The fast-growing tourism industry in the UK demands a constant inflow of talent. Very often businesses in the UK have to recruit this talent from outside the country. A sponsor licence is mandatory for UK-based companies to be able to employ overseas workers.
For a major part of the last decade, most positions in the hospitality sector in the UK were off-limits for migrant workers. Until December 2020, only jobs skilled at RQF level 6 were eligible for sponsorship. This essentially meant that only the senior management positions could be filled by sponsored migrant workers.
There was an exception for highly paid and experienced chefs. All that changed in December 2020 when the Skilled Worker immigration route was introduced. The skills threshold got lowered to RQF level 3 and the minimum salary threshold was also lowered for most hospitality jobs.
Many restrictions associated with sponsoring a chef were also relaxed. The salary and experience requirements were reduced allowing more people to qualify for the job of a chef. The minimum salary threshold is further less for new entrants.
This allowed sponsorship for migrant workers in an array of hospitality jobs like chefs, floor managers, bar managers and restaurant managers. This blog post will provide you with the information you need to understand the process of obtaining a sponsor licence and the requirements involved. Read on to learn more about how to obtain a sponsor licence for your business.
What is a sponsor licence?
A sponsor licence is a document issued by the UK government that allows businesses to employ foreign workers. The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) administers the scheme, which requires businesses to take on certain responsibilities when hiring workers from outside of the UK. These responsibilities include providing accurate information to UKVI and providing suitable working conditions for sponsored workers. Having a sponsor licence shows that your business is legitimate and compliant with immigration regulations. It also helps to streamline the process of recruiting and employing workers from overseas. A sponsor licence is only valid for a certain period and must be renewed when it expires.
Why a Sponsor Licence is important for hotels, tourism, and catering businesses in the UK
As a hotel, tourism, or catering business operating in the UK, you may need to sponsor non-EEA nationals to work for you. This is where a Sponsor Licence comes in. A Sponsor Licence allows you to legally hire and employ non-EEA nationals in your business.
Having a Sponsor Licence means that you have met the Home Office’s standards and have been granted permission to hire non-EEA nationals. It is an essential part of your recruitment process as it will ensure that all your workers are legal, properly qualified and skilled, and will also reduce the risk of employing someone who is not eligible to work in the UK.
By having a Sponsor Licence, you can help prevent illegal working and support the UK economy. It also demonstrates that you take your responsibilities as an employer seriously and that you are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Furthermore, a Sponsor Licence can help you to access the talent you need for your business to succeed. By having a Sponsor Licence, you will be able to hire highly skilled professionals from around the world who can contribute their skills and expertise to your business. It can also help you to develop a better understanding of different cultures, which can be beneficial in both customer service and internal relations.
Eligibility for a Sponsor Licence
To obtain a Sponsor Licence, businesses in the Hotels, Tourism, and Catering industries must meet certain criteria.
A business must demonstrate that it is based and operating lawfully in the UK and that it is actively trading or providing services in the hospitality industry.
Additionally, businesses must prove that they can fulfil their duties as a sponsor of foreign workers and comply with Home Office rules and regulations. This includes demonstrating that they have appropriate systems and processes in place to manage sponsored employees and prevent illegal working.
Before applying for a Sponsor Licence, businesses must assign at least one authorized officer who has direct control over the sponsored employees. This person is responsible for managing the Sponsor Licence and ensuring that all related processes and procedures are followed.
Businesses must also assign a Level 1 User who will be able to access the Sponsor Management System (SMS) to make changes or updates to the licence and sponsored employee records. The Level 1 User must also have a good understanding of the UK immigration system and the roles and responsibilities of a Sponsor Licence holder.
To obtain a Sponsor Licence, businesses must provide evidence that they can fulfil their duties as a sponsor of foreign workers, including providing suitable premises for sponsored employees, keeping up to date records and responding promptly to requests from the Home Office.
Businesses must also demonstrate that they are aware of their obligations under UK immigration laws and that they have appropriate policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance. This includes having an effective monitoring system in place to detect non-compliance and taking corrective action as needed.
Requirements for key personnel in the business, such as the authorized officer and level 1 user
For businesses in the Hotels, Tourism, and Catering industry, it is essential to have a Sponsor Licence. To apply for a Sponsor Licence, businesses need to ensure that key personnel in their business meet certain requirements.
The authorized officer is responsible for managing the Sponsor Licence application and for being the main contact for UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). The authorized officer must be a permanent resident of the UK and hold a valid passport from the UK or an EEA country. They must also have the ability to make decisions and commit the business to complying with the requirements of having a Sponsor Licence.
In addition, businesses will also need to appoint a Level 1 user. This person is responsible for inputting information about the sponsored workers into the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). The Level 1 user must also be a permanent resident of the UK and hold a valid passport from the UK or an EEA country. They must also be knowledgeable about the business and its policies as they will be responsible for ensuring that information is accurate and up-to-date in the SMS.
In order to obtain a Sponsor Licence, businesses must ensure that both the authorized officer and Level 1 user meet these requirements. It is also important to note that businesses may need additional personnel if they decide to sponsor more than one type of worker. In this case, additional roles such as Level 2 users may be required.
Formalities for getting a sponsor licence for companies
The company will need to appoint specific people to handle the sponsorship process while applying for a licence. These individuals should be based out of UK. The application for a sponsor licence should be submitted online. The following document needs to be submitted along with the application form:
- A minimum of four specified supporting documents that prove the company’s trading presence in the UK
- A cover letter containing background information about the company
- Additional documents such as proof of the company’s HR processes may be needed in some cases.
As part of the assessment of the licence application, the Home Office may conduct a compliance visit at the company location.
Application fee for a sponsor licence
- The sponsor licence application fee varies according to the type and size of the organisation
- The application fee is payable on every renewal of the sponsor licence
Types of Worker Licences
The types of sponsor licences are broadly split into two categories. The company can apply in a single category or multiple categories.
1. Worker Licence
This licence allows companies to sponsor skilled people in different positions. The skilled job can be short-term, long term or permanent depending on the worker’s visa. This category is further divided into Skilled Workers, Senior or Specialist Worker Visa(Global Business Mobility), Minister of Religion and International Sportspersons.
2. Temporary Worker Licence
This licence is useful when companies want to sponsor people on a temporary basis.
The sponsoring process after receiving the licence
The company must apply for a Certificate of sponsorship from the Home Office after it has received a sponsor licence. The Certificate of sponsorship is an electronic record generated on the Sponsor Management System (SMS).
The company assigns this certificate to the migrant worker it intends to sponsor. The worker must use this certificate within 3 months. Once this certificate is assigned the candidate gets a unique reference number. This number should be submitted by the candidate during their visa application process.
Sponsorship duties for candidates
Hospitality jobs in London come with a handsome salary package. Jobs in the hospitality industry also enable candidates to interact with people across the globe. The following roles can performed by a sponsored candidate in hotels and restaurants.
- Hotel Assistant
- Hotel Management
- Assistant supervisor
- Hotel Receptionist
- Operations Manager
- Bell/Door Attendant
- Hotel Reception
- Banquet Server
Prerequisites for candidates to apply for visa-sponsored jobs in London.
- The applicant must have a job offer from a licensed sponsor company based in the UK and proof of salary
- The sponsor must be confident about the candidates’ eligibility for the job and his prerequisites for the visa
- The sponsor must have issued a certificate of sponsorship to the candidate
- Proof of English proficiency test scores(IELTS)
- Financial documents and other expenses
- A criminal record certificate from a country where the candidate has lived for at least a year.
Processing of Applications and Licence Ratings
The applications for sponsor licences are processed in around 8 weeks. The companies need to pay a small fee to accelerate the processing time to 10 working days.
On approval of the application, the companies get an A-rated licence. The business is subsequently listed in the register of sponsors.
Any mismanagement of sponsorship duties leads to a downgrade to B-rating. This prevents the company from issuing new certificates of sponsorship. They can issue certificates to employees who already work for the company and wish to extend their stay. Any new certificate can be issued only after an upgrade to A-rating.
How to prepare for the sponsor licence application process
Before applying for a Sponsor Licence, there are some important steps you must take to ensure your application is successful.
First, you should identify who will be the Authorised Officer and Level 1 User for your organisation. The Authorised Officer is the individual responsible for overseeing your organisation’s immigration responsibilities, and the Level 1 User is the individual responsible for submitting your Sponsor Licence application. These individuals must have valid UK passports and evidence of their right to work in the UK.
Next, you should gather the necessary documents and information required for your Sponsor Licence application. This includes documents such as proof of identity, a letter of sponsorship, evidence of qualifications and/or experience, and evidence that you are able to pay the wages of any sponsored workers.
You will also need to make sure that your organisation is eligible to apply for a Sponsor Licence. This includes providing evidence that your organisation operates in a relevant sector (such as hotels, tourism or catering), and demonstrating that you have the necessary financial resources to support any sponsored workers.
Finally, it is important to research the fees associated with obtaining a Sponsor Licence and the length of time it takes for applications to be processed. This can help you plan your application and ensure that it is completed within the expected timeframe.
By taking the time to prepare for your Sponsor Licence application, you can increase the chances of a successful outcome.
Before applying for a Sponsor Licence, businesses should ensure that they have all the necessary documentation and information required for the application. This includes:
- Proof of identity and right to work in the UK of the individual submitting the application
- A valid passport and visa or residence permit of the authorized officer
- A list of key personnel in the business, such as the authorized officer and level 1 user
- Details of the business’s turnover, profit, and losses over the last three years
- Documents to demonstrate the financial health of the business
- Evidence of premises, if applicable
- Information on any other businesses owned by the applicants, such as partnerships, sole traderships, and limited companies
- Registration with HMRC
- Proof that all employees have the right to work in the UK
- Proof of public liability insurance
- The appropriate immigration skills charge (ISC)
- A strategy for monitoring immigration compliance
- A recruitment policy outlining the process for recruiting overseas workers
- A list of overseas staff who have been sponsored in the past
- Training records for staff who will be involved in immigration-related activities
- A recruitment plan which outlines how vacancies will be advertised
- A risk assessment for any third parties or agents who may be involved in recruiting or sponsoring workers.
The application fee and processing time
The cost for a Sponsor Licence application varies depending on the size of your business. Smaller businesses, defined as those with fewer than 50 employees and a turnover of less than £10.2 million, pay an application fee of £536 while larger businesses pay a fee of £1,476. In addition to this, you may also be required to pay a fee of £199 per employee you plan to sponsor.
The processing time for a Sponsor Licence can range from 8-12 weeks. As such, it is important to factor this into your timelines when preparing for a foreign worker’s arrival in the UK. Once your application is approved, you will be issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) which will then allow you to legally employ your sponsored worker.
It is important to ensure that your application is complete and accurate before submitting it as any inaccuracies or omissions can lead to a delay in processing. Your documentation should be up-to-date, clear, and accurately represent your business operations. You may also be asked to provide additional information or documents after submitting your application. It is therefore important to ensure you are able to promptly provide these if necessary.
Industry or sector specific nuances
When applying for a sponsor licence for businesses in the Hotels, Tourism, Catering industry, there are certain industry or sector specific nuances that need to be taken into consideration. Examples of businesses in the Hotels, Tourism, and Catering industry that may need a Sponsor Licence include hotels, restaurants, catering companies, tour operators, and event planning businesses.
It is important to take these nuances into account when making an application for a Sponsor Licence in order to ensure that the application is successful and that the requirements of the licence are met.
Examples of roles in the Hotels, Tourism, and Catering industry that may need a Sponsor Licence and their soc codes
There are many roles in the hotels, tourism, and catering industry that may require a Sponsor Licence, depending on the specific needs of the business. Here is a list of examples of roles in the hotels, tourism, and catering industry that may require a Sponsor Licence, along with their corresponding soc codes:
- Hotel manager (SOC code: 1101)
- Front desk clerk (SOC code: 4121)
- Hotel maintenance worker (SOC code: 8129)
- Concierge (SOC code: 5223)
- Travel agent (SOC code: 4119)
- Tour guide (SOC code: 7911)
- Tour operator (SOC code: 7830)
- Tourism information specialist (SOC code: 5114)
- Caterer (SOC code: 5122)
- Chef (SOC code: 3514)
- Cook (SOC code: 3513)
- Bartender (SOC code: 6332)
- Waiter/waitress (SOC code: 7223)
It is important to note that the specific roles and soc codes that a business needs to sponsor will depend on the needs of the business. The minimum salary requirements for these roles may vary based on the specific job duties and the experience of the worker.
