UK immigration from 2021: applying for a sponsor licence

Out-Law Guide | 11 Jun 2020 | 8:28 am | 2 min. read

UK employers will need to hold a sponsor licence in order to employ new recruit nationals from the European Economic Area (EEA) once free movement ends.

The UK's post-Brexit immigration system is currently due to come into effect on 1 January 2021.

Although there are a number of different types of sponsor licence which can be applied for, this guide focuses on the process for applying for a Tier 2 licence. The Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa routes allow non-EEA national skilled workers to come and work in the UK at present, and will be extended to EEA nationals entering the UK to work from 1 January 2021.

Assess your workforce and business

You should assess the nationality of your current workforce and, if you are a multinational business, the movement of non-British national group staff to the UK as required for long-term work assignments and secondments. Consider the impact the end of free movement will have on your future recruitment needs and intra-group mobility.

This is a crucial, initial step to ascertain whether your business is likely to need a sponsor licence from 2021.

Check eligibility for sponsorship

Where specific roles in your business tend to be filled by EEA nationals, you should consider:

  • salary – workers must be paid at least £25,600 to be eligible for sponsorship, unless they satisfy another tradeable characteristic;
  • skill – workers will need to be employed in a role which has a skill level of RQF3, the equivalent to A-level in the English education system;
  • English language – workers must be able to speak English.

    We can help you assess whether roles you typically fill from the EU would be eligible for Tier 2 sponsorship, and whether it would be valuable for you to apply for a sponsor licence.

    Decide who will manage sponsorship

    Holders of sponsor licences must assign three roles. You must choose suitable individuals from your organisation to fill these.

    The roles are:

  • authorising officer – a senior and competent person responsible for oversight of and actions under the sponsor licence;
  • key contact - your main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI); and
  • level 1 user – conducts day-to-day administration of your licence.

Establish your 'licence footprint'

When applying for a sponsor licence, another consideration is from where overseas you will be transferring migrant workers, and where these workers will be employed in the UK.

For Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) moves, the Home Office must have approved the overseas entities from where you are transferring your overseas workers before they can apply for a visa. This can be done by providing the Home Office with evidence that these entities are linked to the parent company of the sponsor licence applicant by common ownership and control at the application stage.

For all Tier 2 applications, you must ensure that migrant workers are only employed at work locations already approved by the Home Office. All of these 'footprint' issues can be dealt with at the application stage and then updated if your business footprint changes.

Apply for a licence

Complete an application form online with information about your company, and pay the fee. Compile and send required supporting documents which provide the Home Office with key information about your company.

Licence applications can take between three and five weeks to be considered, depending on how busy the Home Office is.

The Home Office carefully reviews all applications for sponsor licences. If it considers that one or more requirements have not been met, the application will be refused. It is therefore essential that the application is prepared thoroughly and carefully. Particular care is required in framing the application carefully and compiling the necessary supporting evidence in the required format.

You should seek professional advice if you are unfamiliar with the process.

Start sponsoring workers

Once your licence has been granted, you can start recruiting skilled EEA nationals and non-EEA nationals to work in the UK.