Self Sponsorship Visa UK (An Ultimate Guide!)


A self-sponsorship visa in the UK typically refers to the route where entrepreneurs or business professionals move to the UK by sponsoring themselves for a visa, such as a Skilled Worker visa, through their own UK-based company.

This approach has gained attention due to the restrictions and closures of other entrepreneurial visa routes to the UK in recent years and as an alternative to the Innovator Founder visa, with its endorsement requirements.

The benefit of a self-sponsorship visa includes the ability to establish and grow a business in the UK, contributing to the UK’s economy while securing a pathway to live and work in the country. This visa route offers a valuable option for entrepreneurs who wish to bring their business ideas and innovations to the UK market, leveraging the country’s business ecosystem.

However, self-sponsorship is a legal process that requires adherence to specific requirements in respect of both the UK company’s status as a sponsor licence holder and the visa itself for the applicant.

To be eligible for self-sponsorship, the UK company must satisfy certain conditions to be approved for a sponsor licence by the Home Office. This includes having appropriate systems for monitoring sponsored employees and the capability to manage the business’s sponsorship duties. A key consideration for the Home Office is ensuring that the business can genuinely support the visa applicant and excluding any possibility of the role being created solely for immigration purposes .

It’s important for applicants to prove their English language proficiency, usually at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale, though exemptions apply, including for nationals from certain English-speaking countries or those with specific academic qualifications .

For further details and to ensure compliance with all requirements, consulting with immigration professionals is advisable.


Section A: Understanding Self Sponsorship Visa


1. What is self-sponsorship for a UK visa?


The concept of self-sponsorship in the UK visa context is not a specific visa route but rather a strategic approach under UK immigration laws. It involves an individual owning shares in a company, obtaining a sponsorship licence, and then being sponsored under the Skilled Worker Visa category by that same company.

This process allows a migrant worker to come to the UK under a Skilled Worker Visa, sponsored by a company in which they have a shareholder interest. This method is employed when real-life circumstances suggest it as a solution to meet a company’s genuine need for recruiting a suitable worker. It typically involves establishing a new business or taking over an existing one, applying for a sponsorship licence, and finally applying for the Skilled Worker Visa, which is granted for up to 5 years .


2. Why Choose Self Sponsorship visa?


Self-sponsorship offers a pathway for individuals with the skills, qualifications, or experience in business to establish or expand their business in the UK and sponsor themselves for a Skilled Worker Visa. This route is particularly suited for those who want to manage their business directly and seek a longer-term option for living and working in the UK with the potential for permanent residency .

Advantages of self-sponsorship over other UK visas for entrepreneurs include:


a. Skilled Worker Visa vs Innovator Founder Visa
Unlike the Innovator Founder visa, or the previous Startup and Innovator visas, which require an innovative or unique business idea, the Skilled Worker Visa under self-sponsorship does not. This makes it an attractive option for entrepreneurs with successful businesses in their home country looking to expand to the UK without the need for a novel business idea


b. Ownership and Control
Self-sponsorship allows individuals to own 100% of their business and have complete control over their operations in the UK. This is in contrast to some other visa routes that may require partnerships, endorsements, or have specific investment criteria.


c. English Language Requirements
The English language requirement for the self-sponsorship route is at the basic B1 level, as opposed to the B2 level needed for the Innovator Visa. This lower threshold makes it more accessible to a wider range of applicants.


d. Visa Duration
The visa under the self-sponsorship route is valid for 4 years, offering a longer initial period compared to the Innovator (3 years) and Startup (2 years) visas. This longer duration provides a more stable foundation for establishing and growing a business in the UK.


Section B: Self Sponsorship Eligibility Criteria


To be eligible for a self-sponsorship visa in the UK, which effectively involves sponsoring yourself for a Skilled Worker visa through a business you own or partly own, several key steps and requirements must be met:


1. Business Setup and Sponsor Licence Application


Initially, you must set up or take over an existing business in the UK. This business must apply for and obtain a sponsor licence from the Home Office, demonstrating it’s a genuine business operating lawfully within the UK. When applying for a sponsor licence, at least four documents from a specified list must be provided, including evidence of employer’s liability insurance, proof of registration with HMRC, and proof of business premises, among others .


2. Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)


Once your company has been granted a sponsor licence, it will need to apply for a CoS to sponsor you as a Skilled Worker. The job you are being sponsored for must be an eligible role that meets the skill level and salary requirements set by the Home Office. For individuals inside the UK, an undefined CoS is needed, whereas those outside the UK require a defined CoS .

The Home Office will look for proof that the job role has not been created merely to facilitate your visa application, as this could lead to enforcement actions against the business, including suspension or revocation of the sponsor licence


3. Make the Skilled Worker Visa Application


To apply for the Skilled Worker visa, you must be aged 18 or over and have a valid CoS for the job you plan to do.

You will need to fill a genuine vacancy at an appropriate skill level and meet the English language requirements at least to CEFR Level B1.

You will also need to be paid a salary that meets or exceeds the general salary threshold and the ‘going rate’ for the occupation, and show that you have enough funds to support yourself without relying on public funds .


