Five top tips for a successful application to sponsor skilled workers

Organisations sponsoring an individual is the most common route for them to employ overseas nationals if the individual is not a settled worker or does not otherwise have permission to work in the UK.

To sponsor an overseas national, organisations must first register as a sponsor. The application to do so can be tricky, and the ongoing obligations on sponsors can be onerous.

We’re here to provide a breakdown of the process and provide five tips for a successful sponsorship application.


The process to sponsor an overseas worker under the UK’s current points-based immigration system, can be broadly summarised into the following steps:

1. The business applies to register as a sponsor;
2. The business recruits a migrant worker for a role within its organisation;
3. The business allocates the individual a certificate of sponsorship;
4. The migrant worker applies for an appropriate work visa.

In this article, we will be looking further into the first hurdle in the above process – applications to register as a sponsor.


1. Producing the right documents

The first tip for ensuring a successful sponsor application is to prepare the correct supporting documentation needed to submit the application. The documents an organisation must submit will depend on the type of organisation and the type of sponsorship licence applied for.

Most private sector organisations applying for a licence to sponsor skilled workers will need to submit at least four of the documents listed below to evidence that it is a genuine organisation, operating and trading in the UK. The documents include:

(a) Audited accounts;
(b) Employer liability insurance certificate;
(c) Proof of ownership or lease for business premises;
(d) HMRC VAT registration certificate;
(e) Corporate bank account statements; or
(f) HMRC PAYE number and accounts office reference number.

If an organisation cannot provide at least four of the documents listed above or if it wishes to provide additional documentation to proactively address concerns UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) may have, then it may wish to also submit documentation and/or provide an explanation of matters such as why it is applying for a license, the sector it operates in and organisation’s organisational charts. The more evidence one can adduce, the less likely one is to receive requisitions for further information from UKVI.

2. Appointing key personnel

The organisation must also look to appoint the key personnel, to manage its licence and undertake the responsibilities that come with a sponsor licence. An organisation should, before making an application, appoint and be prepared to name in its application the following:

  • Authorising Officer – This person manages the sponsorship license. They should be someone senior within the organisation, ideally someone involved with recruitment and/or HR. This person will be ultimately responsible for the licence, and ensuring that sponsor’s duties are met;
  • Key Contact – This person acts as the primary point of contact for UKVI. If necessary, a legal representative can undertake this role for the business; and
  • Level 1 User – This person or persons will be responsible for all day-to-day management of the Sponsor Licence through the UKVI’s online portal, known as the Sponsorship Management System (“SMS”). This person must be an employee at the time of application, however once the licence has been assigned, others, including legal representatives can be set up at Level 1 Users, or Level 2 Users who are able to undertake certain limited tasks on the SMS.

These key personnel will need to be in place when the application for a sponsor licence is made. The roles can be filled by the same person or a combination of different people.

The individuals appointed must be based in the UK for the period they will fill their respective roles, not have any unspent criminal convictions, civil penalties or other “adverse history” (including adverse immigration history) and be a paid member of staff or engaged by the business as an office holder.

3. Workforce planning for allocating a Certificate of Sponsorship

When a business applies for a skilled worker sponsor licence, they will be asked to estimate and justify the number of certificates that they wish to assign in their first year as a licensed sponsor.

If the sponsor licence application is approved, the Home Office will notify the business of their allocation for the year. The business then has up to 12 months to use their allocation.

It is possible to apply for an increase in a sponsor’s allocation part way through a year. However, it typically takes 18 weeks for an in-year allocation increase unless a priority service is used (which offers no guarantee of speedier service).

Although unused certificates cannot be carried over to the next year, during the validity period of the licence it will be possible to apply for a further allocation for the next year.

For these reasons, it is essential for any business looking to obtain a sponsor license to be forward thinking, and plan ahead.

4. Meeting the “Genuine Employment Requirement” test

As part of the skilled worker sponsor licence application, the Home Office will want to be satisfied that the applicant business will offer a genuine vacancy which will meet the skill and salary requirements under the skilled-worker route.
According to the Home Office guidance for sponsors, a genuine vacancy is one which:

  • Requires the jobholder to perform specific duties and responsibilities relating to the role and meets all the requirements of the tier and category; and
  • Does not include dissimilar and / or lower skilled duties.

Employers may be required to provide additional information or evidence to prove the role meets the above requirements. UKVI may consider a vacancy to be not genuine if:

  • The job description is exaggerated to deliberately meet the requirements of the tier and category when in reality it does not;
  • The job does not exist but has been created to enable a migrant to come to, or stay in, the UK; or
  • The duties of the role are inappropriate for the job on offer or have been tailored to exclude UK resident workers from being recruited

If there are reasonable grounds to believe that the job an employer is looking to sponsor does not exist, is a sham or has been created mainly so that the worker can apply for a skilled worker visa then the sponsor licence application will be refused.

5. Preparation to meet reporting duties

If an organisation is granted a sponsor licence, they will need to fulfil various ongoing sponsorship duties concerning reporting, record-keeping and compliance with UK immigration law.

To assess whether the organisation is capable of carrying out the sponsor duties, UKVI will look at the organisation’s current human resources and recruitment procedures to make sure that they will be able to fulfil their sponsor duties.

Sponsorship duties include reporting certain information about sponsored workers, and the organisation, using the SMS. If something needs to be reported, this must be done within either 10 or 20 working days of the event, depending on the issue to be reported. Reporting for a skilled worker is required for events including changes to start dates, change of work location and absences.

The sponsorship duties will also include keeping records of employment such as contracts of employment, salaries, and evidence of the genuineness of any vacancies advertised.

To help prepare, an organisation should look internally at the current human resources and recruitment procedures to ensure that they are effective and capable of carrying out the additional work.

If you have any queries regarding the application process to become a sponsor of migrant workers, or any other business immigration law queries, don’t hesitate to contact our Business Immigration team below.

Our Business Immigration Team are hosting a webinar providing a brief overview of Business Immigration and the sponsorship process at 10am on 25 October 2022, you can sign up HERE.

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