Tier 2 Sponsor Licence

If you represent a UK Company and you wish to employ a skilled worker from outwith the EEA and Switzerland under a Tier 2 Visa, you will first need to apply to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for a Sponsor Licence. This is a critically important initial step - especially because there is no appeals procedure if you are unsuccessful.

Five Star International is a hugely experienced immigration firm based in Glasgow, with a team of friendly and knowledgeable solicitors working exclusively on immigration cases for clients in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and throughout Scotland. We can advise you on every part of your Sponsor Licence application, including both the legal side and practical aspects, and we have an enviable success rate. We offer a flexible immigration advice service, and are open from 8am until late, 6 days a week.

To discuss your situation with one of our expert immigration lawyers in Glasgow please call us today on +44 (0) 141 339 7373 or get in touch by email at enquiries@fivestarvisas.com.

UK Tier 2 Visa Sponsorship for Employers

The Tier 2 (General) Visa (as well as the Intra-Company Transfer Visa) allows skilled workers from outwith the EEA and Switzerland to live and work in the UK, provided that their UK employer is able to show that they could not fill that job vacancy with someone who was already resident in the country. This is necessary even if you run a charity and wish to recruit an unpaid volunteer from overseas.

If you are a UK employer, the first step you need to take is to register with the UKBA in order to get a Sponsor Licence. If you are successful, this will entitle you to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship when you have a suitable job vacancy - which your overseas worker will need in order to apply for their Tier 2 Visa.

It is vital that you carry out this application process correctly, as there is no appeal process if your company is refused a Sponsor Licence.

You should also be aware that simply having a Sponsor Licence does not necessarily guarantee that your overseas employee will be successful in their application. Once you have selected a potential employee from overseas and issued a Certificate of Sponsorship, their application will still need to be assessed by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and may or may not be accepted.

Once you have made sure your business meets the eligibility criteria, you need to select the appropriate type of Sponsor Licence to apply for - Tier 2 General, Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) or both - and then decide who will be responsible for sponsorship within your business. Once your application has been submitted immigration officers from UKVI will review your application and all supporting documents, and may visit your business to confirm that you and your company meet the requirements.

If successful, your business will be granted a licence rating and will gain the ability to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship for appropriate jobs. Your Sponsor Licence will be valid for a period of four years, though it can be reissued for a further 4-year period thereafter. Importantly, it can also be suspended or revoked if you fail to comply with your duties and responsibilities as a sponsoring organisation.

Your eligibility for a Sponsor Licence is assessed in a number of ways. You will be turned down if you have any unspent convictions for immigration offences or related crimes such as fraud and money laundering. You will also be turned down if you have a history of failing to comply with the responsibilities of a Sponsor organisation. Since your organisation is going to be responsible for the employee(s) in question, your organisation will also need to have appropriate tracking systems in place to monitor sponsored workers.

Types of Sponsor Licence

When applying for a Sponsor Licence, you can request a licence to cover workers under either Tier 2 Visas (skilled workers with long-term jobs), Tier 5 Visas (skilled temporary workers), or both.

The Tier 2 Visa is for skilled long-term workers, and is subdivided into four categories - General, Intra-Company Transfer (for multinational companies transferring employees from overseas), Minister of Religion (for recruitment within faith communities), and Sportsperson (elite top-level sportspeople and coaches who will develop their sport in the UK).

The Tier 5 Visa is for skilled temporary workers, and is subdivided into five categories - Creative and Sporting (sportspeople for up to 1 year, entertainers and artists for up to 2 years), Charity Worker (unpaid workers up to 1 year), Religious Worker (preaching, pastoral and non-pastoral work for up to 2 years), Government Authorised Exchange (work experience for 1 year, research projects and training for up to 2 years), and International Agreement (work covered by international law).

Sponsor Key Personnel

At the point when you apply for a Sponsor Licence, you will need to nominate one or more people within your business who will be responsible for managing the sponsorship process. They will fill a number of roles, including 'authorising officer' ,'key contact', and 'level 1 user'.

The authorising officer is a member of senior management who will oversee the sponsorship process and regulate usage of the computerised Sponsorship Management System (SMS). The key contact will be the primary point of contact between you and the UK Visas and Immigration team. And the level 1 user will be responsible for carrying out all of the routine administrative tasks associated with managing your Sponsor Licence through the SMS. These three main roles can be filled by the same person, or by different people. There is also an optional 'level 2 user' role with more restricted permissions than the level 1 user, but you can only nominate this person after you have initially obtained your Sponsor Licence.

The suitability of you and your staff will be checked by UKVI officers as part of the application process - for example your designated staff must be primarily based in the UK, and should usually be paid members of staff or office holders, and not be merely contracted for a specific project. In particular UKVI immigration officers will want to make sure that the staff involved in managing your Sponsor Licence do not have a history of non-compliance with sponsor requirements, do not have unspent criminal convictions, have not broken the law or been reported to the UKVI, have not failed to pay VAT or excise duty, and are not subject to a bankruptcy or debt relief restriction. In the last 12 months they should not have been fined by the UKVI, or been a key person at a Sponsor that lost it's licence.

