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Apply For A Sponsor Licence In The UK As An Irish Business

Businesses moving into the UK need to know how to apply for a sponsor licence. A sponsor licence will be required for businesses that seek to employ workers from overseas or to bring workers from a branch in Ireland into a UK branch.

If you are a business looking to sponsor a migrant skilled worker or intra-company transfer worker, a sponsor licence is required. To gain assistance in how to apply for a sponsor licence, speak to a lawyer at IAS. Give us a call at +353 061 518 025 to get legal advice today.

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    Irish Businesses That Have Expanded In The UK Need A Sponsor Licence To Hire Foreign Workers

    A sponsor licence is necessary for employers in the UK to employ skilled workers from outside of the country. This includes EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens.

    Yet, employers do not need a sponsor licence to employ Irish citizens with indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Employees who work for an Irish company that has a branch in the UK will need a certificate of sponsorship from a sponsored employer.

    Sponsor licences are also required when an employer wishes to hire a foreign worker for unpaid labour, including volunteer jobs.

    There are two categories of sponsor licences: temporary worker licences and worker licences. Employers can apply for either type of licence, depending on the type of work that they are offering.

    A sponsor licence assists employees in entering the UK as it ensures that the employer will take responsibility for the worker in the UK.

    If the sponsor licence application gets accepted, then the employer needs to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship per foreign worker. However, this does not guarantee that the migrant will be given a visa.

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    Employers that are applying for a sponsor licence need to first meet specific criteria to be eligible for a sponsorship licence. The sponsor licence requirements are as follows:

    • Said business needs to be present and operating in the UK legally. Companies that have many branches can apply for a single licence to cover multiple or all branches, or they can have several licences for each.
    • Should the business be subject to inspections by a statutory body to operate in the UK, the business will need to provide proof that it was registered with the appropriate body.
    • The business will be required to show evidence that they have the appropriate planning permission and local authority consent to operate in the location that they are in.
    • Said business needs to be willing to accept duties that are necessary for sponsor licence holders.
    • The business needs to be offering legitimate employment in a skilled occupation and needs to pay the required minimum salary (at least) for the work as dictated by the Home Office.

    Additionally, the business that is applying for a sponsor licence needs to have people in place in the organisation to manage the sponsorship processes via the Sponsor Management System (SMS).

    Three key persons are required for this part of the sponsorship management process of obtaining and sustaining a licence.

    • The authorising officer: This is a senior official who is responsible for all of the duties of the other personnel. This includes the key contact as well as any representatives.
    • The key contact: This is an employee of the organisation who is the primary point of contact between the business and the home office.
    • The Level 1 User: This is a person who is responsible for managing the issued licence directly. This individual can grant and withdraw Certificates of Sponsorship to skilled foreign workers. A business can have one or more of these level 1 users, and they can also have level 2 users who will have restricted access to the SMS.

    A single person or multiple different employees can perform these roles. However, at least a single level 1 user needs to be an employee of the company; another level 1 and 2 users can be outsourced from organisations that are outsourced to do this work.

    Each person who has access to this system needs to be suitable for this post. Every individual involved in the sponsor management system process will have to go through certain checks.

    This includes the analysis of any unspent criminal convictions and any offences related to immigration law.

    Personnel will also need to have spent a majority of the year in the UK, have no tax debts, and not be a majority shareholder in a company that has had its sponsor licence revoked in the previous year.

    Sponsor Licence Application Suitability

    The UK Visas and Immigration Department will look into potential sponsors and ensure the following:

    • The potential sponsor has a genuine vacancy on offer that meets the criteria for the skilled worker sponsor licence. There may be a request for additional information to verify the nature of the role on offer and ensure it does exist. An exaggerated job description will raise suspicions that the vacancy is not legitimate.
    • The organisation has the relevant HR and recruiting systems in place to make sure that the business can comply with the sponsorship duties and requirements. The Home Office does have the right to investigate the compliance of sponsors by conducting site inspections before the granting of a licence and even after.
    • The business must be dependable. Thus, the organisation, its owners, key personnel, and directors cannot have any unspent criminal convictions.
    • The organisation does not represent any threat to immigration control. This means it has no history of non-compliance.
    • Should it be required, the business should have all appropriate planning permissions or local planning authority consent for the type of business operating.

    Genuineness Testing

    A genuineness test needs to be viewed as a business case. The Home Office will request to see reasons why a sponsor licence is required and why a foreign national is required for the vacancy.

    If the business can present legitimate and convincing business reasons for needing a licence and a foreign national to fill this role, then this application will meet the genuineness test.

    This can occur at any time during the life of the licence. It could happen when the application is being made, during a compliance visit, or even when requesting a Certificate of Sponsorship.

    This test looks at the jobs the business hires migrant workers to do and how these jobs interact with the organisation overall.

    Which Type Of Sponsor Licence Is Right For My Irish Company In The UK?

    There are many categories of sponsor licences for businesses in the UK. The type of sponsor licence a business acquires will be determined by the type of worker licence that a foreign worker has.