Section C: Skilled Worker Visa Application Process


Applying for a self-sponsorship visa in the UK, essentially obtaining a Skilled Worker visa through your own business, involves a detailed process.

Once prepared, you will need to submit an online form, proving your identity and nationality, and providing a number of supporting documents, such as a valid passport, proof of savings, proof of English language ability, a tuberculosis test certificate (if applicable), and a criminal record certificate (if applicable).

Applicants must demonstrate that they have an eligible job offer, meet the minimum salary requirements, and can communicate in English

Thorough preparation and understanding of both the business and immigration requirements will be critical to successfully navigate the self-sponsorship visa route in the UK. Given the complexity, consulting with an immigration specialist is highly recommended to ensure all criteria are met and to maximize the chances of a successful application.

Here’s a step-by-step guide based on UK-based resources, including the necessary documents and tips to enhance your application’s success:


Step 1: Business Setup and Registration


Establish or acquire a UK-based business. The business must be registered with Companies House and be operational within the UK. This step is foundational for applying for a sponsor licence, which is a prerequisite for sponsoring yourself .


Step 2: Apply for a Sponsor Licence


a. Application Submission
Apply to the Home Office for a sponsor licence. This involves demonstrating that your business is genuine and lawfully operating within the UK.

b. Required Documents
You must supply at least four documents as evidence, including employer’s liability insurance, proof of registration with HMRC, and proof of business premises. An extensive list of acceptable documents can be found in Appendix A of the Home Office guidance .

c. Key Personnel
Nominate key personnel for your sponsorship management system (SMS), including an Authorising Officer, a Key Contact, and a Level 1 User. These roles are crucial for managing the sponsorship process .


Step 3: Obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)


Request a CoS: Once your sponsor licence is approved, request a CoS to sponsor your own Skilled Worker visa. Choose the appropriate occupation code for the job role you will be undertaking within your business .


Step 4: Skilled Worker Visa Application


Complete the online application form, providing details about your identity, nationality, and the role you are being sponsored for. This includes filling out your information in English and providing details of your job offer .


Step 5: Supporting Documents


You will also need to submit specific supporting documents, including a valid passport, proof of English language ability At CEFR level B1 or above, a valid CoS from the licensed employer, and financial evidence showing savings of at least £1,270 to support yourself.

Additionally, depending on your situation and the relevant requirements under Appendix A, you may need a tuberculosis test certificate and a criminal record certificate .


Section C: Tips for a Successful Application


1. Ensure Compliance
Make sure both your business and the job role meet all Home Office requirements to avoid the risk of your sponsor licence being suspended or revoked.

2. Detailed and Relevant Supporting Documentation
Provide comprehensive and accurate documentation to support your sponsor licence and Skilled Worker visa applications. This includes detailed business plans, financial records, and job descriptions. Also ensure you meet the mandatory documentation requirements as prescribed under Appendix A.

3. Use the Right Occupation Code
Selecting the appropriate occupation code for your role is crucial. The code should closely match your job duties and responsibilities.

4. English Language Proficiency
Prepare for and pass an English language test at the required level if necessary. Include the certification with your application.

5. Financial Preparedness
Ensure you have sufficient funds in your account to meet the maintenance requirement. This should be clear in your bank statements.

6. Seek Professional Advice
Given the complexity of immigration law and the high stakes involved, consulting with an immigration specialist can provide personalized guidance and increase your chances of approval.


Section D: Fees and Processing Time


1. Application Fees


The fees for applying for a self-sponsorship visa in the UK, effectively a Skilled Worker visa through your own business, along with the expected processing time, are crucial components of the application process.


a. Skilled Worker Visa Application Fee
The fee varies depending on the circumstances of the application, ranging from £479 to £1,423. Factors influencing the fee include the length of your stay, whether you are applying from inside or outside the UK, and the type of health and care visa

b. Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) Fee
Issuing a CoS costs £239. This is a necessary step before applying for the Skilled Worker visa as it provides the details of the role you have been offered in the UK .

c. Healthcare Surcharge
Applicants must also pay the Immigration Health Surcharge to access the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) for each year of leave.

d. Additional Costs
Depending on your situation, you may incur extra costs, such as fees for English language tests, tuberculosis testing (if required), and obtaining a criminal record certificate for specific job roles.


2. Processing Time


The fees and processing times are subject to change, so it’s advisable to check the latest information on the official UK government website or consult with an immigration professional to stay updated.


a. Standard Processing Time
The standard processing time for a Skilled Worker visa application is about 3 weeks for applications made outside the UK and 8 weeks for applications made within the UK. This timeline can vary based on the completeness of your application, the need for additional documentation, or if you are required to attend an interview .

b. Priority Services
For an additional fee, applications for both the sponsor licence and visa can be fast-tracked through priority services.


The additional cost for the visa priority service for a decision within 5 working days is £500, or £1000 for the super priority service which aims to provide a decision by the end of the next working day.

