Taking the next step to expand a business often includes hiring the right people to help you achieve your goals and reach new horizons.

Many companies are now searching further afield to recruit the very best people by hiring highly skilled workers from around the world. The UK Home Office has set up multiple visa schemes to allow UK-based organisations to grow by finding the best talent that the world has to offer.

Since the UK has left the EU, more and more companies are having to apply for sponsor licences to employ both EU and international workers.

At The Nathanson Partnership, we understand the struggles that companies are facing when trying to get their heads around Brexit and employing foreign workers.

If you are looking to expand your business, but you do not know where to start when making a sponsor licence application, speak to one of our business immigration experts. We offer a free initial assessment to advise on whether you will be eligible for a sponsor licence and what you need to do next.

What Is a UK Sponsor Licence?

A sponsor licence is approval from the Home Office that you can hire foreign workers from outside of the UK to do a suitable role within your company. Since Brexit, if you want to hire EU workers, you must also have a sponsor licence to do so.

It is important to note that you will not need a sponsor licence to employ EU nationals who were residing in the UK before 31 December 2020, including qualifying family members, who are registered with the EU Settlement Scheme.

Similarly, Irish citizens, people with pre-settled or settled EU status and people with indefinite leave to remain in the UK will not need to be sponsored to legally work for you.

Which Workers Can I Hire With a Sponsor Licence?

Generally speaking, you can apply for a sponsor licence to employ the following workers:

Skilled Workers

You can hire skilled workers under the Skilled Worker visa to do skilled roles within your company providing the job is eligible. An eligible job is one that is on the Home Office list of occupations and codes. There must be a genuine need for a skilled worker within your company that a local or settled person cannot fill.

Health and Care Workers

Health and care workers can be hired through the Health and Care Worker visa to do an eligible medical role within the NHS, with an NHS supplier or in adult social care. Workers must be qualified doctors, nurses, and health or adult social care professionals. The job must be in one of these occupations to be eligible for this type of visa.

Global Business Mobility Workers

The Global Business Mobility visa is made up of five different routes. Generally, they are temporary working routes for individual business purposes. Each route requires applicants to have worked for their overseas employer for a certain period of time and are needed to undergo work in a linked UK company.

The Global Business Mobility routes include the following:

Senior or Specialist Worker route: This is for senior managers and specialist workers. This visa has replaced the Tier 2 ICT visa.

Graduate Trainee route: This is for people doing a graduate training course that will lead to a senior management or specialist role and as part of the course, must do a UK work placement.

UK Expansion Worker route: This is for workers that are needed to help build a business that has not started trading yet.

Service Supplier route: This is for individuals providing contractor services, self-employed professionals or service providers that are covered by an international trade agreement.

Secondment Worker route: This is for workers who need to be seconded to the UK to work on high-value contracts or investments.

Temporary Workers

Temporary workers can include those who are needed for short-term contracts. For example,
seasonal workers can do seasonal work for up to 6 months such as fruit picking or poultry work.

Scale-up Workers

Scale-up workers are highly talented individuals who are needed to help grow and expand a fast-growing business. You must have an eligible scale-up business to be able to hire scale-up workers.

How Do You Get a Sponsor Licence?

Before you apply for a sponsor licence, you need to ensure that your business will qualify for one. That means meeting the following criteria:

  • Your company is based in the UK and is genuine and operating and/or trading lawfully in the UK.
  • There is a genuine vacancy that you are offering the candidate. This position must meet the specific skilled worker criteria.
  • You will comply with the sponsor duties and responsibilities.
  • The owners, directors and appointed key personnel must have good character.
  • The business does not present a threat to immigration control and the UK.

The Sponsor Licence Process

Depending on the type of company that you have, you will likely have ideas as to what type of person you want to hire and for how long. As such, it is important that you apply for the right type of sponsor licence for the exact worker you want to employ.

As part of the application process, you will need to complete the online application form and depending on your business, you will be asked for certain information like the size of the business, the industry it operates in, the number of employees, the trading period, PAYE and VAT details.

In addition, you will need to provide details of the people who will fulfil certain roles which come with being a sponsor. This includes nominating an authorised officer, key contact and level 1 user.

You will also be asked to submit documentation in support of your application such as incorporation documents, accounts and insurance policies.

Why Does My Business Need a Sponsor Licence?

If you want to hire highly skilled workers from outside of the UK, then you need a sponsor licence to comply with the law. Failure to do so could result in fines or even criminal punishment if you are found to be hiring people illegally.

Having a sponsor licence is a great way to find global experts that can take your business to the next level. Sometimes the people you need cannot be found in the UK.

Finding consistent workers that will remain with your company for the long term can be tricky too. When you hire skilled workers, you usually have to commit to employing them for a long or short-term period which gives you more certainty and the ability to plan.

What Does a Sponsor Do?

As a UK sponsor, you must make sure that you are legally employing migrant workers and following the correct procedures to do so. This includes making sure that they are being paid the minimum wage or the required salary, ensuring that the role they are doing is genuinely required in the company and adhering to your reporting, monitoring and record-keeping duties.


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 to the Home Office through the SMS within a certain time period depending on what is being reported. This could include unauthorised absences, early termination of employment or the start date being delayed for no legitimate reason.

How Can The Nathanson Partnership Help You?

Our clients value our full sponsor licence service as we take the pressure off their hands and let them focus on what they do best.

  • We offer a tailor-made service that fits your specific business requirements because every organisation is unique.
  • We give accurate, detailed and transparent immigration advice to ensure that you understand what is required to avoid wasted time and penalties through non-compliance.
  • We guide you through the whole process from start to finish so that you are supported at each stage. This includes preparing and submitting the application.

Our sponsor licence service doesn’t stop when you obtain your licence. This is only the beginning as the complexities can often come from what happens after, such as applying for certificates of sponsorship and remaining compliant with immigration laws.

At The Nathanson Partnership, we understand that running a successful business means timing and budgeting and making sure that things are as streamlined as possible.

We are on hand to support you to ensure that you are adhering to your obligations as a sponsor and efficiently and effectively hiring skilled workers that will truly enhance your business.

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

Contact Our Expert Business Immigration Professionals

We are a team of regulated immigration professionals providing business immigration advice that is accurate and reliable. We are fully accredited by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) which means that we must adhere to high-quality immigration service standards.

We are proud to represent a range of clients from individuals, start-up businesses, and entrepreneurs to companies with international employee populations.

If you need assistance with your sponsor licence application, our team of specialists are keen to help you.

Please contact us today on 020 3476 9523 or email us at [email protected]

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Certificate of Sponsorship?

A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) is a reference number issued by a sponsoring employer. The sponsoring employer will need to generate a CoS in order to employ a migrant worker. 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. The worker will need the CoS reference number for their visa application.

There are different types of CoS:

  • 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 is important for sponsors to assign the correct type of CoS. Failure to do so will be considered a breach of the rules and will lead to penalties that will affect the business and the employee.

What Qualifies Someone to Be a Sponsor?

A company is able to become a sponsor if they are honest and do not have criminal convictions, civil penalties or a history of not complying. Your company must be looking to fill a genuine position that they cannot fill by hiring a local worker.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Sponsor Licence?

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. This can take longer if mistakes are made in the application process or the correct documentation is not submitted in the right format.

How Long Does the Sponsor Licence Last?

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 your sponsored workers’ visas.

What Is a Skilled Worker?

A skilled worker is someone who works in a role that is on the Home Office list of eligible occupations. They must be paid a certain salary based on the Home Office minimum salary requirement for that role and have a certain skill level.