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What is a sponsor licence?

04 August 2023

Sponsor licences are used by businesses seeking to employ skilled workers from overseas who do not have leave to remain or the right to work in the United Kingdom without a visa.

A successful licence application will be valid for four years and will grant UK employers the ability to assign non-settled workers a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). Workers can then use their CoS to make a visa application to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

There are two types of licence and which one you select will be dependent upon the role that you want to fill within your business.

Firstly, there is a worker licence. These are for skilled workers or those seeking to undertake permanent work. The second is a temporary worker licence, and these are most suitable for temporary roles such as job shadowing and volunteering. For more information on the type of licence that might be suitable for your business, please click here.


In the very first instance, UKVI will assess whether your business is eligible to be a sponsor.  To be eligible, you must:

  • be a genuine business functioning lawfully in the UK
  • not pose a threat to immigration control
  • have adequate HR services in place to ensure you can monitor and manage not only your application to UKVI but also any sponsored workers
  • ensure all personnel involved are ‘honest’ and ‘reliable’.

Individuals will not be recognised as prospective sponsors unless they are sole traders seeking to sponsor someone to work for their business.

Additionally, you will need to consider if you are a suitable candidate, satisfying the following requirements:

  • you must not have had a rejected sponsor licence application 12 months prior to your application or show any evidence of previous non-compliance
  • you must have no unspent criminal convictions, particularly in relation to immigration, fraud or money laundering
  • you must have HR services coherent enough to ensure your business is prepared for a planned or unplanned compliance visit from UKVI.

Failure to comply with any of the above may result in your application being rejected.

Who can be sponsored?

Importantly, not all job roles are sponsorable. To be sponsorable, the job role must satisfy the points-based system, being of a specific skill and rate of pay or fall within the other essential requirements to attract sponsorship. Additionally, the business will need to demonstrate that they have a genuine vacancy, meaning the role cannot be one that has been created or exaggerated for the purposes of sponsorship.

Is becoming a sponsor right for your business?

There are many benefits to being a sponsor licence holder. For example, you will have the competitive advantage of recruiting from a larger, more diverse recruitment pool (inclusive of non-settled workers). Also, if you are multinational, you will have the ability to internally transfer workers between offices. However, the application process can be expensive and timely, and the licence requires further monitoring once granted to ensure information is up to date and compliant with UKVI guidance. Therefore, it is crucial to have adequate key personnel to ensure adherence.

If you are considering becoming a sponsor licence holder, please contact our business immigration team.

Contact us

Our Legal 500-rated employment law & business immigration team are experts in guiding businesses of all sizes and backgrounds through a range of issues that may arise, including those related to sponsor licences.

Disclaimer: All legal information is correct at the time of publication but please be aware that laws may change over time. This article contains general legal information but should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please seek professional legal advice about your specific situation - contact us; we’d be delighted to help.
Hayley Ainsworth BA, MSc
Associate, solicitor
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