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Tier 2 Sponsor Licence

In order for an individual to enter United Kingdom under the Tier 2 migrant scheme, it is usually necessary for them to be sponsored by a person or organisation already residing legally in the UK. An employer will typically sponsor an overseas employee they wish to bring into the country, just as a settled individual may sponsor a partner or child to join them. The entity in the United Kingdom that forms the basis for the overseas individual entering the United Kingdom with the intent to stay (temporarily or indefinitely) is referred to as their sponsor.

If an employer wishes to bring a non-EEA national into the United Kingdom for purposes of employment, they must ‘sponsor’ them in accordance with Tier 2 migrant scheme requirements. In order to do this, they must obtain a valid sponsor license from the UKBA.

It’s also a requirement for educators looking to enrol non-EEA students to sponsor them in the same way, though in this instance under the Tier 4 migrant scheme.  Again, the respective organisation will be required to obtain the appropriate license from the UKBA, in order to sponsor the entry and residence of students.

A variety of important terms and conditions govern the issuing of sponsor licenses by the UKBA, which vary significantly in accordance with the type of organisation and the specifics of the sponsorship required. In all instances, however, the sponsoring individual or organisation must have a genuine and legal intent and be residing and/or operating legally in the United Kingdom at the time.

Sponsor Licence Requirements

Home Office and UKBA legislation currently outline a series of important requirements that must be met to obtain a sponsor license. Key examples of which include the following:

  • The organisation must be genuine, meaning that it is a registered, formalised and legitimately owned and operated company in accordance with all applicable law. Along with 100% legal and ethical operations, the business may also be required to provide evidence of its financial position and activities. Limited liability companies, partnerships, sole traders and other business types are deemed acceptable by the home office.
  • The organisation must be operating in the United Kingdom at the time, with all required licensing and authorisation accordingly.
  • The organisation and its intention to bring non-EEA individuals into the UK must pose no threat whatsoever to immigration control. This means exclusively limiting sponsorship to individuals who are deemed of no threat to the safety of the United Kingdom and its people, with no history of violating immigration rules.
  • The organisation must have appointed the appropriate personnel to deal with immigration applications, sponsorship and so on. Most commonly referred to as Account/Compliance Officers, related roles in a typical business setting include:
  • An authorising officer
  • A key contact
  • A level 1 user

The authorising officer will typically be a relatively senior member of staff, who conducts search duties alongside other managerial responsibilities. They often take sole control of all licensing and sponsorship aspects of the immigration process, making it a position of significant responsibility. They also form the company’s primary point of contact for the Home Office and the UKBA for all related queries, application clarifications, appeals and so on. Ultimately, they are responsible for ensuring the company abides by all rules and regulations set out in UK immigration legislation, on behalf of the organisation, its prospective employees and for the good of the United Kingdom in general.

It is possible for the authorising officer to appoint a different individual as key contact for the Home Office, the UKBA, and the UK Border agency (UKBA), who does not necessarily need to be a fixed member of staff of the respective business.  Nevertheless, it is usually recommended that the key contact (and all key personnel involved in immigration/sponsorship) hold fixed positions within the organisation and have a comprehensive understanding of its structure and activities.

The level 1 authorising officer takes complete control of the sponsorship management system (SMS) and every step of the sponsorship process from start to finish. They are responsible for issuing Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies in the case of an educational institution, or an official Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) in the case of a business. As a result, they are also liable for ensuring sponsorship is provided exclusively in accordance with all applicable immigration legislation. Should there be any changes in the migrant or perspective migrant’s activities or status, they are responsible for promptly informing the Home Office accordingly.

Where level 2 users are appointed, they typically oversee a series of key duties under the supervision on the authorising officer and the level 1 user. Examples of which may include assigning Certificates of Sponsorship or Confirmations of Acceptance for Studies, passing information about changes to the migrant’s status to the Home Office and more.

Maintenance of Effective HR Systems

In order for a business or educational institution to be granted a sponsorship licence, it must first provide evidence of a robust and effective human resource management system in operation. The Home Office assumes that the quality and effectiveness of an organisation’s HR system is directly linked to both its capability and intention to oversee the meticulous management of migrant workers’ entry, residence and occupational activities in the United Kingdom. The strength or otherwise of the organisation’s HR framework may therefore play a direct role in determining the firm’s eligibility for a sponsorship licence.

