How to Secure a UK Sponsor Licence

Are you looking to expand your UK-based workforce with skilled talent from the US? Hiring foreign skills is a great way to diversify your team, bring fresh perspectives, and access specialised expertise that may not be readily available domestically.

However, your organisation will need a valid sponsor licence from the UK Home Office to sponsor US citizens for a UK work visa. This guide will walk you through the process of securing a sponsor licence and sponsoring US talent to the UK.

What is a Sponsor Licence?

The UK Sponsor Licence is a digital document issued by the Home Offices that formally authorises UK-based employers to hire and sponsor overseas workers. Thus,

If you meet the requirements for recruiting foreign workers, the Home Office will award you an A-rated sponsor licence. An A-rated licence implies that your company is legitimate, has a genuine need for skilled workers from abroad, and can fulfil the responsibilities of sponsoring such talent.

With this licence, you can then issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to a potential employee to enable them to apply for the appropriate work visa and join your workforce in the UK.

Understanding the Requirements for the UK Sponsor Licence

To apply for a sponsor licence, you must:

  • Not have any unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering.
  • Not have had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months.

In addition, you will need appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored workers. This should include a thorough HR system, work policies, structures, and documents for managing employees.

When reviewing your application, the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) authorities may visit your organisation to conduct a site audit. This is called a pre-license inspection. It’s essential to evaluate your HR framework before you submit an application.

Furthermore, you must appoint key members of your staff to manage the sponsorship process and operate the Sponsor Management System (SMS). The key roles include:

  • The authorising officer: A senior and competent employee responsible for other employees who use the SMS and ensure compliance with sponsorship duties.
  • The key contact: Your organisation’s primary point of contact with UKVI
  • The level 1 user: This employee is responsible for the day-to-day management of the sponsorship licence through the SMS and assigning CoS to workers.
  • The level 2 user: An employee responsible for performing actions on the SMS but with fewer permissions than the level 1 user.

Your authorising officer, key contact, and level 1 user roles can be carried out by one or two people. This way, you can manage the SMS efficiently without allocating multiple employees to these roles. This is great, especially if you run a small business or are short-staffed.

Note that all your key officers must be full-time employees of your organisation. They must also not have any unspent criminal convictions or have broken a law.

Types of Sponsor Licence

The sponsor licence you’ll need will depend on the type of worker you intend to hire. There are two types: the Worker and Temporary Worker Licence.

The Worker Licence is for hiring skilled or long-term employees. With this type of licence, you can sponsor a US national for the following visas:

  • Skilled Worker
  • Senior or Specialist Worker (Global Business Mobility)
  • Minister of Religion
  • International Sportsperson

The Temporary Worker is for sponsoring specific types of temporary employment, which includes those who require the following visas:

  • Scale-up Worker
  • Creative Worker
  • Charity Worker
  • Religious Worker
  • Government Authorised Exchange
  • International Agreement –
  • Graduate Trainee  (Global Business Mobility)
  • Service Supplier  (Global Business Mobility)
  • UK Expansion Worker  (Global Business Mobility)
  • Secondment Worker  (Global Business Mobility)
  • Seasonal Worker

Depending on your hiring needs, you can apply for either of these licences or both simultaneously.

The Sponsor Licence Application Process

Once you’ve nominated your key personnel and determined the type of licence you need, visit the UK government website to begin your sponsor licence application.

You should complete the online application form and provide certain information about your application, including why you are applying for a sponsor licence, the sector you operate in, and your business operating hours. You’ll also need to provide information on the roles you intend to fill. If you’ve already identified someone you’d like to hire, provide details about them as well.

After completing your online application, you must send in the submission sheet and supporting documents, such as bank statements, payroll information, and other case-specific documents that apply to you, to the email address provided on the submission sheet.

The Cost of Obtaining a Sponsor Licence

When making an online application, you’ll need to pay a fee. The specific amount depends on the type of licence you’re applying for and your type of organisation.

Here’s a breakdown of the fees for small or charitable organisations:

  • Worker: £536
  • Temporary Worker: £536
  • Worker and Temporary Worker: £536

However, if you run a large or medium-sized organisation, you will pay:

  • Worker: £1,476
  • Temporary Worker: £536
  • Worker and Temporary Worker: £1,476

You may also need to pay an Immigration Skills Charge (ISC), depending on the type of visa your potential employee needs. The ISC costs £364 annually for small businesses and £1000 for medium or large organisations.

The Sponsor Licence Processing Time

Sponsor licence applications typically take 8 weeks to process. However, it may take longer if the UKVI intends to visit your business for a pre-licence audit.

You may be able to pay an extra £500 to get a decision within 10 working days. When you apply, you’ll be told if this service is available.


Getting a sponsor licence is crucial if you’re looking to hire sponsor US-based workers to the UK.

While the sponsor licence application process is straightforward, meeting the eligibility requirements can be challenging. If you do not have the right systems and structures in place, your application may be denied.

To increase your chances of a successful application, consult an expert immigration lawyer who can support you and provide bespoke advice tailored to your specific circumstances.