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Tier 2 Sponsorship and Licensing

We work with employers in all sectors on all aspects of Tier 2 and sponsor licencing, including support in obtaining a licence, training on how to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) and sponsorship duties and increasingly, perform the full range of Tier 2 duties on behalf of employers.

In many cases, employers will have only a relatively small number of Tier 2 sponsored employees and only need to become involved with Tier 2 issues once or twice a year. However, immigration Rules change frequently and occasional use may lead to a loss of familiarity with the system to an extent that there may be some reluctance about recruiting a migrant worker even if he or she is the best person for the job.

As a result, rather than try to keep up to date themselves and worry about whether they are getting it right, many employers are now outsourcing their Tier 2 functions. We have been supporting employers on Tier 2 sponsorship since its introduction in 2008 and provide a comprehensive and cost effective service covering all aspects of sponsorship and compliance for all types of company, whether large or small.

 Contact us today for a no-commitment discussion of your requirements. 


Sponsorship under the Points Based System

The system of immigration control for non-EEA nationals changed in 2008 with the introduction of the Points Based System (PBS).  The PBS was introduced in order to increase transparency and fairness in the processes relating to working and studying in the UK. It also takes the view that employers and education providers who benefit from the recruitment of migrant workers and students should bear some responsibility for them.

The PBS is divided up into 5 Tiers with categories and sub-categories dependent on the type of application.

  • Tier 1 - highly skilled workers seeking employment or self-employment and including investors, entrepreneurs and post study workers.
  • Tier 2 - skilled workers with the offer of a job; intra company transfers; Ministers of Religion; Sports people
  • Tier 3 - low skilled workers. This tier has been suspended indefinitely since its introduction.
  • Tier 4 - students
  • Tier 5 - youth mobility and temporary workers who wish to work in the UK for a limited period including: creative and sporting people on short term contracts; religious workers; charity workers; government authorised exchange schemes; and people working in the UK under an international agreement.

The PBS only covers migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. An EEA or Swiss national does not normally require permission from the UKBA to work or study in the UK although there are some restrictions on nationals of countries that have recently joined the EEA, notably Bulgarian and Romanian nationals. Nor does it cover non-EEA nationals who are resident in the UK.

The PBS works by awarding “points” for an applicant’s attributes (qualifications, finance etc). The attributes and number of points awarded differ according to the Tier (i.e. the type of application) under which the application is being made. If an applicant earns sufficient points to meet the threshold under a particular Tier, they will normally qualify for a visa.

In October 2008 Tier 2 of the PBS which covers skilled workers came into operation. Under the PBS a skilled worker requires 70 points. 20 points are awarded for the migrant’s standard of English (which is set very low) and a further 10 for the appropriate amount of maintenance. The level is currently set at £900 over a 3 month period but the employer can also underwrite this for the first month. The other 50 points are scored if the migrant has been issued with a certificate of sponsorship (COS) which confirms that the appropriate checks have been undertaken.

A COS can only be issued by a sponsor licensed by the UKVI. In order to become a sponsor, the organisation must first obtain a sponsorship licence from the UKVI. 

Sponsor Licences

All employers must be licensed as a sponsor to recruit someone from outside the European Economic Area (EAA) who requires permission to work. You must also be licensed to support a non-EEA national in an application to continue employment.

In order to apply for a licence, a company must satisfy the UKVI that it is established as a company in the UK and is “suitable”.  To demonstrate that a company is established, the UKVI requires sight of a range of documents such as company registration, registration for VAT, company bank account and insurance. “Suitability” covers immigration history and any criminal convictions by key personnel.  The company’s processes must also satisfy the UKVI’s requirements for record keeping and reporting which are normally tested via a visit.

The UKVI might issue a licence with an “A” or “B” rating. An “A” rating indicates that the UKVI are satisfied that the sponsor fully meets their requirements. A “B” rating indicates that some improvement is needed to achieve the required standard. The UKVI can also refuse to issue a licence.

Once a sponsor has a licence, they will be able to use the UKVI’s Sponsorship Management System. This is an online facility for issuing COS and performing other administrative tasks under the system.

Applying for a sponsor licence

To apply for a Tier 2 (migrant workers) licence the prospective sponsor must complete an online application, pay the appropriate fee and provide the supporting, documentary evidence required. In doing so the sponsor also agrees that it will comply with the duties of sponsorship which relate to record keeping, monitoring and reporting sponsored, migrant workers.

As part of the application process, the applicant must nominate key personnel who will undertake certain responsibilities in connection with the sponsorship role. These are an authorising officer (the person who has overall accountability for the sponsorship system); a key contact (the person the UKVI will normally contact); and a level 1 user (the person with day to day responsibility for operating the system). A person can play more than one of these roles. The UKVI will make checks into the background of those who are nominated for any records of criminal convictions or abuse of the immigration rules. At least one of the people who are using the sponsorship management system (normally the Level 1 user) must be a settled worker in the UK.  Also a user of the sponsorship management system must not issue a COS to a close relative or partner.

Following on from the submission of the online application, the UKVI will normally visit the company. The visit may be announced or unannounced and it is a sensible precaution to prepare for a visit as soon as the licence application has been submitted. Whilst the main purpose of the initial application and submission of documents is to show that the sponsor is a genuine organisation, the visit is intended to check whether a company has the appropriate systems in place to meet its responsibilities for monitoring and reporting on the workers it is sponsoring.

Although this may seem a slightly daunting, we will ease the process through a comprehensive service including advice and assistance with the application and a visit to your company to ensure that the necessary systems are in place to meet the sponsorship requirements and satisfy UKVI visiting officers.

