How to apply for a UK sponsorship licence

Having a company based in the UK and needing to employ someone from outside of the UK will result in you needing to acquire a sponsor licence.

A sponsor licence is a licence granted to the employer by the UK Government’s Home Office that enables them to hire skilled nationals from non-UK countries. As a result of the UK leaving the EU, this now includes citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020, and includes unpaid work, such as running a charity.

A licence to sponsor certain groups will not be required, for example:

  • Irish citizens
  • those with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • those with indefinite leave to remain in the UK

Employers must apply for a sponsor licence and provide evidence of their eligibility; they must prove they meet the strict requirements set by the Home Office.

There are a number of stages to go through ahead of obtaining a sponsor licence:

  1. Check your business is eligible
  2. Choose the type of licence you want to apply for
  3. Decide who will manage sponsorship within your business
  4. Apply for a sponsor licence and pay the fee

“Sponsoring someone does not guarantee that they’ll be allowed to come to or stay in the UK.”



To be considered for a sponsor licence you must not have any unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or other crimes such as fraud or money laundering. You must not have had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months nor have any history of failing to carry out sponsorship duties in the past. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) reviews all sponsor licence application forms and may visit your business to check your company’s relevant paperwork and further verify your application. You will be given a licence rating if your application is successful.

You must have appropriate systems in place to effectively monitor sponsored employees. UKVI may also visit your business to ensure you are trustworthy and have the capability to carry out your duties and responsibilities to the level required.

Your licence will be valid for four years, after which, you will need to apply to have the licence renewed. You may lose your licence if you fail to meet your responsibilities as a sponsor.

Once your sponsor licence has been approved, you will be able to issue certificates of sponsorship, but only if you have jobs that are suitable for sponsorship.

Types of licence

The licence you will need will depend on whether the workers you need to fill the positions are:

‘Workers’ – those with long-term job offers

‘Temporary workers’ – those employed on a temporary basis

You can apply for a licence covering one or both types of workers.

Worker licence

A ‘Worker’ licence allows you employ personnel on a long-term or permanent basis. This is divided into:

  • Skilled Worker – the role must fully meet the job suitability requirements
  • Intra-company visas – this includes Intra-company Transfer and Intra-company Graduate Trainee, these are for multinational companies that need to transfer established employees or graduate trainees to the UK
  • Minister of Religion – those needing to work for a religious organisation
  • Sportsperson – for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK

Temporary Worker licence

A ‘Temporary Worker’ licence will allow you to employ people on a temporary basis. This is divided into:

  • Creative or Sporting Worker
    • to work as a high-level sportsperson (up to one year)
    • entertainer or artist (up to two 2 years)
  • Charity Worker – for unpaid workers at a charity (up to one year)
  • Religious Worker – for those working in a religious order or organisation (two years)
  • Government Authorised Exchange Worker
    • work experience (one year)
    • research projects or training, for example, practical medical or scientific training (two years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge
  • International Agreement Worker – where the worker will be in a job that is covered by international law, for example employees of overseas governments
  • Seasonal Worker – for those coming to the UK for up to six months to carry out work on a farm

Managing sponsorship

When a company applies for a sponsor licence, they must appoint responsible people within the business to manage the sponsorship process. They must keep the Home Office up to date with any changes regarding migrant workers as well as company changes that may affect the sponsorship licence. These roles include an Authorising Officer, Key Contact and Level 1 User. These roles can be filled by the same person or more than one person. All authorised users will be verified by the Home Office to ensure suitability for these roles.

After your application

If successful, you will be issued with a licence, together with a licence rating. This will then enable you to sponsor migrant workers by issuing certificates of sponsorship. Your licence will be valid for four years; however, your licence may be revoked at any time if you fail to meet your responsibilities as a sponsor.

Paul Beare Ltd can provide discuss your individual company needs. For further information please get in touch.