UK Visa Sponsorship For Employers – You’ll usually need a sponsor licence to employ someone to work for you from outside the UK. This includes citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020.
UK Visa Sponsorship For Employers
This includes unpaid work, like running a charity.
You will not need a license to sponsor certain groups, for example:
- Irish citizens
- those with settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
- those with indefinite leave to remain in the UK
Sponsoring someone does not guarantee that they’ll get a visa to work for you in the UK.
How to get a sponsor license
- Check your business is eligible.
- Check if your job is suitable for sponsorship.
- Choose the type of license you want to apply for – this will depend on what type of worker you want to sponsor.
- Decide who will manage sponsorship within your business.
- Apply online and pay the fee.
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may visit your business to check if it’s suitable.
After you apply
You’ll be given a license rating if your application is successful.
You’ll be able to issue certificates of sponsorship if you have jobs that are suitable for sponsorship.
Your license will be valid for 4 years. You may lose your license if you do not meet your responsibilities as a sponsor.
To get a license as an employer, you cannot have:
- unspent criminal convictions for immigration offenses or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering
- had a sponsor license revoked in the last 12 months
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will review your application form and supporting documents. They may visit your business to make sure you’re trustworthy and capable of carrying out your duties.
You can sponsor a worker if the job they’re going to do has a suitable rate of pay and skill level, or meets the other criteria needed for their visa.
Read more about job suitability, if you’re sponsoring:
- a skilled worker
- a health or care worker
- a worker on any type of ‘Global Business Mobility’ visa (senior or specialist worker, graduate trainee, secondment worker, UK expansion worker, or service supplier)
- a scale-up worker
- a worker on a government-authorized exchange
- a seasonal worker
- a worker on an International Sportsperson visa
- a worker on an international agreement
- a creative worker
- a charity worker
- a minister of religion or religious worker
Additional requirements for religious workers
You’ll usually have to advertise any job you offer to someone with a Religious Worker visa unless it’s a non-essential position or involves living within a religious order (such as a monk or nun).
You must keep records of when you do not have to advertise the job. You need to prove that there is not a suitable person to take the role, who does not require sponsorship.
There are rules you must follow about how to advertise jobs for religious workers.
Additional requirements for creative workers
Creative jobs done by someone on a Creative Worker visa include:
- ballet dancers and other dancers
- film and TV performers
- theatre and opera performers
- film and TV workers
For creative jobs, you must make sure that either:
- you comply with the creative workers’ code of practice (if it exists for that occupation)
- the job is on the shortage occupations list
If the job is not on the shortage occupation list, and there is no code of practice, you need to check that the job cannot be done by a worker who does not need sponsoring.
If you are sponsoring a creative worker under 16
You may need to get a child performance license if the worker is taking part in:
- films, plays, concerts, or other public performances that the audience pays to see, or that take place on licensed premises
- paid modeling assignments
You must make sure that the person running the event applies at least 21 days before the event.
Additional requirements for workers on an International Sportsperson visa
For sporting jobs that will be done by someone on an International Sportsperson visa, you must get an endorsement letter from the relevant governing body.
You can only sponsor a foreign worker under 18 on the:
- an International Sportsperson visa – they must be 16 or over
- a Creative Worker visa – there’s no minimum age
- a Government Authorised Exchange visa – there’s no minimum age
You cannot sponsor a foreign worker under 18 on any other visa.
Types of license
The license you need depends on whether the workers you want to fill your jobs are:
- ‘Workers’ – for skilled or long-term employment
- ‘Temporary workers’ – for specific types of temporary employment
You can apply for a license covering one or both types of workers.
A ‘Worker’ license will let you sponsor people in different types of skilled employment. The skilled work can be for a short time, long-term, or permanent depending on the worker’s visa.
The license is split into:
- Skilled Worker – the role must meet the job suitability requirements
- Senior or Specialist Worker visa (Global Business Mobility) – for multinational companies which need to transfer established employees to the UK, previously the Intra-company Transfer visa
- Minister of Religion – for people coming to work for a religious organization
- International Sportsperson – for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK
Temporary Worker license
A ‘Temporary Worker’ license will let you sponsor people temporarily, including for volunteering and job shadowing. You can only get a Temporary Worker license for specific types of employment and visas.