Additional documentation or considerations
When applying for a Sponsor Licence to sponsor workers in the hospitality industry, employers may be required to provide additional documentation or considerations in order to demonstrate the skills and experience of the sponsored worker. This is particularly important in roles that require specialised training or qualifications.
For example, if an employer is sponsoring a chef or other specialized role in the catering industry, they may be asked to provide evidence of their qualifications and training, as well as proof that no suitable candidates are available in the local labour market. Similarly, if an employer is sponsoring workers in the tourism industry, they may need to demonstrate that they have sufficient knowledge and experience in the industry to justify hiring a foreign worker.
It is important to consider these additional requirements when preparing for the Sponsor Licence application process. By providing the necessary evidence and demonstrating the need for a foreign worker, employers can increase their chances of success when applying for a Sponsor Licence.
Sponsoring foreign workers in the tourism industry may require demonstrating that there are no suitable candidates available in the local labour market
In order to be eligible for a sponsor licence, businesses in the tourism industry must demonstrate that there are no suitable candidates available to fill the job from within the UK or EEA labour market. This means that employers must advertise any vacant positions in the UK or EEA first, and if they cannot find suitable candidates, they may then apply for a sponsor licence to bring in workers from outside of the UK.
When advertising jobs, employers must make sure that the job advert meets the Home Office’s requirements and criteria. The job advert should contain details such as the salary offered, working hours, and the job requirements. Employers should also keep detailed records of how they recruited for the vacancy, and when they advertised it.
Once employers have advertised their vacancies and collected evidence that they were unsuccessful in finding suitable candidates in the UK or EEA labour market, they can then apply for a sponsor licence. Along with providing evidence of their recruitment process, employers must also provide evidence that the applicant is qualified and has the necessary skills for the role.
To obtain a sponsor licence for foreign workers in the tourism industry, employers must also ensure that their business is up-to-date with all relevant employment laws. The Home Office will conduct an assessment of the business to ensure that it meets all of its criteria. This includes ensuring that wages meet national minimum wage requirements and that workers have access to appropriate rest breaks, among other things. Employers must also ensure that they have a valid health and safety policy and a system in place to prevent illegal working.
By meeting these requirements and demonstrating that there are no suitable candidates available to fill the job from within the UK or EEA labour market, businesses in the tourism industry can obtain a sponsor licence and bring in skilled foreign workers to fill their vacancies.
Sponsoring chefs or other specialized roles in the catering industry may require demonstrating the need for their specific skills and expertise
For chefs and other specialized roles in the catering industry, it may be necessary to demonstrate that their specific skills and expertise are required. The immigration authorities may need to be convinced that the sponsored worker is able to do a job that cannot be done by a UK or EEA resident.
To prove this, you should provide evidence of the employee’s qualifications, experience, or any specialist knowledge they have that is relevant to the role. You should also explain why this knowledge or experience is not available in the local labour market.
You should also provide evidence that the job requires specific knowledge or experience that is not usually obtained through formal qualifications or training. For example, if the position requires a chef to prepare a particular type of cuisine, you could demonstrate that the sponsored worker has experience in preparing this type of food.
In addition, you should explain why it is necessary to sponsor the employee in order to fill the position. This could include demonstrating that the employee’s skills and experience will help to improve the business’s performance and productivity.
If you can provide this evidence, then you can demonstrate that the sponsored worker has unique skills and expertise that are essential for the role, and it will be more likely that your Sponsor Licence application will be approved.
Refusal of Application for Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence.
A refusal of the application triggers a six-month cooling-off period.
Validity and Renewal of Sponsor Licence
A sponsor licence is valid for a period of 4 years. The companies can apply for a renewal after 4 years. The Home Office suspends or revokes the company’s licence if it detects any non-compliance with sponsorship duties. Under such circumstances, the company will have to wait for 12 months before applying for a licence.
