How to Make a Sponsor Licence Application

sponsor licence application


Most UK employers will need a sponsor licence in order to hire workers from overseas. A sponsor licence is effectively the permission granted to an organisation by the Home Office, allowing them to employ foreign, non-UK resident workers in specific types of roles.

In this guide, we explain the rules and requirements when applying for a sponsor licence for your organisation.

How do you get a UK sponsor licence?

To obtain a sponsorship licence, you must show you are a genuine organisation operating lawfully within the UK. You will also need to prove you can carry out visa sponsorship duties and have appropriate HR and recruitment practices and systems in place.

Once you have obtained a sponsorship licence, it grants you permission to lawfully employ overseas skilled workers via your online Sponsor Management System (SMS) account which assigns a certificate number the employee must use when submitting their visa application.

Which type of sponsor licence do you need?

There are two types of sponsorship licence, depending on whether the workers you need to fill your vacancy are:

  • “Workers” with long-term job offers such as Skilled Workers
  • “Temporary Workers”

You can apply for one or both licences.

Sponsor licence eligibility requirements

An application for a sponsorship licence must meet certain eligibility criteria. To confirm that you are eligible for a licence, you must provide verifiable documentary evidence to demonstrate that you are a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK.

  • your organisation has human resource systems in place to meet your sponsorship duties and obligations. You may receive a site visit from the Home Office to assess your HR systems before or after your licence is granted.
  • the key personnel named on your sponsorship licence application are honest, dependable and reliable. Here the Home Office will consider any history of immigration violations or any unspent criminal convictions for a relevant offence.

Which jobs qualify for sponsorship?

To qualify for sponsorship, the role should be at RQF Level 3 or above. This is equivalent to UK A-levels. Many technical roles and many more office jobs qualify, such as: office managers, sales executives, shopkeepers, estate agents, gardeners and teaching assistants can now be considered for sponsorship. For a full list of inclusions and exclusions, visit the website.

Importantly, you must demonstrate the role is genuine and that the candidate has the necessary skills, qualifications and experience required for the vacant role. If the Home Office has reasonable grounds to believe the role has been created principally to facilitate the applicant’s visa, they have the power to refuse it even where sponsorship has been granted.

How to apply for a sponsor licence

To obtain a sponsorship licence you must complete an online application form via the Home Office website. Any supporting documentation required to validate your application will need to be submitted within five working days of the initial application.

The necessary supporting documents are listed in the Home Office guidance entitled ‘Appendix A: supporting documents for sponsor licence application’ – although additional documentation may be requested. You will need to provide at least four supporting documents, including evidence that you have a current, corporate bank account with a bank registered by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK. Other mandatory documents may be required that are specific to the type of licence you are applying for.

In the event that it is possible for some of these documents to be verified online, then you will need to send a covering letter to the Home Office with the website address where the information can be found. Any hardcopy documents in support of an application must be original or certified copies.

It will be important to ensure that your supporting documents are correct and comprehensive. Any errors or issues can result in delays in processing, and potentially a refusal of your application.

How much does a sponsor licence application cost?

The sponsor licence application cost depends on factors such as the size of your organisation and the type of licence you are applying for.

Type of licence Fee for small or charitable sponsors Fee for medium or large sponsors
Worker £536 £1,476
Temporary Worker £536 £536
Worker and Temporary Worker £536 £ 1,476
Add a Worker licence to an existing Temporary Worker licence No fee £940
Add a Temporary Worker licence to an existing Worker licence No fee No fee


‘Small sponsors’ are organisations for which at least two of the following apply:

  • the annual turnover of your business is £10.2 million or less
  • the total assets of your business are worth £5.1 million or less
  • your business has 50 employees or fewer.

‘Charitable sponsors’ are those that are:

  • a registered charity in England, Wales, Scotland or N.Ireland, where you must provide proof from HMRC of your charitable status for tax purposes unless you are on the register
  • an excepted or exempt charity
  • an ecclesiastical corporation established for charitable purposes.


In addition to paying the licence application fee, sponsors must also pay the Immigration Skills Charge. The skills charge is currently set at £1,000 per employee per year, reduced to £364 for small or charitable organisations.

How long does it take to get a sponsor licence?

Sponsor licence applications typically take an average of 2 to 3 months to process. Factors which can delay processing times include issues with your application documents and if the Home Office requires a pre-licence compliance inspection.

Fast-tracked processing within ten working days is available for a limited number of applications per day, for an additional fee of £500. Premium processing slots are made available each working day, allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Next steps after securing a sponsor licence

With a sponsor licence in place, you can proceed to assign the necessary Certificates of Sponsorship to your candidates, in order for them to make their visa application to the Home Office.

What does the sponsor licence rating mean?

If your application is approved, you will get an A rating which lets you assign certificates of sponsorship and you will also be listed in the register of sponsors on the website.

However, the Home Office has the power to downgrade licence holders to a B rating where they fail to meet their sponsor duties. Employers who have been downgraded to a B rating cannot issue new certificates of sponsorship until they have made significant improvements, although they can extend the certificates of existing employees in order to lengthen their UK stay.

To reinstate your A rated licence, you will need to follow an “action plan” provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). You must pay a fee of £1,476 for the action plan within 10 days of notification of the downgrade. Failure to do so will cause revocation of the licence.

If you successfully complete all the steps within the action plan, your licence will be upgraded to A. If you do not comply with all the steps, then your licence will be revoked. For each subsequent downgrade, you will be required to pay another fee and complete further steps.

You can only have two B ratings within a 4-year period. If you still need to make improvements after the second action plan, your licence will be revoked. You cannot appeal a revoked licence, but you can reapply after 12 months, but it must be a fresh application.

If your sponsor licence application is refused

When notifying you of its refusal decision, the Home Office should inform you as to the reasons.

If your application is refused and you believe that the refusal decision is either the result of caseworker error or, alternatively, the result of supporting evidence sent as part of your application not being considered, you can send an ‘Error correction request form’. The request must be sent within 14 calendar days from the date of the refusal decision letter. This correction process does not, however, offer a full reconsideration of a decision to refuse a licence application – and no additional evidence will be considered.

In the event that any refusal of your sponsorship licence application is upheld, you will need to wait a further six months before re-applying (an extended cooling-off period may apply if a refusal decision is based upon previous immigration violations).

Should I seek legal advice when applying for a sponsorship licence?

The requirements relating to sponsorship licence applications are not only complicated, but they’re subject to frequent changes by the Home Office – often with little notice and scant detail. If you are intending to apply for a sponsorship licence, you must remain well informed of the regular changes made to the immigration rules and other relevant legislation.

It is often best to seek expert legal advice from an immigration law specialist to ensure that you satisfy the eligibility and suitability criteria to enhance your prospects of a successful application. Your legal adviser can also assist with:

  • the drafting of the sponsorship licence application
  • the collation of supporting documentation to support the sponsorship licence application
  • legal compliance with your obligations and duties imposed on you under a sponsorship licence.

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.


How to Make a Sponsor Licence Application 1

Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

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