If you are an organisation wishing to employ foreign workers, you must first obtain a sponsor licence. If your application for Sponsor Licence is successful, you will be able to hire skilled workers from outside the UK.

Your organisation must assume a number of compliance duties to manage your Sponsor Licence and to monitor your sponsored workers. Your licence may be downgraded, suspended, or withdrawn if you do not follow the compliance duties.

The application process for Sponsor Licence consists of ensuring that your HR and internal recruitment meets the relevant Home Office recruitments, preparing your supporting documents for the Home Office review, and an online application. You may be also subject to a compliance visit by the Home Office to carry out extensive checks to establish your company’s trustworthiness before granting Sponsor Licence.

Your Sponsor Licence will be valid for 4 years, after which you can apply to extend it. Once you obtain your Sponsor Licence, your organisation will be placed on the List of Registered Sponsors regularly updated by the Home Office. You will receive a licence rating and permission to assign Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to enable you to employ eligible skilled workers.

Depending on the nature and length of employment offered by you to your potential foreign employees, you can apply for either (or both) of the two types of licence:

Worker Licence

A ‘Worker’ licence will enable you to employ skilled workers on a long-term or permanent basis. There are several categories of workers that can be employed under this licence:

  • Skilled Worker – the role must meet the job suitability requirements
  • Intra-company visas – this includes Intra-company Transfer and Intra-company Graduate Trainee, for multinational companies which need to transfer established employees or graduate trainees to the UK
  • Minister of Religion– for people coming to work for a religious organisation
  • Sportsperson – for elite sportspeople and coaches.

Temporary Worker Licence

If you wish to employ foreign workers on a temporary basis, you must obtain a Temporary Worker licence to sponsor them. The following categories of temporary workers can be sponsored under this licence:

  • Creative or Sporting Worker– to work as a high-level sportsperson (up to 1 year), entertainer or artist (up to 2 years)
  • Charity Worker(up to 1 year)
  • Religious Worker(2 years)
  • Government Authorised Exchange Worker– work experience (1 year), research projects or training, for example, practical medical or scientific training (2 years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge
  • International Agreement Worker– where the worker is coming to do a job which is covered by international law, for example, employees of overseas governments
  • Seasonal Worker– for those coming to the UK for up to 6 months to do farm work

You can also use the Seasonal Worker visa to sponsor:

  • poultry production workers – until 31 December 2021
  • HGV drivers involved in food transport – until 28 February 2022


Before you apply for your Sponsor Licence, you must note some eligibility criteria. Your company must not:

  • Have any unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering.
  • Have no history of failing to carry out your sponsorship duties.
  • Have had its Sponsor Licence revoked in the last 12 months.

Additionally, you must ensure that your company has appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees.

Sponsorship Management Roles

One of the requirements of a Sponsor Licence is to appoint people within your business to manage the sponsorship process. The main tool used for this purpose is the Sponsorship Management System (also known as SMS).

The Sponsorship Management roles are:

  • Authorising officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the SMS.
  • Key contact – your main point of contact with the Home Office.
  • Level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS.
  • Level 2 user – this is an optional SMS user that can be appointed once you have your licence. Their access is more restricted access than a level 1 user, so for example they cannot withdraw a Certificate of Sponsorship.

Your Authorising Office must be your employee. However, you may appoint a UK-based legal representative to fulfil the rest of the roles. You can allocate any of the roles to a UK-based legal representative, apart from the authorising officer role.

Certificates of Sponsorship

You can only sponsor a foreign worker if the job you are employing them for is suitable for sponsorship. The Home Office has published a list of jobs that meet the requirements for sponsorship.

Once you have identified the job, you must ensure that your potential foreign worker has the necessary skills, qualifications or professional accreditations to do this job.

Employee Monitoring

As a Sponsor, you will need to have appropriate systems in place to be able to monitor your sponsored worker. This include:

  • monitoring their immigration status
  • keep copies of relevant documents for each employee, including passport and right to work information
  • track and record your sponsored employees’ attendance
  • keep your sponsored employee contact details up to date
  • report to UKVI if there is a problem with your sponsored employee (for example, if they are not complying with the conditions of their sponsored visa).

Reporting Changes

You must inform the Home Office within 20 working days, if your company experiences any significant changes, such as:

  • stops trading or becomes insolvent
  • substantially changes the nature of its business
  • becomes involved in a merger or take-over

You must also tell Home Office if you are changing your details, like your address or allocated roles. These changes can be reported via the SMS.

Fairmont Lawyers can help you navigate the application process and provide you with the support required to manage your Sponsor Licence, comply with the legal and regulatory duties and monitor your employees.


As soon as your company has established a genuine trading presence in the UK, has registered with the tax authorities, set up a company bank account and obtained employers liability insurance, you can apply for a Sponsor licence.

Yes, however the Home Office can apply a “genuineness” test to assess whether you should be granted a sponsor licence.

No, this can be a person of any nationality provided that they have permission to work in the UK and is a senior employee or office holder in the company who is based and paid in the UK.

Your sponsor licence will be valid for 4 years, after which you can apply to extend it.

The Home Office can visit any of your company’s offices, branches or client sites at any time. These visits can be pre-arranged or unannounced. If your company has been trading for less than 18 months it is likely they will undertake a visit before they approve the licence.

The fee for sponsor licence application depends on the type of licence you are applying for and the type of your organisation. The table below summarises all the fees (from October 2021):

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 No fee £940
Temporary Worker licence
Add a Temporary Worker licence to an existing Worker licence No fee No fee

You’re usually a small sponsor if at least 2 of the following apply:

  • your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less
  • your total assets are worth £5.1 million or less
  • you have 50 employees or fewer

Most applications are processed in less than 8 weeks. Home Office may need to visit your business. You may be able to pay £500 to get a decision within 10 working days.