Sponsorship licence system

This page describes employer sponsorship duties, reviewing your license, and an application checklist.

26 September 2022

The migrant sponsorship system requires employers to hold a sponsorship licence before they can employ foreign nationals from outside of the UK (excluding the Republic of Ireland).

For employers in the NHS this means that if you currently employ migrants under the skilled worker route of the new points-based system or wish to do so, you must possess a sponsorship licence issued by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

Sponsorship duties

A sponsorship licence runs for a period of four years, during this time you must meet certain duties around record keeping, reporting, compliance and cooperating with UKVI in order to retain your licence.

It is essential that these duties are not overlooked as failure to comply could lead to your licence being downgraded or withdrawn.

More information about your sponsorship responsibilities can be found on the UKVI website.

Renewing your licence

Employers should apply at least a month before their licence expiry date in order to continue to act as a sponsor. Reminder notices will be issued by UKVI but the responsibility lies with the organisation.

Renewing your licence is a straightforward process and is done via the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). On receipt of an application UKVI will first validate the application by checking the correct fee has been paid. Once this is done (normally within eight weeks) the employer will be notified in writing of the outcome.

Failure to renew your licence within the required time will mean that you cannot continue as a sponsor, and UKVI will curtail any remaining leave granted to a migrant worker you have already sponsored.

Sponsorship licence application checklist

The following checklist may help you assess your application before submitting.

  • Have you read the UK Visas and Immigration guidance?
  • Have you registered online?
  • Have you made a note of your user ID so that you can log on and apply for your licence?
  • Have you assigned your key personnel?
  • Have you included on the application which tiers and categories your organisation wants to be licensed as a sponsor?
  • Does your HR/record-keeping system meet the suitability criteria set by the UK Visas and Immigration?
  • Have you indicated the number of certificates of sponsorship you expect to issue in each year and in each tier?
  • Have you completed the fee payment section details correctly?
  • Have you printed off your submission sheet and send it with your fee?
  • Is the application being submitted by the authorising officer?
  • Are you ready for a site visit? Do not submit your form until you are sure you can meet all the requirements set by the UK Visas and Immigration.

There are also guidance documents on the GOV.UK website.

Sponsorship Roadmap

Published in August 2021, the Sponsorship Roadmap sets out detail on reforms to the government’s sponsorship system up to 2024.

Changes to the sponsorship system have been underway since December 2020 and so far include the removal of the Resident Labour Market Test, suspending the cap on skilled workers, reducing processing time, and moving from a paper-based system toward a digital system.

In 2021 changes included further speeding up end-to-end processing times and the introduction of an enhanced Skilled Worker Eligibility Checker (SWEC) tool and piloted a new salary check feature.

In 2022, the government plans to further reduce time pressures, streamlining processes by creating one online dashboard through various IT transformations, and making it simpler to sponsor new workers through re-using information the government already holds where possible.

In 2023, the government plans to make is easier for a prospective sponsor to apply to for a sponsor license by introducing automated data checks where possible to simplify the process.

More information on the Sponsorship Roadmap can be found on GOV.UK website.