Contact us today for further information on how we can help you with applying for a sponsor licence

Sponsoring Employees

The process of recruiting a non-EEA national is in several parts. The information below provides a general introduction to the process but as always there are exceptions and you should check the specific circumstances when the details of the prospective employee is known.

You can only recruit a migrant from outside the settled workforce if:

  • you have completed a resident labour market test (where appropriate) and can show that no suitable settled worker is available to fill the job; or
  • the job is exempt from the resident labour market test.

In order to complete the resident labour market test, job must be advertised for 28 calendar, normally in two media, one of which will normally be the Jobcentre Plus Universal Jobmatch service, although again there are some exemptions from this latter requirement.

If you are required to complete a resident labour market test, advertisements for the job must include:

  • the job title;
  • the main duties and responsibilities of the job (the job description);
  • the location of the job;
  • an indication of the salary package or salary range or terms on offer;
  • the skills, qualifications and experience needed; and
  • the closing date for applications

You must also keep on file a comprehensive record of all aspects of the process. Some of this will be required for the completion of the Certificate of Sponsorship. Other material must be kept on file and may be subject to inspection by the UKVI to confirm that you have completed the resident labour market test properly.

Some jobs may be exempt from the requirement to conduct a resident labour market test. These include jobs that appear on a “shortage occupation list”; jobs for high earners; jobs where the applicant is switching from a Post Study Work visa; jobs where a student is switching from a Tier 4 visa (subject to certain requirements); the job is in a supernumerary research position; or for postgraduate doctors or dentists in speciality training, again subject to certain requirements. Further information on the requirements associated with specific jobs can be found in the Codes of Practice  on the UKVI website.

Any job in the Tier 2 (General) category must be at S/NVQ level 6 or above, to ensure it is a skilled job although existing worker may be able to take a job at a lower level dependent on when they first arrived in the UK.  The codes of practice contain more guidance about which jobs are at which level but note that Level 6 is quite high.

If the prospective employee is outside the UK, or cannot switch into Tier 2 from their current immigration status and needs to leave the UK in order to apply, the sponsor is required to apply for a “restricted COS”. Applications for restricted COS are considered on a monthly basis by the UKVI. There is a quota but it is normally undersubscribed.

Although referred to as a Certificate of Sponsorship, no actual certificate is issued. The online process generates a unique number which the employer passes to the prospective employee who enters it onto his/her application form for a visa or leave to remain. Issuing a COS does not, however, provide an automatic right of entry. The final decision on eligibility rests with the UKVI who will also take into account any adverse immigration history on the part of the applicant.

In many cases, employers may issue only a small number of COS each year and will need to spend time refreshing their knowledge of the process and checking for any changes to the Rules and Guidance. We can provide this service for you in a highly cost effective way. As we are registered with the OISC, the Tier 2 Guidance allows us to act as your Level 1 or Level 2 user. We work closely with you advising on all aspects of the process and where appropriate undertaking specific tasks on your behalf so that you are confident that you will always be able to recruit the best person for the job.

Contact us today for further information on how we can help you with sponsoring employees

Sponsor duties

One of the key principles of sponsorship under the Points Based System is that those who benefit most directly from migration (that is, the employers, education providers or other bodies who are bringing in migrants) should play their part in ensuring that the system is not abused. In practical terms, this means that as a licence holder, the sponsor commits to performing a range of duties related to record keeping and the monitoring and (where appropriate) reporting of sponsored employees.

The UKVI also reserve the right to visit sponsors at any time to check that the appropriate systems are in place and that they are being implemented effectively. The visits may be announced or unannounced. They may also cover an examination of records relating to all non-EEA employees as well as sponsored employees. Employers should bear in mind that if they are found to be employing an illegal worker, this could also affect their sponsor licence.

Detailed information on sponsor duties is included in the UKVI Sponsor Guidance but in broad terms sponsors are required to retain evidence of sponsored employees’ passports, biometric residence permits and contact details. If a resident labour market test has been undertaken, the employer must also retain full details of how this was performed along with documentary evidence. If there was an exemption from undertaking a resident labour market test, there must be evidence of the basis for that exemption.

Employers must also have systems in place for monitoring sponsored employees and in particular employees’ attendance, in order to be able to report to the UKVI if an employee fails to attend without permission. Employers must also be aware of other circumstances in which a report to the UKVI is required, for example a change of the employee’s location. Failure to meet these requirements could result in the downgrading or loss of a sponsor licence. Sponsors who lose their licences will no longer be able to sponsor workers which will also affect their ability to continue sponsoring current employees.

We provide advice on sponsor duties and also conduct mock audits to ensure that employers are complying with their sponsor duties and that the appropriate right to work checks are being conducted. This also includes audits of branches and franchises where the parent company might have less direct control and might be at greater risk of non-compliance.

Contact us today for further information on how we can help you with carrying out your sponsor duties. 

How we can help

  • A full range of services for employers under Tiers 2 and 5 across all sectors
  • Advice and support on how to obtain a sponsor licence
  • Preliminary visits in advance of UKVI inspections to ensure that you have systems in place to meet UKVI requirements for the performance of sponsor duties
  • Training on the recruitment of sponsored employees, the operation and management of the Sponsor Management System and compliance with sponsor duties.
  • Advice and support on the recruitment of sponsored employees under the Points Based System
  • Acting as a Level 1 or Level 2 user of the Sponsor Management System including applying for restricted COS and issuing COS to sponsored employees.
  • On-going management and monitoring of the Sponsorship Management System including applying for annual and in-year COS allocations
  • Monitoring sponsored employees’ including visa expiry dates and contact details
  • Ensuring on-going compliance through advice and mock audits for Head Office, branches and franchises
  • Attending UKVI compliance visits

Contact us today for a no commitment discussion on how we can help you ease the burden of sponsoring employees and ensure that you manage the process in the most efficient and effective way.