Applying for a Sponsor Licence: 5 top tips
You have an individual in mind that you would like to employ; an outstanding individual in a sea of mediocrity, or a student already working for you part-time but coming towards the end of their studies.
However there is one problem. That individual is from outside the EU and you need a Tier 2 General Sponsor Licence.
According to a recent White Paper the sponsorship system is set to expand, so that from 2021 employers will need a Licence in order to recruit EU nationals.
For many employers who embark on the sponsorship route, what follows is a journey into a strange place, where voluminous Home Office guidance seems intent on striking fear into the Sponsor (one of the policy documents is 204 pages long).
Employers are expected to understand and act in accordance with extensive Home Office guidance, yet it remains unclear to many employers how they should actually prepare a successful Sponsor Licence Application. With this in mind, here are my five key pointers.
- Be aware of your key time limits
Early on, you will need to give some tactical consideration to how various time limits will affect your recruitment process. Here are some key considerations:
- Unless exempt, you must advertise the job for at least 28 days, as part of the Resident Labour Market Test
- The Home Office will decide most Licence Applications within eight weeks although, at the time of writing, applications are taking around five weeks to be processed
- The employer must assign the Certificate of Sponsorship to the migrant within six months of first advertising the job under the Resident Labour Market Test
- The migrant must then submit his or her Visa Application within three months of the assignment
A migrant can submit the Visa Application up to three months in advance of the start date with the new employer.
- Understand when there is a need to run a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT)
The RLMT adds time and a further layer of administrative burden to the sponsorship process. However an employer should know that in the following situations it is exempt from having to run a RLMT:
- If the job is on the shortage occupation list (although nurses under SOC Code 2231 still require a RLMT)
- If the migrant is already in the UK in one of the following immigration routes: Tier 1 (Post-study Work); Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur); or if the migrant was last granted leave as a Tier 4 Student and completed a bachelors or postgraduate degree, or at least 12 months of study towards a PhD
- If the migrant is already working for the employer, under a Tier 2 General Visa, and the employer wishes to extend their leave to work so that they can continue working in the same occupation
- If the migrant will be earning at least £159,600
- Beware of applying without having identified an individual
It is open to employers to apply for a Tier 2 General Licence, even if they haven’t identified an individual to sponsor and haven’t done a RLMT (where appropriate).
However, in practice many speculative applications (based on future need) risk rejection. The reasoning for rejection is not always clear from the rejection letter, but it’s likely that such applications fail Home Office criteria around ‘genuine employment’ and ‘genuine vacancy’.
It is advisable to run a compliant RLMT (where required) in respect of any migrant you wish to sponsor, and then apply for the Licence, including details of any RLMT. If the migrant’s circumstances exempt the employer from the RLMT then this should be made clear in the covering letter.
- Requested information in Appendix A is mandatory
Appendix A is essential reading for any employer preparing a Sponsor Licence Application as it contains both mandatory documents and information.
Whilst Appendix A is unequivocal on the mandatory nature of the four ‘core documents’ which must be supplied, employers should treat all of the requested information as mandatory and realise that their Application is likely to be rejected if this information isn’t provided (extensive additional information is required for Tier 2 General Applications).
Buried in the request for information is a requirement to provide an up to date Hierarchy Chart detailing any owner, director and board members, and if the sponsoring business has 50 employees or fewer, then all employees must be listed, including their names and titles.
The Hierarchy Chart isn’t one of the four ‘core documents’ which must be supplied, from Tables 1 to 4. However, failure to provide the Chart can lead to rejection, effectively making it a mandatory document.
- Don’t fold your Licence Application!
Assistance from a legal representative with the Licence Application can greatly help what is often a confusing and time-consuming process for employers. With a high proportion of Licences being rejected or refused, legal representatives can save time and money in the long run, by getting the Application right the first time.
But beware! A representative may assist with the application process but the representative must not submit the Application to the Home Office on behalf of the employer.
In a line which suggests the existence of a budding crime detective at the Home Office, guidance directs caseworkers that, if they suspect a representative has submitted the Application, they must: “…check whether the submission sheet has been folded, as this could indicate it has been in an envelope and sent between the sponsor and the representative”.
The guidance goes on to confirm that: “If a representative sends your application, it will be refused and your fee will not be refunded”.
The adage of ‘ironing out any creases’ on an application form before submission may no longer merely be a figure of speech when it comes to making a Sponsor Licence Application.