Maintaining a Sponsor Licence
Once a Sponsor Licence has been granted, the UKVI will continue to monitor the business to ensure that it is meeting its responsibilities. These may include:
- Ensuring that all sponsored workers are complying with the conditions of their visas, including working hours and appropriate wages
- Paying the annual sponsorship fee
- Reporting any changes in the business’s situation, such as key personnel leaving or foreign staff resigning
- Keeping records of sponsored workers, such as contact details, right to work documents and copies of passports
- Undertaking regular risk assessments to identify any potential breaches of sponsor duties
- Conducting regular checks on sponsored workers to ensure that they are still eligible to work in the UK
- Reporting any breaches of the sponsor licence conditions to the UKVI
If a business fails to meet its responsibilities or if the UKVI identifies any issues, it may be subject to penalties and enforcement action. This could include suspension or revocation of the Sponsor Licence, fines or even criminal prosecution. It is therefore important for businesses to stay up-to-date with their obligations as a Sponsor Licence holder and make sure that they are meeting all requirements.
The benefits of having a Sponsor Licence
There are several benefits to having a Sponsor Licence for a business in the hotels, tourism, or catering industry in the UK. Some of these benefits include:
Ability to hire foreign workers with specialized skills or experience: A Sponsor Licence allows a business to sponsor foreign workers to fill positions that cannot be filled by workers in the local labor market. This can be especially useful for businesses that need to hire workers with specialized skills or experience that are not readily available in the UK.
Access to the skilled worker visa program: A Sponsor Licence allows a business to sponsor foreign workers on Tier 2 (skilled worker) visas. These visas allow foreign workers to come to the UK to fill skilled positions in the business for up to five years, with the possibility of extension.
Improved workforce diversity: A Sponsor Licence allows a business to hire a diverse workforce from different countries and cultural backgrounds, which can bring a range of perspectives and ideas to the business.
Increased competitiveness: By being able to hire the best talent from around the world, a business with a Sponsor Licence may have a competitive advantage over businesses that are limited to hiring workers from the local labour market.
Improved customer service: A diverse workforce can help a business better understand and meet the needs of a diverse customer base, which can lead to improved customer service.
A Sponsor Licence can be a valuable tool for restaurants and hotels in the UK that need to hire foreign workers with specialized skills or experience and want to access the skilled worker visa program.
Additionally, having a Sponsor Licence can give businesses access to exclusive job boards and recruitment services, which can make it easier to find the right people for the job. In addition, a Sponsor Licence can help businesses access high-quality training for sponsored employees, helping them stay up to date with their skills and knowledge.
The responsibilities of a business with a Sponsor Licence
There are several responsibilities that a business with a Sponsor Licence must fulfil to maintain its licence. These responsibilities include:
Reporting changes in the business or sponsored workers: A business with a Sponsor Licence must inform the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) of any changes to the business or sponsored workers, such as changes in contact details or job duties, within 10 working days of the change occurring.
Complying with the immigration rules: A business with a Sponsor Licence must ensure that it is complying with all immigration rules, including the rules around sponsoring foreign workers. This includes ensuring that sponsored workers have the appropriate visas and keeping accurate records of sponsored workers.
Paying the appropriate salary: A business with a Sponsor Licence must pay sponsored workers the appropriate salary as stated in the Certificate of Sponsorship.
Providing information to the UKVI upon request: A business with a Sponsor Licence may be required to provide information to the UKVI upon request, such as details of sponsored workers or proof of compliance with the immigration rules.
Conducting right-to-work checks: A business with a Sponsor Licence must conduct right-to-work checks on all sponsored workers to ensure that they are allowed to work in the UK.
Other duties and responsibilities
As a holder of a Sponsor Licence, the business is responsible for:
• Making sure that any sponsored workers comply with their visa conditions.
• Monitoring sponsored workers’ activities and reporting any changes in circumstances to the Home Office, such as changes in job role or leaving the employment of the business.
• Reporting any disciplinary action taken against sponsored workers.
• Keeping accurate records of sponsored workers’ activities, including pay, holidays and working hours.
• Complying with all applicable laws and regulations, including immigration rules and laws relating to employing foreign nationals.
• Ensuring that all workers are paid at least the minimum wage and other legal requirements relating to pay and working hours.
• Keeping evidence of the identity and immigration status of sponsored workers and providing this information to the Home Office when requested.
• Making sure that only key personnel who have been approved by the Home Office are able to access and use the Sponsor Management System (SMS).
