies.
  • Brexit has ended free movement of EU workers, which has caused a shortfall of thousands of jobs.

To fill labour shortages, UK employers can get a Sponsor Licence and recruit foreign talent.

In this article, we will answer the question, how hard is it to get a Sponsorship Licence in the UK?

What is a Sponsor Licence in the UK?

Sponsor Licence allows UK businesses to hire workers who are based outside of the UK.

By law, UK businesses must have a Sponsor Licence before they can hire foreign workers. The licence is valid for 4 years.

Any form of UK-based work is considered under this licence, including unpaid activities that are due to be carried out by anyone from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.

As a licenced sponsor, a UK employer can recruit foreign workers and assign each of them a ‘Certificate of Sponsorships’. This is not a physical document, but an electronic record for each worker hired from overseas.

The certificate contains a unique reference number, which the foreign worker needs when they apply for a work visa to join the UK business.

The UK business can choose to sponsor foreign workers on a short-term basis, or permanently.

There are different types of sponsorship licences, including:

  • Skilled Worker
  • Minister of Religion or Religious Worker
  • International Sportsperson
  • Creative Worker
  • Charity Worker
  • Scale-Up Worker
  • International Agreement
  • Government Authorised Exchange
  • Secondment Worker
  • Service Supplier (up to 1 year)
  • UK Expansion Worker
  • Seasonal Worker
  • Graduate Trainee ((Global Business Mobility) 

However, just because a UK employer sponsors a non-British individual, this does not mean the individual is guaranteed a visa to work in the UK.

How do you apply for a Sponsor Licence?

Here are the steps which you have to take if you want to apply for a Sponsor Licence:

It will usually take around 2 months to hear back with a decision. You may be able to pay to get a faster decision on your application.

Who is eligible for a Sponsor Licence?

There are requirements which you must meet if you want a Sponsor Licence.

A UK employer and their staff will be checked, to make sure they are suitable to have a Sponsor Licence.

For instance, nobody from the UK business should:

  • Spend most of their time outside of the UK
  • Be subject to a bankruptcy restriction
  • Have a history of non-compliance with Sponsorship requirements
  • Have broken the law
  • Have been reported to UKVI
  • Have failed to pay VAT or other excise duty
  • Be a contractor or consultant contracted for a specific project
  • Have unspent criminal convictions for offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering.
  • Had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months.

Click here to view the full requirements to apply for a Sponsor Licence.

How hard is it to get a Sponsorship Licence in the UK?

So, how hard is it to get a Sponsorship Licence in the UK?

Well, it is not easy to successfully obtain and retain a Sponsor Licence.

If your application for a Sponsor Licence is successful, you will be given a Licence Rating. An A-rated licence lets you start assigning Certificates of Sponsorship to foreign workers whom you want to hire.

If you do not meet the requirements incumbent upon you as a Sponsor, your licence will be downgraded to a B-rating.

Here, you won’t be able to issue new Certificates of Sponsorship, until you have made improvements and upgraded back to an A-rating.

You will be asked to follow an ‘action plan’ provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to upgrade your licence– this costs £1,476.

How much does a Sponsorship Licence application cost?

The Sponsor Licence will have fees throughout the process, these fees are less for smaller businesses than for medium and larger ones.

Small businesses only pay £536 for a Sponsor Licence.

Medium to large businesses, however, pay more than double this at £1476.

Charities also pay a lower fee of £536.

Click here to read the current fees to apply for a Sponsor Licence.

What if my Sponsor Licence expires?

When you are granted a Sponsor Licence, it is valid for 4 years.

Once the licence expires, you cannot hire any more foreign workers, because your licence is no longer valid. Any foreign workers who are currently working for you are now considered to be illegal workers, and their leave will be curtailed.

We recommend applying to renew your licence at least one month before it expires, to avoid running into any legal trouble.

Where can I get help with my Sponsor Licence application?

Our elite immigration agency (Synergy Immigration Solutions) has extensive experience in dealing with employer and employee applications concerning Sponsor Licencing.

We house all the support services you need for immigration applications, under one roof. This means one cost only, for complete support on your visa application.

We enjoy working with individuals who need assistance with their visa applications.

  • We will liaise with the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) on your behalf- saving you time, effort, workload, and stress.
  • We will answer your questions and address any concerns. We are proud to offer a bespoke personalised service, tailoring our advice to suit your needs and ensure that your application has the best chance of success.
  • We process all applications in an efficient and timely manner and keep our clients well-informed throughout the process.

It is vital that the correct documentation is in place to ensure the application is approved.

We would always recommend that you appoint a specialist such as Synergy Immigration Solutions to manage this process for you.

Click here to contact Synergy Immigration Solutions and submit your query.

Alternatively, email or call 020 315 05359. We will get back to you within 24 hours and we are more than happy to help.

Find out more about Sponsor Licences

Click here to read our blog articles and helpful pages on:

About Synergy Immigration Solutions

We are a London-based UK immigration agency, regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). We are proud members of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association.

To find out more about Synergy Immigration Solutions and our visa services, visit our website here.

To contact us, call us on 020 315 05359, email or fill in our online contact form here.

Read articles on our blog here, to find the answers to frequently asked questions about topics such as the UK skills gap, Sponsor LicenceRight To Work Checks, and Spouse Visas.

We hope this article has provided the answer to the question, ‘how hard is it to get a sponsorship licence in the UK?’

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