An employer needs to have a Tier 2 General licence in order to sponsor a migrant to work in the UK who doesn’t otherwise have a right to live and work in the UK. Any employer who is a legitimate business trading in the UK is eligible to apply. The role must be compliant with Tier 2 requirements, i.e. be a skilled occupation and pay the required salary (and at least £20,800 a year) according to the UK Visas and Immigration Codes of Practice (we would need the job title, description and salary before we could specifically advise in this regard).

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) now requests further information in response to a sponsor licence application so they can be satisfied an employer is genuine in its application for a sponsor application, with a need to fill a genuine vacancy and not likely to abuse the terms of the licence.

Whilst it is not a requirement to have identified a migrant worker, the UKVI expects to see at least some evidence of a genuine attempt to recruit a suitable worker. It would consequently be advisable to at least start, and probably conclude, a Resident Labour Market Test (i.e. advertise the job to the resident workforce for 28 days) before making any licence application.

Before the job can be offered to a migrant worker, a company would need to undertake a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), unless limited exemptions apply (e.g. Tier 4 graduate students switching into Tier 2). This means the company has to advertise the role to the resident workforce for 28 days by two acceptable methods, one of which has to be the Jobcentre Plus website (if the job pays less than £72,500 a year). This can be undertaken at the same time as the company applies for its licence (and is valid for six months from the posting of the first advert). Our Tier 2 Visa solicitors can help draft and post the adverts and take the necessary records.

Once the adverts have matured and no suitable resident worker has been identified, the company can offer the role to the migrant worker (the company would need to process the job applications and keep records of any shortlisted applicants).

If it is an in-country application (i.e. the applicant is applying inside the UK for Tier 2 leave to remain) the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) can then be drafted and assigned. Once the CoS is assigned, the applicant can make their Tier 2 ‘visa’ application.

Tier 2 sponsorship licence applications made from outside the UK for entry clearance are subject to the ‘restricted certificate’ process. This means the employer must apply to the UKVI for a restricted certificate of sponsorship and it must be granted before they can assign it to a migrant worker.

Sponsorship licence application: 1-4 months (but could take longer)

Resident Labour Market Test: 28 days but can be run at same time as sponsorship licence application

Application for restricted CoS (applies only where a migrant worker is applying for a Tier 2 General Visa from overseas): needs to be applied for by 5th of each month and would take 1-2 weeks to be decided

Visa application: 2-3 weeks (depends on method of application – see below)

Once granted, a sponsorship licence is valid for four years.

Home Office fees are currently £536 for a ‘small sponsor’ and £1,476 for a ‘large sponsor’.

(A company is classed as small if it meets two or more of the following requirements in the preceding financial year: has turnover of less than £6.5 million; has a balance sheet total of less than £3.26 million; has less than 50 employees.)

In advance of any application, the company needs to assign sponsorship management roles to appropriate members of staff who are responsible for complying with the sponsorship duties and for running the Sponsorship Management System (SMS – we can help run the SMS for ad hoc fees):-

• authorising officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the SMS
• key contact – the main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
• level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS

One senior member of staff can fill all roles.

The company must have HR systems in place that allows it to: monitor the employees’ immigration status; keep copies of relevant documents for each employee, including passport and right to work information; track and record employees’ attendance; keep employee contact details up to date; report to UKVI if there is a problem, e.g. if the employee stops coming to work.

Our Tier 2 sponsorship licence solicitors can provide full assistance and services in respect of a sponsorship licence application, helping the employer through the whole process from gathering the supporting documents to submitting the application and responding to requests for further information.

We can advise employers as to the HR systems required and help establish any processes / pro-forma to help meet its sponsorship duties. We can carry out an HR systems audit if the company would like us to visit its offices in order to carry out a mock audit of its HR systems / files / processes, etc.

We can help carry out a Resident Labour Market Test on behalf of the employer.

We can advise on the compliance of, and draft and assign certificates of sponsorship.

We can apply for restricted certificates of sponsorship on behalf of an employer.

We can run the Sponsor Management System on behalf of an employer.

We can assist an applicant with a Tier 2 (General) application.