The license is split into:
- Scale-up Worker – for people coming to work for a fast-growing UK business
- Creative Worker – to work in the creative industry, for example as an entertainer or artist (up to 2 years)
- Charity Worker – for unpaid workers at a charity (up to 1 year)
- Religious Worker – for those working in a religious order or organization (2 years)
- Government Authorised Exchange – work experience (1 year), research projects or training, for example, practical medical or scientific training (2 years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge
- International Agreement – where the worker is coming to do a job that is covered by international law, for example, employees of overseas governments
- Graduate Trainee (Global Business Mobility) – for workers transferring to their employer’s UK branch as part of a graduate training program
- Service Supplier (Global Business Mobility) – for workers with a contract to provide services for a UK company (6 or 12 months)
- UK Expansion Worker (Global Business Mobility) – for workers sent to the UK to set up a new branch or subsidiary of an overseas business
- Secondment Worker (Global Business Mobility) – for workers transferring from overseas to work for a different UK business as part of a high-value contract
- Seasonal Worker – allows people to come to the UK and work in horticulture (for example, picking fruit and vegetables) for up to 6 months, or poultry from 18 October to 31 December each year
If you’re currently sponsoring pork butchery workers who are on a Seasonal Worker visa, you can continue. New applications for pork butchery workers are closed and will not reopen.
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If you’re sponsoring a scale-up worker
Your sponsorship responsibilities as a sponsor for a scale-up worker will end 6 months after they get permission to come to or stay in the UK.
After that, a scale-up worker can do any of the following until their visa expires:
- continue working for you without getting a new certificate of sponsorship
- change jobs without getting a new sponsor
Apply for your license
You need to apply online for your license.
Once you’ve finished the online application, you need to send in:
- the submission sheet at the end of the application
- your supporting documents, if you’re asked to
Any affidavits or statutory declarations you send must be witnessed by a qualified, independent person – for example, a solicitor, Notary Public, Justice of the Peace, Commissioner for Oaths, or (in Scotland only) a Councillor.
How to send the documents
You can scan or take pictures of your submission sheet and supporting documents. Send them to the email address given on the submission sheet. Make sure your files:
- are in PDF, JPEG, or PNG format
- have descriptive titles, with 25 or fewer characters
- are high enough quality to be read
If your documents are not in English or Welsh, you must include a certified translation – there’s more information in the supporting evidence guidance for sponsors.
If you cannot scan and send the documents by email, contact UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) using the contact details on the submission sheet.
You need to pay a fee when you apply. The fee depends on the type of license you’re applying for and what type of organization you are in.
|Type of license||Fee for small or charitable sponsors||Fee for medium or large sponsors|
|Worker and Temporary Worker||£536||£ 1,476|
|Add a Worker license to an existing Temporary Worker license||No fee||£940|
|Add a Temporary Worker license to an existing Worker license||No fee||No fee|
How to tell if you’re a small or charitable sponsor
You’re usually a small sponsor if at least 2 of the following apply:
- your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less
- your total assets are worth £5.1 million or less
- you have 50 employees or fewer
You’re a charitable sponsor if you’re:
- a registered charity in England or Wales
- a registered charity in Scotland
- a registered charity in Northern Ireland – if you’re not on the register, you must provide proof of your charitable status for tax purposes from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
- an excepted charity
- an exempt charity
- an ecclesiastical corporation established for charitable purposes
If you’re not sure which category your business fits into, contact the Business Helpdesk:
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How long it takes to get a decision
Most applications are dealt with in less than 8 weeks. UKVI may need to visit your business.
You may be able to pay an extra £500 to get a decision within 10 working days. This service is limited to a small number of applications every working day. Faster decisions are allocated in the order that requests arrive (first come, first served).
You’ll be told how to ask for a faster decision after you apply.
Applications were refused because of a mistake
You can apply to request a review of your application if you think it was refused because:
- the caseworker processing your application made a mistake
- your supporting documents were not considered
You cannot apply just because you disagree with the decision.
Help and advice
Sponsors can get advice from the sponsorship, employer, and education helpline:
Sponsorship, employer, and education helpline
Telephone: 0300 123 4699
Monday to Thursday, 11 am to 3 pm
Find out about call charges
You can also join the premium customer service scheme to get extra support from a license manager – this costs at least £8,000 a year.
UK businesses and Tier 1 (Investors) can get help from the Business Helpdesk: