. Common Mistakes to Avoid in Sponsor Licence Applications - The Business World
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Common Mistakes to Avoid in Sponsor Licence Applications


A sponsor licence can be a vital tool for UK businesses when it comes to recruitment. Companies wishing to hire workers from overseas will require a sponsor licence; this allows them to issue Certificates of Sponsorship that migrant workers require for their visa applications. Accordingly, being granted a sponsor licence gives a business better access to candidates from around the world and provides a competitive edge – especially for companies working in niche industries or demanding specific skills.

While there are clear benefits to having a sponsor licence, it is important to approach the application process carefully. There are several obligations that a business must meet before it is eligible to become a sponsor, including developing an internal structure for managing the sponsorship processes. You must also ensure that your sponsor licence application is prepared correctly to avoid it being rejected. You may also face challenges in any ongoing hiring processes, which can damage your relationships with prospective employees who are relying on your sponsorship to make their visa applications.

A plethora of simple errors made during the application process can mean an application will be rejected. Here, the expert immigration solicitors at Latitude Law explain the requirements UK companies must fulfil when applying for sponsor licences and highlight some of the common pitfalls that can pose risks to your success – and in some instances, can freeze your business out of sponsorship for 12 months. In avoiding these frequent mistakes, you can ensure that your application has the best chance of success.

Management structure

A business that wants to sponsor overseas workers must implement a management structure to oversee the process. The Home Office requires certain individuals to act as ‘Key Personnel’ on the licence – the key roles are outlined below and must be assigned to

members of staff or contractors. It is important to select individuals carefully, as part of the licence application process will involve background checks conducted by the Home Office to ensure key personnel are suitable for the roles.

The process is operated using the Home Office’s sponsorship management system (SMS), and the job roles that must be assigned are as follows:

  • Authorising Officer
  • Key Contact
  • Level 1 and Level 2 Users

The Authorising Officer is responsible for overseeing the management of the SMS. The person you nominate to this role must be the most senior in your organisation responsible for the recruitment of all migrant workers and ensuring that you meet all of your sponsor duties. They will determine which members of staff need access to the SMS and the permissions they will be granted. The UK’s Immigration Rules are strictly enforced and noncompliance may be associated with serious penalties – it is up to the authorising officer to ensure that the company’s procedures are legally sound and to check that all information provided to the Home Office is accurate.

A Key Contact will manage communications between the company and the Home Office, including coordinating any data access requests and liaising with the government on matters of compliance.

Finally, a Level 1 User will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the SMS. They will collect and input data about sponsored employees according to the company’s legal obligations, and their duties will usually include issuing Certificates of Sponsorship to candidates who have received a job offer. This role is largely administrative but involves significant responsibility. A Level 2 User has fewer permissions than a Level 1 User and can perform actions such as creating and assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship.

While this is vital for legal compliance, implementing this system will also help you to sponsor workers and manage the SMS more effectively. Further, the Home Office may conduct an audit of your business to ensure it is fulfilling its legal duties and ensuring that this management structure is working effectively is the best way to make sure that you pass this type of inspection.

If you fail to show that you have understood and fulfilled these requirements when you apply for a sponsor licence, you may be rejected. It is also important to note that the key personnel must also hold valid immigration status for the duration of the licence, which is now 10 years (previously 4 years). Your organisation will therefore need to appoint individuals who are not subject to immigration control.


Businesses that act as sponsors must keep meticulous records, including details of the employee’s right to work and their attendance at work, among other information. This must all be stored and easily accessible in case the Home Office requests details.

Organisations may also have a responsibility to report any changes in their workers’ circumstances, which will also require careful record-keeping. If your company cannot prove that it has the internal mechanisms in place to collect and maintain these records effectively, this could affect your ability to secure a sponsor licence.

Application errors

Some of the most simple errors can occur when filling in an application form. For example, a business may fail to provide adequate supporting documents with its application. You must show evidence that your business operations are relevant to the job role that you wish to hire for and be able to prove that you can pay each candidate the minimum salary rate that applies to their visa.

The Home Office will also consider the genuineness of the sponsored job role when assessing a sponsor licence application. The Home Office decision-maker must be satisfied that the role the applicant is being sponsored for is a genuine vacancy and has not been created mainly so that the applicant can apply for entry clearance or permission to stay in the UK. It is vital to demonstrate in the application how the job role will work within current business operations and what the day-to-day duties and functions of the role are.

The best way to avoid any of these outcomes is to work with an expert immigration solicitor to submit a sponsor licence application. They can take a look at your organisation’s policies, practices and documents to ensure they are in line with Home Office expectations and support you in completing the sponsor licence application form. Further, if you need to appeal a decision or want further guidance on compliance, an experienced immigration lawyer can assist you.

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