A limited number of priority processing slots are available for sponsor licences, for an additional fee of £500. These are allocated each working day on a first-come, first-served basis.

However, these expedited services are not guaranteed to be available in all locations or for all applications .


Section E: Living in the UK on a Self Sponsorship Visa


Living in the UK on a self-sponsorship visa, essentially the Skilled Worker visa, grants you several rights and responsibilities, along with access to various services and some restrictions.


1. Rights and Responsibilities


As a Skilled Worker visa holder, you are allowed to:

a. Work in an eligible job for an approved employer.
b. Study alongside your work.
c. Bring your partner and children (dependants) to the UK, provided they meet eligibility criteria.
d. Undertake additional work under certain conditions, including voluntary work.
e. Travel abroad and return to the UK freely.
f. Apply for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) after 5 years, giving you the right to live, work, and study in the UK indefinitely, and potentially access public funds if eligible

You cannot:

a. Access most public funds or the State Pension.
b. Change jobs or your employer without updating your visa


2. Access to Healthcare, Education, and Employment


a. Healthcare
You and your dependants will have access to the National Health Service (NHS) but must pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your visa application .

b. Education
Your children can attend school in the UK. You also have the right to study, though some restrictions might apply if you want to take a full-time course.

c. Employment
You’re allowed to work in the job your visa is tied to and may take on extra work in certain circumstances. Specifically, you can work up to 20 hours a week in a second job that’s either in the same occupation code and at the same level as your main job or in a shortage occupation. There’s no limit on overtime hours for your main job .


3. Restrictions and Limitations


If you wish to change your job or take on additional work beyond the stipulated 20 hours in a second job, you must update your visa. This might require a new certificate of sponsorship from a second employer and a detailed explanation in your application.

You must have a job offer from an approved UK employer to apply for this visa. This employer acts as your sponsor and will provide you with a certificate of sponsorship that details the role you’ve been offered


Section F: Extending or Changing Your Visa


To extend your Skilled Worker visa, you must have the same job as before, in the same occupation code, and work for the employer who sponsored your current visa.

Your partner and children must apply separately to extend their visas.

The extension process varies if your sponsorship or visa was obtained before specific dates, affecting salary requirements.

Fees are involved, and you’ll need to provide biometric information. You apply online and typically get a decision within 8 weeks. Changing your job or employer requires a visa update instead of an extension .


Section G: Article Summary


The self-sponsorship visa, essentially a Skilled Worker visa acquired through one’s own UK-based business, offers a pathway for entrepreneurs to live and work in the UK. The process involves establishing a business, obtaining a sponsor licence, and meeting specific criteria including English proficiency and financial stability. Application fees, processing times, and rights once in the UK, such as access to healthcare, education, and employment, are outlined on the GOV.UK website, providing a structured pathway for potential applicants.


Section H: Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What is a self sponsorship visa in the UK?
A: It refers to obtaining a Skilled Worker visa through your own UK-based business, allowing you to work in the UK.


Q: How can I apply for a self sponsorship visa?
A: Start by establishing or acquiring a UK-based business, then apply for a sponsor licence. Once obtained, you can apply for a Skilled Worker visa.


Q: What documents are needed for the application?
A: You’ll need a valid passport, a Certificate of Sponsorship, proof of English language ability, and financial evidence showing you can support yourself.


Q: How long does it take to process a self sponsorship visa?
A: The processing time is about 3 weeks for applications from outside the UK and 8 weeks for applications within the UK.


Section I: Glossary


Self Sponsorship Visa: A pathway for entrepreneurs to live and work in the UK by sponsoring themselves through their own UK-based business.

Skilled Worker Visa: A visa category allowing individuals to work in an eligible job with an approved employer in the UK.

Sponsor Licence: Authorization required by UK businesses to sponsor foreign workers, including the business owner, under the Skilled Worker visa scheme.

Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS): An electronic document with a reference number, proving an offer of a job from a licensed sponsor.

Occupation Code: A code that identifies a specific job type, required to ensure the job is eligible for sponsorship under the Skilled Worker visa.

GOV.UK: The official website for the UK government services and information, providing detailed guidance on visa applications.


Section J: External Resources


For comprehensive information and guidance on the self-sponsorship visa (Skilled Worker visa) in the UK, consider exploring the following external resources:


GOV.UK Skilled Worker visa page: Detailed official guidance on the Skilled Worker visa, including application process, fees, and eligibility criteria. Visit GOV.UK


UK Visas and Immigration: Offers extensive information on visa categories, immigration rules, and policy guidance. Visit UK Visas and Immigration


Davidsonmorris: Provides the leading legal information on the Self-Sponsorship Visa here.


These resources provide authoritative information and are essential for anyone considering applying for or extending a Skilled Worker visa in the UK.




Self Sponsorship Visa UK (An Ultimate Guide!) 1
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Anne Morris is the founder and Managing Director of DavidsonMorris. A highly experienced lawyer, she is recognised by Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500 UK as a trusted adviser to multinationals, large corporates and SMEs, delivering strategic immigration and global mobility advice. Anne is also an active commentator on UK immigration and HR matters.

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