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Sponsorship Licence

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UK Sponsorship Licence Applications & Guidance

What is a Sponsorship Licence?

A sponsorship licence is required if you are looking to employ someone from outside the EEA to come to the UK to work for your business or organisation.

There are 3 categories of Sponsorship License:

  • Tier 2 (Skilled workers, intra company transfers, sportsperson, minister of religion)

  • Tier 4 (Adult students, children)

  • Tier 5 (Temporary workers)

Sponsoring a migrant does not necessarily mean that they will be allowed to work in the UK. They will need to apply for a UK visa and fulfill the necessary requirements.

Who can apply for a Sponsorship Licence?

Any organisation or educational institution can apply for a sponsorship licence, provided they meet the relevant requirements. The organisation can be an independent business, franchise, or a newly-acquired business. Each organisation will have a different set of requirements that must be met before a Sponsorship License can be gained.

We strongly recommend that organisations seek advice before making the application. If your application is refused, the organisation will not be allowed to submit an application again for 6 months.

What happens next?

Once the application is submitted with the evidence relevant to your organisation, the Home Office will review the evidence, and in most cases they visit the organisation in order to verify whether the organisation is compliant with the requirements. You should seek advice in order to confirm what compliance requirements should be met by your organisation.

Once the compliance requirements have been met, the sponsorship licence will be granted - it is valid for 4 years. After the Sponsorship Licence is granted, the organisation can request and assign the relevant Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).

Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

A Certificate of Sponsorship is an electronic record and not a physical document. Each certificate of sponsorship has its own number which the migrant can use to apply for a UK visa.

There are 2 types of CoS; Unrestricted and Restricted.

An Unrestricted Certificate can only be assigned to the migrant employee if they are already inside the UK. They will be required to take a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) and issued with a Certificate of Sponsorship under the change of circumstances category.

When the employer applies for a sponsor license, they will be asked to estimate how many Tier 2 and Tier 5 certificates they will need. The employer can apply for any number of unrestricted sponsorship certificates, depending upon their business needs. However, the employer will need to provide evidence to show that they need the amount of certificates they have asked for.

A Restricted Certificate is mainly assigned to foreign migrant employees coming from outside the UK. A CoS cannot be issued without conducting a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), which involves advertising the role for a 28 day period in a specified manner.

The sponsor company must apply for restricted certificates through the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). The company gets this certificate when it is granted the sponsor license. Restricted Certificates are allotted in limited numbers each month. A point-based system is used to assess each application.

All applications for restricted certificates are considered on the first working day after the 10th day of the month. This is known as the ‘allocation date’. Every application applied after the 5th day of the month is held until the next month’s allocation date. If your application is approved, you can see your restricted certificate in your SMS account on the allocation date. After this, you can assign a certificate to a worker. You can apply again in case if your application is rejected.


The certificate of sponsorship is valid for a period of 3 months from the date of issue under a Tier 2 or Tier 5 category. However, the CoS can be issued for 6 months or over to a maximum period of 5 years. Note that salary requirements will differ according to the period the CoS is issued for.

Other key points to consider are:

  • Your Certificate of Sponsorship must include the same details as in your passport

  • It must be assigned to you by your sponsor no more than three months before the date you apply

  • Your certificate of sponsorship must not have been withdrawn by your sponsor or the UKBA

  • If you don’t use your Certificate of Sponsorship within three months of your sponsor assigning it to you, it will run out

Since April 2015, you are required to pay a minimum salary of £20,800 per annum. In any other case, the salary requirement must meet the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Codes.

Do you need to apply for a Sponsorship Licence?
Speak to our experts to find out about our fast, friendly and affordable service





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OISC Registered
immigration and asylum
ILPA member
We specialise exclusively in UK Immigration and Nationality Law. We are regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner(OISC). We provide immigration services to clients from worldwide. Immigration law is complex and with the rules constantly changing we strongly recommend that you use specialists to support and represent you from the start. Call us now for an honest opinion of your case, possible costs and options.

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