Now that the UK has left the EU, there are a number of actions required by UK businesses to ensure that you remain compliant and meet all the new immigration rules. The new Points Based Immigration System will apply to EU citizens and non-EU citizens alike. EU nationals residing in the UK before 31 December 2020, including qualifying family members, will still be able to apply under the existing EU Settlement Scheme until 30 June 2021.

The requirement for employers to hold a sponsorship licence, with its associated compliance duties is an important of the new system.

We advise businesses and individuals on the legal implications of Brexit. We offer practical guidance, training and representation to our clients. From Sponsor Licence and work permit applications to registration on the EU Settled Scheme, we provide strategic advice and assistance to all our clients.

Sponsorship Licence Application under the new Immigration Rules

From 1st January 2021, the UK government announced the replacement of the Tier 2 (General) visa by the new Skilled Worker route. If you are a UK business, company or enterprise and wish to hire foreign nationals, you will require a ‘Sponsor Licence’ to sponsor a migrant worker.

This also applies to new hires from the EU, EEA and Switzerland who:

  • were not in the UK before 31st December 2020;
  • have not applied for EU Settled or Pre-Settled Stats
  • As a sponsor, you will have to meet the duties set out by the Home Office.

Eligibility Criteria

To apply for a Sponsorship Licence, you must meet the criteria which states that:

  • you are genuine and operating and/or trading lawfully in the UK;
  • is based in the UK;
  • there is a genuine vacancy which you are offering the candidate. This position must meet the skilled worker criteria;
  • you will comply with the sponsor duties and responsibilities. You will be required to evidence that compliance;
  • the owners, directors and appointed key personnel have good character;
  • the business does not represent a threat to immigration control and the UK.

Processing time

If this is your first UK Sponsorship Licence application, you should expect the process to take 4-8 weeks for the application to be processed by the Home Office.

Your duties as a Sponsor Licence Holder

As a Sponsor Licence holder, you will be required to meet several duties which is set out by the Home Office. You should maintain current records and these should be regularly reviewed and updated. To do this, we provide and audit service to assist you in staying compliant.

The Home Office reserves the right to investigate sponsor compliance by conducting a site inspection before (as well as after) the licence is granted.


Sponsors are required to hold records and information on all their workers. Employees must show proof that they have the legal right to work in the UK. This should include National Insurance (NI) numbers, passport, immigration status documents, biometric residence permit and contact details.

Monitoring & reporting

Employers must have robust systems to track and monitor sponsored employees. Should there be changes to their circumstances, this will need to be reported within ten working days. Examples of changes could include (not exhaustive list) when the sponsored worker:

  • does not start work when expected;
  • has unauthorised absences of more than 10 consecutive days;
  • is terminated earlier than expected;
  • switches visa categories, e.g. from skilled worker visa to indefinite leave to remain.


All absences should be authorised and recorded. This includes sickness, annual leave, study leave, sabbaticals, maternity or paternity leave, business travel, etc.

Skill level for sponsored workers

Employers must ensure that the roles qualify for the skilled worker or intra company visa. The role needs to be Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 3 (A level equivalent) or above.

Minimum salary thresholds

The salary for sponsored workers must be above the minimum threshold. Different types of workers will have different minimum salary levels based on the role, individual and requirements. The employer must pay the ‘going rate’ or the relevant general minimum salary threshold i.e. whichever is the higher.

Sponsor licence management & compliance

As a registered sponsor licence holder, you must nominate key personnel who will assume specific responsibilities to manage the licence in compliance with Home Office guidance. They are:

  • Authorising officer (AO)
  • This should be a senior person in the organisation with responsibility for recruitment and/or HR.
  • Key contact
  • This person will be the point of contact for the Home Office regarding your application and the licence on an ongoing basis.
  • Level 1 user
  • The person will manage the Sponsor Management System (SMS) on a day-to-day basis.
  • Level 2 user
  • This person will carry out administrative tasks on the licence.

Each individual key personnel will be subject to criminal background checks to verify if they have been associated with immigration offending or with sponsor licence enforcement.

Certificates of Sponsorship

The Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is a reference number issued by a sponsoring employer. This is done via the Sponsor Management System (SMS). The CoS is used to verify to the Home Office that the requirements under the visa route have all been met. This CoS is unique to each sponsored worker.

Restricted and unrestricted CoS’ are now known as :

  • Defined CoS
    For employees who are outside the UK and applying for entry clearance.
  • Undefined Cos
    For new hires who wish to remain in the UK.

It important for sponsors to assign the correct type of Cos. Failure to do so will be considered a breach in rules and will lead to penalties which will affect the business and the employee.

Sponsor Licence Validity

Once granted, the sponsor licence is valid for a period of four years. To renews this licence, you will be required to submit your renewal application before the expiry date. Licences do not automatically renew. Therefore, it is important for you to avoid any delays as this will result in issues with their sponsored workers’ visa.

Your sponsor licence application is refused or rejected

Sponsor Licence applications are rarely refused or rejected. If this has happened to you, The Nathanson Partnership can assist you. Our first task will be to understand why you were. This could be due to incomplete, incorrect or wrong supporting documents provided in your original application. If the application has been refused, you may be subject to a cooling-off period of at least six months before you can apply again. Whereas a refusal means that the sponsorship licence requirements were not met.

Our Services

We will advise and guide in applying for your Sponsor Licence. The service we offer is from start to finish and will be tailor made to your business and your requirements. This will include but not be limited to the preparation and submission of the application, provision of best practice guidance, tracking and monitoring and implementation of compliant processes to avoid civil penalties by the Home Office.

We will conduct detailed consultations with you to understand your requirements. Because we understand the importance of running a successful business where timing and budgeting is key, we will provide you with a full schedule which will also include the processing times as well as our transparent fee structure.

Please contact us for a free initial assessment with our qualified and experienced UK immigration advisors.