Please note, however, that this does not mean the respective HR system needs to be particularly complicated or sophisticated. It is simply a case of demonstrating that all reasonable steps are taken and protective measures enforced, as required under UK immigration law.

Additional Immigration Requirements

The business or educational institution is also responsible to submitting all necessary supporting documents and evidence in a timely manner, as requested by the Home Office and/or UKBA.

Please note that being granted a sponsorship licence does not guarantee that every non-EEA the business attempts to sponsor will be granted entry clearance to the United Kingdom, or leave to remain. The specifics of each case are considered individually by the Home Office – entry clearance will only be granted upon the fulfilment of every important requirement.

As a result, we strongly suggest seeking expert legal advice on non-EEA employee sponsorship and immigration processes, prior to commencing overseas recruitment processes. 

Sponsorship Licence Types

  • Tier 2 – skilled workers with long-term job offers; and/or
  • Tier 5 – skilled temporary workers.

An organisation can choose to apply for a sponsorship licence covering either of these license types or both.

Tier 2 sponsorship is typically provided when an employer seeks to recruit individuals from outside the EEA within the categories outlined below:

  • Intra-Company Transfer. The organisation operates in multiple countries and needs to transfer an employee from a non-EEA country to its offices in the UK.
  • Minister of Religion.  Valid for up to three years and available to individuals planning to enter the United Kingdom to work for religious organisations.
  • Sportsperson.  Open exclusively to professional sportspersons and immediate members of their teams (coaches, trainers etc.)
  • General. The migrant is to enter the United Kingdom on the basis of a job that meets all applicable requirements of the standard occupational classification codes (SOC codes).

Under Tier 5 sponsorship rules, an organisation can sponsor a non-EEA migrant’s temporary employment in the United Kingdom within the categories outlined below:

If the company is willing to employ a non-EU national on a temporary basis and the applicant’s duties fall under the description of the following sub-categories:

  • Tier 5 (Religious Workers).  Open to individuals taking part in pastoral work and preaching, valid for a maximum of two years. 
  • Tier 5 (Government authorised exchange). Work experience (1 year), research projects or training, such as practical medical or scientific training, valid for a maximum of two years.
  • Tier 5 (Charity worker). For unpaid workers, valid for a maximum of one year.
  • Tier 5 (Creative and sporting). To work as a professional sportsperson for up to one year, or an entertainer or artist for up to two years.
  • Tier 5 (International Agreement).  Migrants entering the United Kingdom to perform duties covered by international law, such as overseas government representatives/diplomats.

The accuracy and completeness of your sponsorship license application can have a marked impact on your non-EEA recruitment strategy indefinitely. We therefore strongly suggest consulting with the immigration experts at Aristone Solicitors at the earliest possible stage. Our experienced legal team will provide the support and consultancy you need in both Tier 5 and Tier 2 categories, covering important essentials such as:

  • Sponsor Licence
  • Sponsor Licence Extensions
  • Compliance
  • Mock Audits
  • Sponsorship Management System (SMS) advice
  • Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) application
  • Visa Applications for your migrant workers

Sponsorship Management System (SMS)

As part of the process of applying for a sponsorship licence online, the business will be asked to nominate an authorising officer, who will subsequently receive their login credentials to access the SMS system. They will also have the option to nominate Level 1 and Level 2 users, should they wish to do so, along with a ‘key contact’ for liaising with the Home Office, Border Force, UKBA and so on.  However, the authorising officer may cover the responsibilities of Level1/2 users and also serve as the key contact.

The UKVI awards two types of sponsor licenses – A Rating and B Rating – in accordance with the information and evidence provided during the application process. Please note that an organisation can only certify maintenance for prospective non-EEA migrants if it holds an A-Rated sponsor license. All licenses are valid for a maximum period of four years, after which an application for renewal must be submitted.

