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Where a company cannot fulfil a vacancy with a settled worker, they may seek to employ skilled migrant workers from outside the EEA. To be able to sponsor and employ an overseas national in the UK, the organisation is required to obtain a valid Tier 2 sponsorship licence.

The Sponsorship licences

The sponsorship licence application involves a series of checks from the Home Office such as the legitimacy and credibility of the business, the adequacy of the organisation to comply with duties and requirements, the existence of an adequate HR system and key personnel.

The process involves an online application and the payment of the relevant fee. The current fee is £536 for small and charitable organisation and £1,476 for medium or large organisation.

Once the application is submitted the organisation has 5 days to provide the supporting documents. The process involves the provision of key company documents and information. In fact, besides examining the organisation, the UKVI often assess the justification for requiring a foreign worker. A covering letter explaining the circumstances is an essential part. Failure of providing the necessary documents or an error in the application may result in rejection or delay in the process.

Following the submission of the documents, the UKVI may conduct an audit visit during which it will assess whether to grant or not the licence.

During the visit the UKVI will consider three main areas (1) has the company an appropriate HR system to comply with the management requirements? (2) is there a genuine need to sponsor an overseas national for the vacancy? (3) is the organisation aware of its duties? If satisfied of the following the UKVI will grant a sponsorship licence.

Currently the visits are suspended because of measures related to COVID 19 at least until 30th of September 2020. However, the UKVI may still visit the premises once the licence is granted and if finds the organisation does not comply with the duties, they may revoke the licence.



Once the sponsorship licence is granted, the organisation will be granted the access to the SMS system through which the sponsor will be able to manage their activities. The key personnel appointed during the application process will be able to log in into the system to create and assign Certificate of Sponsorship to potential employees as well as report changes and issue.

Before assigning a certificate of sponsorship (COS) most of the times, unless the job position is in the shortage occupation list, the organisation must carry a test known as “Resident Labour Market Test”. The test is necessary to demonstrate to UKVI that no settled worker in the UK is available for the vacancy. To comply with the requirement the position must be advertised for 28 days in two places; normally one of this has to be “Find a Job”.

Once the RLMT is completed and the organisation is satisfied there are no settled workers or EEA nationals available, they can request a COS through the SMS system. The COS must contain details about the salary and duties.

Once the COS is issued the skilled worker will be able to apply for their TIER2 visa.

Relevant Steps to employ skilled overseas nationals:

  • Assess whether your business is eligible for the sponsorship licence and collect the relevant documents
  • Apply for a sponsorship licence
  • Conduct the residential labour market test through advertisement
  • Issue a certificate of sponsorship through the sponsorship management system.

Apply now for Sponsorship licence

The home office encourages the organisations to apply now for the sponsorship licence and get ready for the upcoming changes in 2021. In fact, at the moment the employers do not need to sponsor the EEA nationals to come to the UK as they can enjoy the free movement of rights. However, from 1st of January 2021, under the proposed new point-based system the organisations will need a sponsorship licence to employ both EEA and non-EEA nationals.

Our team is here to assist and guide you through the process.

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