It is possible to allocate any of these roles (apart from the authorising officer) to a legal representative, provided they are based in the UK and qualified to provide immigration advice or services. Please contact us by phone or email if you would like to discuss this service in more detail.

Sponsor Licence Ratings

If your application is successful you will be granted an A-rated Sponsor Licence, subject to you continuing to meet your sponsor obligations. If you fail to meet these duties you may have your licence dropped down to a B-rating - meaning that you will be unable to issue any new Certificate of Sponsorship until you have made the required improvements to regain your A-rating. Failing to complete all the required steps to regain your A-rating may lead to the loss of your licence entirely. This can also happen if you repeatedly fail to meet your obligations and keep getting downgraded to a B-rating.

Sponsor Licence Decision Appeals

Unlike many other immigration processes, if your application for a Sponsor Licence is unsuccessful then there is no option to appeal the decision. While it is possible to reapply after a certain length of time has elapsed, we usually recommend that you contact us at the start in order to make sure your initial application has every chance of success. We can also provide support to ensure that you keep your Sponsor Licence with an A-rating.

Issuing Certificates of Sponsorship

Once you have obtained your Sponsor Licence you are able to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to each overseas worker you employ. Despite what the name suggests, this Certificate is actually a computerised record containing a unique reference number, rather than being an actual printed document. When you generate a Certificate of Sponsorship a worker has a period of up to three months to apply for a visa using that reference number, after which it is no longer valid.

In theory, there is no limit on the number of Tier 2 and Tier 5 certificates you can issue - these are called unrestricted certificates. However there is a limit on the number of certificates you can issue to Tier 2 (General) employees who are currently abroad and with a salary below £153,000 per year, and to dependants of Tier 4 migrants. The number of certificates for these categories are strictly limited, with each case reviewed and assessed on a points system. Each certificate you issue also attracts a small administration fee.

When using your Sponsor Licence to an recruit overseas worker for a Tier 2 or Tier 5 job, you must ensure the job offers a suitable rate of pay, and at a suitable skill level. The exact requirement depends on the type of work and location. And unless the job is listed as a 'shortage occupation' you must also satisfy the 'resident labour market test' - which basically means that you must be able to prove that you advertised the job appropriately for at least one month, but were unable to find suitable workers already permanently resident in the UK.

Sponsor Responsibilities

To maintain your A-rated Sponsor Licence you must observe a number of responsibilities, particularly with regard to maintaining records and monitoring sponsored workers.

You must only allocate a Certificate of Sponsorship to a worker if the post is suitable for sponsorship. You must ensure your overseas workers hold appropriate passports, right to work documents, qualifications or certifications in order to enter the country and carry out the role - and you must retain copies of relevant documents to prove this. You are obliged to use suitable Human Resource tools to enable you to monitor your sponsored workers' attendance record and keep a note of their current contact details. You must have systems in place to allow you to monitor your employee's immigration status, and you have a duty to notify UKVI if you believe a sponsored worker is violating the conditions of their visa or if they have stopped coming to work. There are further guidelines to follow if your overseas worker is under 18 years of age.

Similarly, you have an obligation to notify UKVI of substantial changes to your business within 20 working days. For example you must notify the immigration authorities if you cease trading, become insolvent, change substantially the nature of your business or its location, if you change your allocated business roles, or if your business is subject to a merger or take-over.

The UKVI have the ability to audit your company to check for compliance, and are under no obligation to provide a notice period - so it is important that your immigration affairs are kept in order at all times. Many of our clients like to take advantage of our audit service, designed to ensure you are kept fully compliant at all times - please get in touch for more details.

Failure to meet these obligations may lead to your Sponsor Licence being downgraded to a B-rating, temporarily suspended, or even completely revoked - so it is important you fully understand your duties and adhere to them at all times.

Expert Legal Advice for Sponsor Licence Applications

As you can see, the legislation on Tier 2 Sponsor Licences is lengthy and detailed, and it is crucial you get your application right first time - remember that you have no automatic right of appeal if refused.

At Five Star International we specialise in immigration law, and have a proven track record of success in all kinds of immigration cases - including situations where other law firms in Scotland have been unable to help.

We have a wealth of experience in helping companies to understand and implement best practice when applying for Sponsor Licences, complying with changing requirements to maintain your A-rating, and issuing Certificates of Sponsorship and handling overseas recruitment appropriately. We believe in offering a highly flexible legal service - we are open 6 days a week, from 8am until late, and we offer phone and Skype consultations as well as home and workplace visits.

To discuss your Sponsor Licence application with one of our highly trained immigration lawyers today please call us on +44 (0) 141 339 7373 - or alternatively you can reach us by email at enquiries@fivestarvisas.com.