Tips for UK Sponsor Licence Holders

Sponsor Licence Holder
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Breytenbachs have a team of consultants dealing with UK Sponsors and Sponsor Licences. Every month they provide UK Sponsors with more tips to ensure compliance with Home Office rules and regulations.

Start-Up Companies / New Companies

Clients often ask Breytenbachs whether it is possible for a company that has only recently started trading in the UK to obtain a Sponsor Licence.

We are happy to confirm that the Home Office have no provisions that specifically prohibit a newly formed company from applying successfully for a Licence.

However, the Home Office has slightly different documentary requirements for companies deemed to be “Start-Ups”. There needs to be certain personnel in place to be able to mount a viable application. Accordingly, whilst it is permitted, most newly registered companies may still find that they need to lay some initial groundwork before being able to apply for a Sponsor Licence with confidence.

The Home Office considers companies trading for less than 18 months to be a Start-Up.

How does the Shortage Occupation List impact Sponsorship?

The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) is a list of various occupations for which the Home Office is aware that the UK lacks a sufficient level of workers. The list includes a number of IT and engineering-related positions, some healthcare positions (including nurses and carers), and a variety of other occupations across multiple sectors. Companies holding UK Sponsor Licences must be aware of the provisions of the Shortage Occupation List and how this impacts the sponsorship requirements if they will be sponsoring any workers under one of the eligible SOL positions. Where a position falls under the SOL, the sponsoring company benefits from being able to pay the worker sponsored to undertake the role at lower salary rates than are usually required under the Skilled Worker system. As a general rule of thumb, if a position falls under the SOL, then, in place of the usual £25,600p.a. minimum salary requirement, sponsors are required to pay a minimum salary of £20,480p.a. In addition, positions that fall under the SOL may also be paid up to 20% less than the salary rate required under the Occupational Code that the position falls under. Furthermore, applicants (and their dependents) applying for a Skilled Worker visa to undertake an SOL position benefit from paying reduced application fees to the Home Office to process their applications.

Undefined vs Defined Certificates of Sponsorship

It is very important for companies sponsoring or seeking to sponsor workers under the Skilled Worker visa category to understand the difference between Undefined and Defined Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS). Especially as the Home Office may refuse Skilled Worker visa applications if the applicant applies with the wrong kind of CoS for their circumstances. 

Fortunately, the distinction between when each kind of CoS should be used is relatively straightforward – if the migrant will be lodging their Skilled Worker visa application from overseas, then a Defined CoS would be needed. If they are making their application from within the UK, an Undefined CoS is required. 

Following Brexit, the Home Office also relaxed the rules relating to which migrants are permitted to lodge their applications for a Skilled Worker visa from within the UK, so it is now possible for most migrants who reside in the UK on an alternative visa to apply for a Skilled Worker without having to leave the UK. It should be noted, however, that it is not possible for migrants who are present in the UK in any of the following visa categories to apply for a Skilled Worker visa from inside the UK: 

  • Visitors; 
  • Short-term Students; 
  • Parents of a Child Student;
  • Seasonal Workers;
  • Domestic Workers in Private Households; or
  • Migrants who are in the UK outside of the Immigration Rules.

Accordingly, migrants in the UK under one of the above visa categories would need to depart the UK and apply for Entry Clearance to obtain a Skilled Worker visa, utilising a Defined CoS in that respect.

Sponsor Licence Validity

UK sponsoring companies need to know that once issued, a Sponsor Licence will be valid for four years, after which it will need to be renewed. The Home Office requires all companies employing migrants on a Skilled Worker visa or other sponsored work route to maintain an active Sponsor Licence throughout the period the migrants are employed. As most Skilled Worker migrants must complete five years of residence in the UK in that capacity, many sponsoring companies will be required to renew their Licence at least once if the migrant will be working with them for the entirety of their qualifying period. 

Retaining Records of the Period of Recruitment

Since the UK left the EEA the Home Office no longer requires companies to complete a formal Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) for a company to sponsor a worker under a Skilled Worker visa (previously known as Tier 2 (General) visa). Many sponsors do not realise, however, that even though there is no formal requirement to advertise a position, companies must still be able to explain how they have identified the migrant worker in question and if the migrant has been identified as part of a formal recruitment process, then the sponsoring company must still retain records of the period of recruitment undertaken, including (but not limited to): a screenshot, printout or photocopy of the advert, or a record of the text of the advert together with information about where the job was advertised and information about the people who applied for the position, including a record of the number of people who applied for the job, and the number of people shortlisted for interview or other stages of the recruitment process. It is also recommended to retain details of the questions asked of candidates at the interview and a summary of why the successful candidate (i.e. migrant worker) was selected. 

Logging into the Sponsor Management System (SMS)

UK companies that hold sponsor licences must ensure that their Level 1 User registered on the account logs into the Sponsor Management System (SMS) once a month. Sponsors must do this to check the notifications that appear on the landing page.

Breytenbachs are aware that the Home Office is actively monitoring this sponsorship responsibility. They also contact sponsors where they can see nobody has accessed the SMS for months. Breytenbachs thus recommend that clients holding sponsor licences ensure they access the Sponsorship Management System regularly.

How Breytenbachs can help you

Breytenbachs Immigration Consultants have a dedicated team of consultants dealing with Sponsorship Licences and Skilled Worker Visas. Contact us today to find out more or to arrange a consultation.

Email us at [email protected] or phone your closest Breytenbachs office at the following contact details Durban – 031 880 2777 Cape Town – 021 879 0969 or Pretoria – 012 460 9959. You can also contact our London office at +44 207 442 2160.