Why do I need a sponsor licence
To employ foreign workers on a work permit, UK employers must first obtain a sponsor licence from the Home Office. The licence allows employers to offer skilled jobs to migrant workers. ‘Skilled’ worker job must be at least NQF Level 3 and has to be listed on the Home Office Skilled Workers Occupation list as eligible for the Skilled Worker visa.
Sponsor licence is an asset for your business
Sponsor licence makes a valuable asset for any business, and even more so in those industries where there are staff shortages. Employers in highly skilled industries, such as financial services firms, IT/Tech firms, professional services firms, hospitals employing foreign nurses and doctors, used to be the the typical organizations that were applying for sponsor licence. This was due to both the high skill level required (usually graduate level jobs – NQF Level 6) or salary requirement (£30,000 T2 General visa minimum).
Under the current immigration rules the NQF Level 3 jobs are accepted and the minimum salary is currently £26,200. This is of course in a nutshell and you need to look into the details of the job description, skills/qualifications/experience and the job soc code, to assess if all the requirements for Skilled Worker visa are met. However, many of the jobs offered by care homes, construction companies and restaurants can now qualify for sponsor licence as long as the general criteria are met.
Previously, it was extremely difficult to bring a foreign chef to work in the UK on a work permit as most restaurants were unable to meet the unrealistic requirements (e.g. under the previous rules restaurant could not offer a takeaway service to qualify for sponsor licence). This has changed now, as the Home Office immigration rules are less stringent for foreign chefs. In short, the requirements for restaurants and chef jobs are in line with other business categories.
Similar positive changes have been recently introduced for care workers, who are now included in Shortage Occupation List from mid February 2022 initially for one year only. This change opens new opportunity to employ foreign workers on Skilled Worker visa in the care industry that suffers from acute shortage of workers. When a job is on Shortage Occupation List, employers may pay a lower minimum salary of £20,960 instead of the standard £26,200 for Skilled Worker visas.
If you would like to know how much are the government fees for a Skilled Worker are visit this page.
Do I need a lawyer for my sponsor licence application
There is no requirement to use a lawyer to prepare and submit a sponsor licence application. So, if you are ready to commit time and effort you can read the Home Office guidance and prepare the application yourself. There are, however, many advantages of using an experienced immigration lawyer. Some expert guidance with your application for a sponsor licence would go a long way in securing your desired outcome.
Risks of applying for a sponsor licence
Before deciding whether to prepare a sponsor licence application yourself, it is advisable to weigh the risks. The most important is the risk of refusal. Refused application may have serious implications for the future. Firstly, those with refusal may be subject to a cooling off period when they will not be able to reapply. The cooling off period for refused sponsor licence application may be 6 months or 12 months.
6 months cooling off period applies to applications that were refused on suitability grounds. Home Office has decided that the company does not meet the criteria for the licence and has to wait 6 months before it is allowed to reapply.
If an application is refused for reasons that include deception or providing misleading or false information, the cooling off period is 12 months.
In any case, having an application refused is not a good thing. Home Office keeps track of applicants performances and having previous refusal impacts on the level of scrutiny during any following application.
One of the first questions an experienced immigration lawyer should ask a potential client is whether there was a previous refusal. If you had one, your case will almost certainly be more complex. It may be convenient for some applicants to omit this detail from their conversation with the lawyer but it really is not in their interest. Previous refusal tells an experienced lawyer that the application requires an extra effort.
Additional scrutiny of the sponsor licence application
Home Office caseworkers are human too. They have their daily quotas of visas to process. They like clear cut, well prepared visa applications they can review and grant quickly. Any red flags, such as previous refusals, missing mandatory documents or missing mandatory information are problematic.
Those inadequacies can prolong the decision procedure and cause additional scrutiny of the application. Lack of some information that may be overlooked by the Home Office when the applicant has a clean record, is more likely to be picked on when there is previous refusal or refusals. This would delay the application and may lead to a refusal.
Home Office audit
Another risk during the sponsor licence application process is Home Office audit. Home Office audit is a visit of a Home Office officer on your premises. The aim of such visits is to establish if your organization has suitable procedures and systems in place to ensure that all requirements of the sponsor licence can be fulfilled.
Home Office audit is not, as a rule, a good news for applicants who are without legal representation. The audit means that Home Office is unsure if your organization is able to meet the requirements and the duties and obligations for sponsor licence holders. Home Office audit is usually conducted by more experienced immigration officers. If you are not prepared they are likely to expose it during the visit.
The Home Office guidance for sponsors is long and it may be difficult to prepare for Home Office audit on your own. Our objective view is that even if you decide to prepare the sponsor licence application yourself you should seek professional assistance from a suitably experienced immigration lawyer to help in preparation for the audit.
An experienced immigration lawyer will prepare you for the visit. He will also review your HR systems and record keeping procedures. He will train your HR and authorising officer on the sponsorship duties and obligations.
If you have questions about Home office audit or want help with one, contact us through form below.
Top Tips when applying for a sponsor licence
There are some crucial areas in a sponsor licence application that you have to pay particular attention.
Those are the job description, skills/qualifications/experience required for the role, choice of soc code and salary requirements. When a salary you intend to offer to a migrant is close to the Home Office minimum, you have to check the number of normal weekly working hours the migrant will work. The minimum salary for each soc code is based on a standard number of hours. If your migrant worker’s normal weekly hours exceed them, you would need to pay a proportionately higher salary to the migrant worker.
You can find a list of soc codes on this webpage. When preparing a job description for the prospective migrant worker it is crucial to be realistic and honest about the position and requirements for the role. It is important to avoid obvious biases in the description of requirements.
For example, if you intended to hire a foreign worker who speaks a certain foreign language and you decide to put this language as a requirement for this job, you first need to consider if the job can be performed without the knowledge of this language. Job description and requirements must be directly related to the work to be performed and not tailored for the the specific candidate whom you intend to employ. The requirements have to be focused on the job role.