• Ensuring that any sponsored workers who have permission to work in the UK are also enrolled in a government-approved pension scheme.
Common reasons why a Sponsor Licence application may be refused
- Inaccurate or incomplete information provided on the application – all the information provided must be accurate and complete, including any documents and references.
- Insufficient evidence of financial standing – the Home Office may require further proof that your business has sufficient funds to meet the financial requirements for sponsoring a foreign worker.
- Lack of knowledge or expertise among key personnel – the Home Office will assess the knowledge and expertise of your authorized officer, key user and other personnel who are in charge of managing the sponsor licence system. If they lack knowledge or experience, it can negatively affect your application.
- Failure to properly manage sponsored workers – if the Home Office finds that you are not fulfilling your obligations as a sponsor, such as failing to conduct proper checks on foreign workers or not reporting changes in their circumstances, it can lead to your licence being revoked.
- Improper use of the sponsorship system – if the Home Office discovers that you are using the sponsorship system for any purpose other than what is stated on your application, such as hiring workers for reasons other than those specified, it could result in your application being refused.
- A history of violations – if the Home Office finds that you have previously violated immigration laws or been found guilty of criminal offences, this could lead to your application being refused.
The consequences of failing to meet the requirements of a Sponsor Licence
For businesses that hold a Sponsor Licence, it is essential to remain compliant with the Home Office’s requirements in order to maintain the licence. Failing to comply with the terms and conditions of your licence can have serious consequences, including fines, loss of reputation, and even losing the licence altogether. Some of the potential consequences of failing to meet the requirements of a Sponsor Licence include:
Loss of the Sponsor Licence: Immediate suspension or revocation of a Sponsor Licence and/or restricted access to the sponsorship management system. If a business with a Sponsor Licence fails to meet its responsibilities or is found to be in breach of the immigration rules, it may lose its Sponsor Licence. This would prevent the business from being able to sponsor foreign workers in the future.
Civil penalties: A business with a Sponsor Licence that fails to meet its responsibilities or is found to be in breach of the immigration rules may be subject to civil penalties, which can range from a fine of up to £20,000 per illegal worker to a fine of up to £20,000 per breach of the immigration rules.
Reputation damage: A business that loses its Sponsor Licence or is found to be in breach of the immigration rules may suffer reputation damage, which can lead to a loss of customers and credibility.
Legal action: A business that is found to be in breach of the immigration rules may face legal action, including prosecution and potential imprisonment for individuals involved in the breach.
Possible criminal prosecution for false statements or breaches of sponsorship duties, which could lead to an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment for up to two years.
A civil penalty of up to £20,000 per migrant worker for employers who knowingly employ someone who is not allowed to work in the UK.
Employers may be publicly named by the Home Office on a ‘naming and shaming’ list.
In certain cases, employers may also be required to reimburse the costs of removal of an illegal migrant worker from the UK.
It is important to note that the Home Office reserves the right to take action against employers who breach their sponsorship duties even after their Sponsor Licence has been revoked or suspended. Therefore, it is essential that employers ensure they are always complying with their sponsorship duties and responsibilities, as failure to do so could have severe consequences.
Overall, it is important for a business with a Sponsor Licence to take its responsibilities seriously and ensure that it is complying with all immigration rules in order to avoid any potential consequences.
A Sponsor Licence is essential for hotels, tourism, and catering businesses in the UK looking to employ foreign workers. Obtaining a Sponsor Licence is a complex and time-consuming process, but can be made easier by understanding the eligibility criteria, necessary documentation and industry-specific nuances. It is also important to ensure that all personnel involved in the application have the necessary qualifications and experience required.
Once a Sponsor Licence has been obtained, it’s important to be aware of the duties and responsibilities associated with maintaining it, as well as the penalties for failing to meet these requirements. Having a Sponsor Licence can bring many benefits to a business, including greater flexibility in hiring and being able to employ people from around the world who may not be able to find work in the UK otherwise.
By following the steps outlined in this guide, businesses will be better prepared to apply for a Sponsor Licence and understand what is required to maintain it.
How we can help
CGM App is an end to end immigration software, designed for expats, employers and immigration consultants (all over the world), that help to fine tune the process and scale of global business immigration for each user.
Visit cgmpartners.org.uk/register for more information.