Every aspect of the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) is controlled and overseen by the licensing officer. The SMS is the digital framework used to apply for and assign Certificates of Sponsorship for prospective non-EEA employees.  Applications must be completed in full and submitted in conjunction with all necessary supporting documentation and evidence. All applications are issued with a unique reference number, which should be quoted by both the hiring organisation and the migrant looking to enter the UK on all correspondence exchanged.

Restricted and Unrestricted Sponsorship Certificates

The hiring organisation may be issued one of two sponsorship certificates – restricted or unrestricted. When applying for a sponsorship certificates, the company will be asked to disclose how many Tier 2/Tier 5 certificates it needs. Unrestricted certificates can be applied for and obtained in any quantity required, though only in instances where:

  • The job is in the shortage occupation list;
  • The worker is paid more than £155,300;
  • The worker is permitted to switch categories (with the exception of Tier 4 dependant switchers).

Restricted certificates must be applied for through the sponsorship management system for:

  • Tier 2 (General) workers currently abroad who will be paid less than £155,300 a year;
  • Family members or dependants of Tier 4 migrants.

The key difference being that restricted certificates can be applied for in limited quantities each month. The formal allocation date – the day applications for restricted certificates are considered – is currently the first working day that falls after that tenth day of each month. It is important to submit such applications before the fifth day of the month for consideration the same month. Otherwise, the application will be considered the following month.

An organisation can apply to sponsor non-EEA migrant workers under the Tier 2 scheme (and some areas of Tier 5) if the position/vacancy is of an acceptable skill level (NQF Level 6 and above) and meets the minimum salary requirements, as specified in UK immigration policy. The standard occupational classification codes (SOC) govern the eligibility of the occupation’s skill level and the job description.

Under the terms of the Resident Labour Market Test, the hiring company is obliged to first advertise the position to domestic candidates if:

  • The migrant is applying for Tier 2 (General) outside the UK;
  • The migrant is applying for Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) or Tier 5 (Religious Workers), unless considered a non-essential position or involves living with a religious order;
  • The migrant is applying for Tier 5 (Creative and Sporting) in the creative and entertainment sector.

Exemptions apply where the hiring organisation is able to convince the Home Office that the vacancy cannot be filled by a domestic worker. Extensive supplementary evidence may be necessary to support such claims – contact the team at Aristone Solicitors to discuss your case in more detail.

There also instances in which the Resident Labour Market Test does not apply, meaning the hiring company can present the job offer directly to the non-EEA migrant. Cases where the RLMT test is exempt are as follows:

  • The job is on the shortage occupation list;
  • The job has a gross annual salary of at least £155,300;
  • The migrant is a current employee of the organisation and has worked in the same position for a minimum of six months at the time of their application and is a holder of Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) visa;
  • The migrant is a current employee of the organisation and holds a Tier 2 (General) and wishes to extend their Tier 2 (General) leave to remain having satisfied all other applicable requirements;
  • The migrant is an overseas employee of the organisation and needs to enter the United Kingdom for purposes of relocating to a UK branch or office of the business – aka Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer);
  • The migrant is a Postgraduate Doctor/Dentist who needs further permission to stay under Tier 2 (General).

Where the rules of the Resident Labour Market Test apply, the position must be advertised to domestic candidates for a minimum of 28 days via at least two channels. After which, the hiring organisation is free to advertise the position to non-EEA nationals, having produced evidence to suggest that there are no suitable candidates available within the United Kingdom.

Please note that the job description and the way the position is advertised may be heavily scrutinised by the Home Office, in order to gauge the genuineness of the advertisement.

Tier 2 Sponsor Licence Lawyers in Luton

Applying for and subsequently receiving a sponsorship licence can be a complex and time-consuming process. Most importantly, the completeness of your application and the strength of the supportive evidence you provide could have a marked impact on your company’s long-term hiring strategy.

Aristone Solicitors is a respected firm of experienced corporate immigration experts, with unrivalled expertise in all aspects of migrant sponsorship and non-EEA hiring. Whether planning to recruit overseas employees for the first time or interested in accelerating your migrant recruitment strategy, you’ll find our expert input invaluable.For more information or to discuss your case in more detail, contact a member of the team at Aristone Solicitors today.

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