Obtaining a Tier 2 sponsor Licence

Over 35,000 businesses in the UK have a Tier 2 sponsor licence.  Almost all large companies and the well known global brands have licences: they didn’t grow to be that large without getting the best talent – irrespective of where it comes from.

If you don’t yet have a Tier 2 sponsor licence, but would like to tap in to expat talent, then, if your needs are genuine, the system is designed to let you get the people you need.  BUT the Home Office does want you to jump through a few hoops. The biggest one is not even about sponsorship. The Home Office wants all UK employers to have in place processes to check the paperwork of staff / job applicants, & ensure that there is no illegal working.  If you want to join the list of companies able to Sponsor Expats and employ them legally, then you should be able to show that you are not employing undocumented illegal entrants, or people breaking their visa rules (eg Tier 4 students can work, but in term time, work is limited to a maximum 20hrs per week).  Many SMEs don’t have watertight processes in this area, so the work you do in preparation for your sponsor licence application (your immigration advisor should be able to help with the process design) should be of general business benefit to you.

The other area where SMEs sometimes fall short is in having ad-hoc or informal HR/personnel processes: leave management, absence tracking, etc.  If you don’t have an HR system, you may want to install one so that you can comply with your sponsor duties (again, your immigration advisor should be able to help with the system choice / installation).  The reason for this is that, if you have sponsored someone to be eg your Operations Director, then that person should be turning up to your offices and doing their Operations Director job: if not, (ie if the employee is Absent Without Leave) you should be telling the Home Office about their absence.   The person you have sponsored to be your Operations Director is probably not going to be bunking off to drive a cab, or serve behind the counter of their local takeaway restaurant, but, if you are not tracking their attendance, that could, in theory, be what happens. Because the Home Office does not want Tier 2 staff, supposedly high level expats, disappearing into the woodwork to work in the black economy, they insist that Sponsoring employers help with immigration enforcement by notifying the authorities if someone goes AWOL.

Although the process of getting a Tier 2 sponsor licence is very do-able, it does need data & documents to support it.  You would be well advised to not only engage professional representation (see on), but also to assign someone intenal to your organisation as a ‘point of contact’ to project manage the process of obtaining the needed supporting documents and signing off on the application (even though a professional advisor can draft the application)

As well as helping you get the initial sponsor licence, the right advisor can help you with :

  • Assessing candidate suitability / eligibility (also checking whether the candidate may be able to get a visa through family or other routes that don’t employer sponsorship)
  • Assessing the role, whether it qualifies as a ‘Shortage Occupation’, and the ‘Sector Occupation Classification’ code that best fits
  • The ‘Resident Labour Market Test’ (ie advertising the role to give locals a fair opportunity to apply, and being sure that any local applicants are considered properly)
  • Requesting the allocation of a Restricted CoS, if needed
  • Certificate of Sponsorship Drafting
  • ‘Appendix D pack’: The documents & copies that a sponsor needs to keep
  • Helping the individual (and family members, if needed), with their visa application once the employer has assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship.  This can also include:
    • Checking that there is suitable proof of English Language skills (even when someone speaks perfect English and has been working in English for years, they need to provide paperwork to prove their language skills and may need to take a test to get a suitable certificate)
    • Checking if there is a need for a TB test, and advising on the details if one is needed.