    These are the types of sponsor licences available:

    Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence

    The sponsor licence for skilled workers enables business owners to sponsor workers on the skilled worker visa. The skilled worker visa route grants foreign nationals who hold it the ability to work in the UK for up to five years.

    The skilled worker visa covers many different fields of work and includes jobs on the occupational shortage list.

    Temporary Worker Licence

    The temporary worker licence is for employers who wish to bring skilled workers into the UK to undertake temporary employment through the temporary worker visa.

    A temporary worker visa has many different subcategories that cover different workers, from international sportsperson to charity workers, creative workers, and more.

    Intra-Company Transfer Sponsor Licences

    This visa type applies to individuals who work for a foreign branch of a company in the UK. Thus, if a person such as this wants to transfer to the UK branch of said company, this visa type will cover their application.

    This licence also covers graduate trainees who may be transferring from a foreign location to the UK branch of a company.

    Get started with obtaining your sponsor licence in the UK as an Irish business by contacting our qualified lawyers. Contact Us

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      How To Apply And Obtain A Sponsor Licence


      The sponsor licence application process is straightforward, requiring only five simple steps. Those applying for a sponsor licence need to complete the following steps:

      1. The business must first establish that it meets the requirements of the sponsor licence. These requirements can be seen above.
      2. Next, the business will need to show that the role they are hiring for is suitable and genuine. Whether the job is suitable or not depends on the level of skill that is required to do this job as well as the salary.
      3. After this, the business needs to choose what licence type they wish to apply for. Which type the business wishes to apply for depends very heavily on the type of worker that they wish to sponsor.
      4. Once this is done, the business can set up its sponsorship management system (SMS).
      5. Now, the business can complete the online sponsor licence application. This includes paying a fee for the application.

      Once the application has been submitted, the business will need to print out the sponsor licence application sheet.

      This printed sponsor licence application submission sheet must then be sent alongside other supporting documentation as scanned files to the email address that is provided on the submission sheet.

      What Supporting Documents Are Required?

      When a business is completing a UK sponsor licence application, it needs to send specific supporting documents to establish that the business is legally operating in the UK.

      The documents that are required will depend on the business type and the available role type. There is a requirement of four specific documents that will need to be submitted for an application for a skilled worker sponsor licence.

      The necessary supporting documents will include the following:

      • A current corporate bank statement that covers the past six months.
      • Evidence of ownership or a lease of the business premises or rental agreement.
      • Evidence that shows that the business has been registered as an employer with HMRC This can include an accounts office reference number and PAYE.
      • Shown audited financial accounts for the last 12 months. This is only applicable if the company is legally mandated to file its audited accounts. Otherwise, the company can submit any financial accounts unaudited.

      There may be other documents required for a sponsor licence application. These may include the following:

      • Documented proof of employer liability insurance with a minimum of £5 million in coverage from an authorised insurance company.
      • Certificates of VAT registration.
      • Proof of registration with a statutory body should the business be required to be inspected by, or otherwise registered with, a regulatory body to operate legally in the UK.

      The business must submit all necessary supporting documents within five days of submitting the online UK sponsor licence application.

      It is also possible that the Home Office may conduct a visit to the business premises to verify that they are a reliable sponsor.

      Should the requirements for a sponsor licence not be met, then it is likely the application will be rejected.

      However, suppose the requirements are met and all of the supporting documents are sent on time. In that case, an organisation may then be able to apply for many subcategories of sponsor licences at once.

      Sponsor Licence Application Fee

      The sponsor licence application cost depends on the type of organisation and the size of the organisation. A small organisation will pay a sponsor licence fee of £536 for their application, whereas a medium or large business will have a sponsor licence fee of £1,476 for their application.

      A business will be classified as small if it meets two of the following three criteria:

      • The business has an annual turnover of £10.2 million or lower.
      • The organisation has fewer than 50 employees.
      • The organisation has assets worth no more than £5.1 million.

      Once a business no longer meets the criteria to be classified as small, it will have to pay a licence application fee that applies to medium- or large-sized organisations.

      If the organisation is a charity, then no matter the size, it will be considered a small sponsor.

      What Are The Sponsor Licencing Duties?


      Employers need to fulfil certain responsibilities of having a sponsorship to be granted a sponsorship licence.

      If the employer does not meet these sponsor licence duties, then the employer will have their sponsor licence rating decreased, which can prevent them from hiring migrant workers and eventually cause them to lose their licence.

      The duties an employer has to maintain their sponsor licence include the following:

      • The employer must ensure that the foreign workers they employ have the skills and qualifications necessary for the job and also have supporting evidence to verify that they are eligible.
      • The employer must only assign a certificate of sponsorship to each migrant worker they intend to hire, specifically for vacancies that are suitable for that sponsorship.
      • The employer must inform UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) of any non-compliance or misconduct by a foreign employee.

      Other duties include:

      • Record keeping.
      • Monitoring and reporting.
      • Monitoring absence.
      • Notifying the Home Office in the event of any changes in circumstance.

      Record-Keeping Duties

      Sponsor duties in record keeping mean that sponsors need to keep records regarding sponsored employees and their right to work in the UK, as well as their history and contact details. Employers need to keep copies of the following:

      • Passports.
      • Immigration status documents per sponsored worker.
      • Biometric residence permits.

      Employment contracts also need to be retained. The Home Office will also retain this information and may conduct checks to ensure that the employer is not breaching employment rights.

      Monitoring and Reporting Sponsor Duties

      Employers need to have systems and processes in place to monitor and track their sponsored workers and report in ten working days if the individual does the following:

      • Fails to begin work as expected.
      • Has ten days of absence that are unauthorised.
      • Gets their contract terminated earlier than anticipated.
      • Moves to another category for immigration. Such as if they move from a temporary worker visa to a skilled worker visa.

      Monitoring Absence

      Sponsors need to ensure every absence of a sponsored employee is recorded and authorised. This includes annual leave, sickness leave, study leave, and travel overseas.

      Change In Circumstances Notification

      The key person(s) listed on the sponsor licence need to be employed by the sponsor; if there are any changes, UKVI needs to be informed via SMS.

      Similarly, if the organisation moves premises, the company address change needs to be reported to the Home Office.

      For further assistance and guidance, speak to our expert immigration team today by either calling us on +353 061 518 025  or contacting us online.

      Sponsor Licence Validity, Expiry and Renewal

      As of 6 April 2024, businesses not not need to continually renew their sponsor licences in order to keep them valid.

      This is in contrast to the rules previously in place, which dictated that businesses should renew their licence every four years in order to keep them valid.

      Because of this new rule, sponsor licences will now last indefinitely as long as businesses continue to uphold the compliance and regulatory standards expected of them by the Home Office.

      It’s important to note that businesses whose sponsor licences are set to expire before 6 April 2024 will still have to renew their licence and pay the £536 renewal fee one last time.


      Our immigration team can help you obtain a UK sponsorship license as an Irish company. Contact Us

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        What Is The Certificate Of Sponsorship?


        A certificate of sponsorship is a reference number granted by the sponsoring employer through SMS to the sponsored worker. This is used to inform and confirm to the Home Office that requirements on the specific visa route have been met.

        Applicants who are sponsored require this to be able to make a visa application.

        Employers should be aware that there are two types of certificates of sponsorship.

        These are:

        Defined Certificate Of Sponsorship

        If the employee is outside of the UK and is applying for entry clearance, this is the type of COS that needs to be used. The sponsor will have to apply for a defined certificate of sponsorship through SMS by providing specific job and salary details.

        Undefined Certificate Of Sponsorship

        Should the employee be applying for a visa to remain in the country, then the sponsor will need to assign them an undefined certificate of sponsorship from their annual allocation allowed. If they have used up their allocated undefined CoS’, they can apply to obtain more via SMS.

        The Home Office states there is a single-day turnaround for these requests unless there are any other possible associated queries.

        How To Assign Certificates Of Sponsorship

        Once sponsors are familiar with the differences between these types of CoS, they need to ensure that when they do assign one, it is the right one for the relevant worker.

        Should the sponsor fail to assign the appropriate type of COS, this is considered a guideline breach and can result in penalties. A sponsor is not allowed to assign a defined CoS where an undefined one is required, and vice versa.

        Once the visa applicant has been assigned a CoS, the individual needs to use the reference number to make their visa application to the Home Office.

        If the visa application is made after three months from the CoS allocation, the application will likely be rejected. It can also be refused if the visa application is made more than three months in advance of the employment start date stated on the certificate of sponsorship.

        Businesses that have a sponsor licence application will need to state at the beginning of each year how many undefined CoS they will need until April 5th. If a licence is granted, this means a COS is issued at the same time. This allows businesses to assign COS right away.


        Sponsor licence-holder employers will need to pay a fee whenever they assign a certificate of sponsorship to a worker. The amount that the certificate will cost will depend on the type that the individual has.

        • A skilled worker licence (CoS will cost £239 per individual.
        • A temporary worker licence (CoS will cost £25 per individual.
        • An international sportsperson (over 12 months) CoS will cost £239 per individual.
        • An international sportsperson (under 12 months) CoS will cost £25 per individual.

        Additionally, when sponsoring a skilled worker or a senior or specialist worker visa applicant, employers should check the rules regarding the immigration skills charge.

        Some occupations will not require the employer to pay this fee, but some do; therefore, it is essential to check.

        IAS Can Help You Obtain Sponsor licences And Lawfully Hire Foreign Workers

        Businesses from Ireland operating in the UK that seek to hire overseas workers need to be well acquainted with how UK visa sponsorship works. There is much to consider when applying for a sponsor licence, and completing a successful sponsor licence application can seem very complicated.

        This is why those completing an employer’s sponsor licence application can benefit from sponsor licence application guidance from an expert lawyer at IAS. Our legal team has assisted countless sponsor licence applications and can help yours be successful too. We can help you understand sponsorship licence requirements and how to complete a sponsorship licence application successfully.

        Give us a call today for sponsor licence guidance at +353 061 518 025, and a member of our legal team will get you started.

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