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Hiring South African Workers: Apply for a UK Sponsor Licence

If you are a UK employer who would like to hire workers from South Africa, then you will need a Sponsor Licence.

Our lawyers can help you with your Sponsor Licence application and explain your responsibilities as a UK sponsor company.

To find out more, get in touch with our immigration lawyers today on 0333 305 3612.

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    What is a Sponsor Licence?

    The Sponsor Licence is for UK employers who wish to hire workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), such as South Africa. It is a legal requirement for UK businesses to have a Sponsor Licence if they are to hire non-EEA workers and you need to apply for one if you plan to do this.

    There are two categories of Sponsor License’s, and the type a company should apply for depends on the type of role that they are hiring for.

    As well as meeting the eligibility requirements for a Sponsor Licence, there are continuous responsibilities that a sponsor company will be required to do.

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    Is my company eligible for a Sponsor Licence?

    In order to be eligible for a Sponsor Licence, the employer must meet the specific requirements, these include:

    • Having no unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or other types of crimes such as fraud
    • Having no history of failing to carry out sponsorship responsibilities

    As well as these requirements, you’ll need to prove that your company is a legitimate UK business by providing detailed information about your organisation.

    When assessing your eligibility, the Home Office will also check whether you have an appropriate system in place to monitor sponsor employees, therefore fulfilling your duties as a sponsor.



    UK Sponsor Licence application

    Types of Sponsor License's

    There are two types of Sponsor Licence; the ‘Worker licence’ and the ‘Temporary Worker licence’. The Licence you should apply for depends on the type of worker you wish to hire.

    Temporary Worker Licence

    This licence is used to hire skilled workers on a temporary basis. It covers various types of work – the length of time you can hire a worker for under this licence varies depending on which category their role is under. The categories include:

    • Creative or Sporting Worker – A sportsperson can work in the UK for up to 1 year, and entertainers and artists can work for up to 2 years.
    • Charity Worker – Unpaid workers can work for a maximum of 1 year.
    • Religious Worker – Those doing preaching, pastoral and non-pastoral roles can work for up to 2 years.
    • Government Authorised Exchange Worker – Those doing work experience can work for up to a year, whilst someone involved in a research project or training, such as medical or scientific training can stay for up to 2 years.
    • International Agreement Worker – This category applies when a worker is coming to do a job which is covered by international law, such as employees of overseas governments.
    • Seasonal Worker – This includes those coming to the UK for up to 6 months to do farm work

    Worker Licence

    The Worker Licence is used to hire workers on a long-term or permanent basis. This covers a range of workers, including:

    • Skilled Workers – For skilled workers from multiple types of occupations who can fill roles in the UK that can’t be filled by current residents
    • Sportsperson – This covers sportspeople and coaches who are elite members of their profession
    • Minister of Religion – For people coming to work in the UK for a religious organisation
    • Those with an Intra-company visa – For employees transferring from an overseas company to a branch they own in the UK

    If you are hiring any of these categories of workers then you should submit a Sponsor Licence application.

    Get in touch with our expert immigration attorneys to learn how to apply for a Sponsor Licence. Contact us

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      How to apply for a Sponsor Licence

      To apply for a Temporary Worker or Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence, you’ll need to fill in the application form that is available on the Gov UK website. Once you have done this, you will also need to send your supporting documents to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

      Your supporting documents will prove that your business is genuine in most cases you’ll need to provide at least 4 supporting documents that are part of the UKVI’s list of accepted documents. You won’t be required to send four documents if you’re a public body recognised by the UK government or if you’re a company listed on the London Stock Exchange Main Market.

      Any documents you submit must either be original or certified copies.

      When you make your application for your Sponsor Licence, you may be required to pay an application fee. This varies depending on the type of licence you are applying for and the type of organisation you are.

      The current sponsor licence application fees are set out in the table below.

      Type of licence Fee for small or charitable sponsors Fee for medium or large sponsors
      Skilled Worker £536 £1,476
      Temporary Worker £536 £536
      Both £536 £ 1,476
      Add a Temporary Worker to an existing Skilled Worker No fee £940

      There is no fee for adding a Temporary Worker licence to an existing Skilled Worker licence.

