Immigration analyst Karendeep Kaur explains how to obtain a sponsor license

Karendeep KaurKarendeep Kaur, immigration analyst at Migrate UK

Karendeep Kaur, immigration analyst at immigration law specialist, Migrate UK, explains how to go about obtaining sponsor licenses for non-European economic area (EEA) citizens

This article is the view of the author and not necessarily of Ready for Brexit

Sponsor licences give UK employers the ability to employ non-EEA citizens to fill a skilled vacancy in the UK and with the current skills shortages and Brexit uncertainty, companies need advice and support to understand the complexities of sponsor applications. Here we take a look at what the process involves.

Certificate of Sponsorship

Employers wishing to employ a non-EEA worker will require a sponsor licence to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship. In some cases, there are alternative options, but these are increasingly limited. Obtaining a sponsor license is the lengthiest part of the process; it takes anything up to 16 weeks to decide once submitted to the Home Office, not accounting for the weeks and months of planning required prior to submission of the application.

Sponsor license applications can be submitted online, yet specific documents need to be sent to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to show that the business has established a presence in the UK and intends to trade. Documents must be collated from an extensive list, some are mandatory and vary depending on the license applied for – General or Intra Company Transfer or both. The documents must be in their original form or certified copies.

Resident Labour Market Test

During the Tier 2 General Sponsor License process, we recommend that you also begin the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) for the position you wish to fill. In the vast majority of circumstances, these roles need to be at a level no less than the NQF Level 6 roles seen in the Standard Occupational Codes of Practice. This Test is used to show UKVI that no ‘settled worker’ is available for the role you wish to fill with a Tier 2 visa worker.

As part of this test, your role must be advertised via two media, with the Home Office approved ‘Find a Job’ website being one of them (unless exempt), and it must show a number of attributes such as job title, job description, salary range, location, mandatory candidate requirements and closing date. This ad must run for a minimum of 28 days. Capture screenshots of the live adverts as proof, in case the Home Office conduct an audit.

At the end of the advertising process, all CVs must be captured, and candidates scrutinised; either put forward for interview or notified of their rejection. Following this, if a migrant worker is identified as a potential candidate, the sponsor license application can then be submitted to the Home Office. On approval of the sponsor license application, which lasts for four years until a renewal is required, the Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship (RCoS) application can be made.

Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship

The minimum salary threshold, to be awarded an RCoS, (applicable to those wishing to enter the UK as a non-intracompany transferee), will vary depending on the quota levels for that particular month (since December it has gone as high as £60,000), unless entering the UK under a shortage occupation, High Earner or PhD level role. This leaves many companies unable to afford the talent they require, especially when the combined cost of a sponsor license application, Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), Immigration Skills Surcharge (between £364 and £1,000 per annum depending on the size of the organisation) and visa fees cost upwards of £2,000.

The RCoS is requested under a monthly quota system when the licence is in place; once the RCoS has been assigned, the employer can send the migrant worker their CoS to finalise their online visa application. The visa can take anything between 24 hours to eight weeks to decide, depending on the value-added service the migrant worker wishes to utilise.

For now, businesses must work within the current points-based system, keep an eye on the changing number of certificates available each month and understand what the minimum level of earnings will be to qualify for a visa.

If applying for a RCoS under the next monthly quota, ensure that, at the time the CoS is issued the RLMT (should it be required) is less than six-months-old (12-months old for PhD level vacancies) from the date the first vacancy was advertised, otherwise you’re at risk of having your sponsor licence revoked.

Visa applications

For the visa process, guide and reassure employees throughout the process and check they know exactly what documentation they need, as this varies depending on factors such as the job or the country of origin. If a visa is declined, an employer must go through the whole CoS application process again, which could be affected by changes in the monthly quota.

Until the visa is granted, don’t make any promises about the job and advise applicants not to make any life-changing decisions. Make it clear that any offer of employment is subject to their visa application and their ability to enter and work in the UK.

Once the visa has been approved, for a period of up to five years at any one time, the migrant worker must enter the UK within the timeframe stipulated on their vignette endorsed in their passport. Upon entry, they must collect their Biometric Residence Permit from their designated Post Office and the employer must keep a copy of this, and various other ID documents on file.

After the initial grant of sponsorship, should the employer wish to extend the migrant’s leave to remain, they will be required to submit a fresh CoS application process and pay the Immigration Skills Charge applicable. This can be conducted whilst the migrant worker remains in the country, there is no need for another RLMT to be conducted, unless the job has changed significantly.

Using this knowledge in your planning is the route to success – with visas now in limited supply, employers really can’t afford for any applications to be wasted.

Learn more about how employment could be impacted by Brexit in the Ready for Brexit Directory