      Your duties as a sponsor

      There are various responsibilities you will need to carry out as a Temporary Worker or Skilled Worker Sponsor company. Failure to carry out these duties could result in your application being refused or your Sponsor Licence being revoked.

      Your responsibilities will include:

      • Completing the test to prove that the role you are planning to employ someone for cannot be filled by a resident in the UK.
      • Checking that the foreign workers you hire have the necessary skills and qualifications for the role
      • Assigning Certificates of Sponsorship to workers only when the job is suitable for sponsorship
      • Informing the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) if your employee has broken any of the immigration conditions of their visa

      The Resident Labour Market Test

      The Resident Labour Market Test is for when the job you are hiring for is not on the government’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL), and it is part of your duties as a sponsor company. To hire a foreign worker for a role, not on this list, you must first complete the Resident Labour Market Test to prove that the role cannot be filled by someone from within the UK.

      To complete this test, you’ll need to advertise the role you are hiring for. Jobs that you’ll need to advertise for include roles that fall under the following categories:

      • Skilled Worker
      • Temporary Worker – Creative and Sports
      • Religious Workers

      You’ll need to publish two adverts that must run for at least 28 days, either continuously or in two stages. You will then need to provide evidence to the Home Office to prove that a suitable person for the role couldn’t be found in the UK.

      The Sponsorship Management Roles

      To qualify for the Sponsor Licence, you must appointment people within your organisation to take on several sponsorship management roles who will monitor the sponsorship process once you have your licence. The roles will be carried out using the sponsorship management system (SMS).

      The required roles include:

      • An authorising officer – this needs to be a senior person at the company who will be responsible for the actions of all the staff and representatives who use the SMS
      • A key contact – this person will be your organisations main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
      • A level 1 user – this person must be responsible for the day-to-day management of your sponsor licence using the SMS.

      You can appoint the same person or different individuals to these roles.

      The staff you allocate for these roles must be able to meet certain requirements, these include:

      • Being based in the UK
      • Not being a contractor or consultant contracted for a specific project
      • Proving financial soundness, e.g. not being subject to a bankruptcy restriction order
      • Not having a history of failing to comply with the sponsor requirements

      Your application for the Sponsor Licence could also be refused if you or your allocated staff have been fined by the UKVI in the past 12 months, have been reported to the UKVI, have broken the law, have an unspent criminal conviction, have failed to pay VAT or have been a key person at a sponsor company that has had its licence revoked in the last 12 months.

      Our immigration lawyers can assist you with your Sponsor Licence application, get in touch with them today Contact Us

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        After the application

        If your application is approved, you will be granted an A-rated Sponsor Licence and will be able to start handing out sponsorship certificates to foreign nationals. It’s worth noting that you will need to pay for each certificate of sponsorship that you issue, it costs £199 for a Skilled Worker certificate and £21 for a Temporary Worker certificate. You’ll need to provide a Certificate of Sponsorship to every non-EEA worker you hire.

        You must continue to carry out the duties of a sponsor after you receive your licence. If you don’t do this, then your Sponsor Licence may be downgraded to a B grade. With a B rated Sponsor Licence, you will be unable to hire any new foreign nationals until you have made improvements and are upgraded back to an A-rated licence. To make these improvements, you must follow an action plan from the UKVI that costs £1476 to obtain.

        If you have more than 2 B grade ratings in the space of 4 years, then you will lose your Sponsorship Licence.

        Sponsor Licence Renewals and Expiry

        Prior to April 2024, businesses were required to apply for a renewal for their sponsor licence every four years.

        However, businesses are now able to keep a hold of their sponsor licences without having to renew them thanks to a change in legislation announced at the beginning of 2024.

        Under this new rule, businesses will no longer have to regularly renew their sponsor licences in order to continue to sponsor foreign workers. Instead, sponsor licences will last indefinitely on the condition that businesses continue to pass regular compliance checks and audits from the Home Office.

        Businesses whose sponsor licences were set to expire on or after 6 April 2024 do not need to take any action in light of the rule change. However, businesses whose sponsor licences were set to expire before 6 April 2024 will be required to apply for one final extension before the rule comes into place.

        How can IAS help?

        The process of applying for a Sponsor Licence can be incredibly complex because of the detailed information you will need to submit, the extensive requirements you need to meet and the specific duties that you must follow. Our lawyers at the IAS can make this process easier. They have helped many UK companies to hire foreign workers by assisting them with their applications for a Sponsor Licence and have all of the knowledge and expertise needed to know what makes a successful application.

        Our lawyers offer a range of services to ensure that your application is submitted without errors and alongside a comprehensive portfolio of supporting documents. Due to their extensive knowledge of immigration law, they can also clearly explain to you what your duties entail as a sponsor company and how you can carry these out to a high standard.

        If you have any questions about the Sponsor Licence application process or would like to apply for a licence today, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert team today on 0333 305 3612.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  Sponsor Licence applications can be refused by the Home Office for a number of reasons, most commonly because of errors in the application so you should ensure that your application is free of errors before you submit it.

                  Unfortunately, if your application for a Sponsor Licence is refused you will not be able to appeal the decision. However, you can apply again. You may have to wait to make another application, this will depend on your specific circumstances.

                  If your application is unsuccessful, get in touch with one of our lawyers and they will let you know when you can reapply and can help you to do this. Speak to them today on 0333 305 3612.

                  The sponsorship certificate is an electronic record that you must assign to each overseas worker you hire.

                  You can apply for a sponsorship certificate for a new worker using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) that you will be given access to once you have been granted your Sponsor Licence.

                  You will need to pay a fee for each certificate that you issue, it costs £199 for Skilled Worker certificates and £21 for Temporary Worker certificates.

                  Prior to April 2024, sponsor licences lasted a period of four years. However, since the new rule change regarding sponsor licence renewals, they now last for an indefinite period of time and businesses are not required to apply to renew them.

                  Our lawyers will help you to gather all the information you need and will check your application for accuracy. To start your sponsor licence application today, contact our solicitors on 0333 305 3612.

                  The majority of Sponsor Licence applications take less than 8 weeks, and you should hear back from the UKVI within this time. However, the UKVI may ask you to submit more documents and your business may be visited by the Home Office, this could delay the process.

                  If you need a Sponsor Licence quickly our lawyers offer a fast-track service that will see your application submitted within a quick timeframe. To apply for a Tier 2 or Tier 5 licence, get in touch with out team today on 0333 305 3612.

                  Our lawyers are highly-trained in immigration law and have decades of experience when it comes to assisting UK companies with Sponsor Licence applications. Because of this, they have developed a comprehensive list of services that will maximise your chances of a successful Sponsor Licence application.

                  Just some of the services our lawyers can offer you include:

                  • Assessing the eligibility of your business for a Sponsor Licence
                  • Advising you on how you can carry out your sponsor responsibilities.
                  • Helping you to gather all of the required documents you will need for the application
                  • Meeting any deadlines throughout the application process
                  • Communicating with the Home Office on your behalf
                  • Helping you to prepare for a visit from the Home Office if they require one
                  • Checking that your application has been completed to the highest standard possible

                  To get started on your Sponsor Licence application speak to our lawyers today on 0333 305 3612.

                  It is against the law to hire overseas workers without having a valid Sponsor Licence. If you do this you could be subject to penalties from the Home Office, including hefty fines. You could also be subject to the Home Office penalties if you do have a Sponsor Licence, but fail to carry out your sponsorship duties.

                  These penalties could also affect any future sponsorship application you may make to the Home Office and are likely to damage the reputation of your business.

                  You should avoid this by making sure you apply for a Sponsor Licence before hiring any overseas workers and that you keep on top of your Sponsor Licence’s validity, reapplying when you need to.

                  If you need to make a Sponsor Licence application, contact our immigration lawyers on 0333 305 3612.