Sponsor Licence


You will 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.
This includes unpaid work, like running a charity.
You will not need a licence 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

Those who do not need a sponsor can be found here.

Sponsoring someone does not guarantee that they will be allowed to come to or stay in the UK.

How to get a sponsor licence

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may visit your business to check it’s suitable.

After you apply

You’ll be given a licence 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 licence will be valid for 4 years. You may lose your licence if you do not meet your responsibilities as a sponsor.


You will need appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees.
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.

Types of licence

The licence you need depends on whether the workers you want to fill your jobs are:

  • ‘Workers’ – for those with long-term job offers
  • ‘Temporary workers’

You can apply for a licence covering one or both types of worker.

Worker licence

A ‘Worker’ licence will let you employ people long-term or permanently. It’s split into:

  • Skilled Worker – the role must meet the job suitability requirements
  • Intra-company visas – this includes Intra-company Transfer and Intra-company Graduate Trainee, for multinational companies which need to transfer established employees or graduate trainees to the UK
  • Minister of Religion – for people coming to work for a religious organisation
  • Sportsperson – for elite sportspeople and coaches who will be based in the UK

Temporary Worker licence

A ‘Temporary Worker’ licence will let you employ people on a temporary basis. It’s split into:

  • Creative or Sporting Worker – to work as a high-level sportsperson (up to 1 year), 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 organisation (2 years)
  • Government Authorised Exchange Worker – 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 Worker – where the worker is coming to do a job which is covered by international law, for example employees of overseas governments
  • Seasonal Worker – for those coming to the UK for up to 6 months to do farm work

Sponsorship management roles

You need to appoint people within your business to manage the sponsorship process when you apply for a licence.
The main tool they’ll use is the sponsorship management system (SMS).
The roles are:

  • authorising officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the SMS
  • key contact – your main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
  • level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS

These roles can be filled by the same person or different people.
You can also appoint an optional level 2 user once you have your licence. This is an SMS user with more restricted access than a level 1 user, for example they cannot withdraw a certificate of sponsorship.

Suitability checks

You and your staff will be checked to make sure you’re suitable for these roles. You may not get your licence if anyone involved in sponsorship has:

  • an unspent criminal conviction
  • been fined by UKVI in the past 12 months
  • been reported to UKVI
  • broken the law
  • been a ‘key person’ at a sponsor that had its licence revoked in the last 12 months
  • failed to pay VAT or other excise duty

You and your allocated staff must also:

  • be based in the UK most of the time
  • not be a contractor or consultant contracted for a specific project
  • not be subject to a bankruptcy restriction order or undertaking, or a debt relief restriction order or undertaking
  • not have a history of non-compliance with sponsor requirements

Your allocated staff must usually be paid members of staff, or office holders.
Read the full guidance on appointing ‘key personnel’.

HR contractors and agency staff

You must have at least one level 1 user who is your employee. You can have other level 1 or level 2 users employed by third-party organisations contracted to provide you with HR services. Your level 2 user can be a temporary member of staff supplied by an agency.

UK-based legal representatives

You can allocate any of the roles to a UK-based legal representative, apart from the authorising officer role. Your representative must be qualified to give immigration advice or services.
Apply for your licence
You need to apply online for your licence.
Once you’ve finished the online application, you need to send in:

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 and 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, they must be accompanied by a certified translation – there’s more information in part 1 of the 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.

Licence fees

You need to pay a fee when you apply. The fee depends on the type of licence you’re applying for and what type of organisation you are.
You’re usually a small sponsor if two 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 either:

  • a registered, excepted or exempt charity
  • an ecclesiastical corporation established for charitable purposes

Type of licenceFee for small or charitable sponsorsFee for medium or large sponsors
Temporary Worker£536£536
Worker and Temporary Worker£536£ 1,476
Add a Worker licence to an existing Temporary Worker licenceNo fee£940
Add a Temporary Worker licence to an existing Worker licenceNo feeNo fee

How long it takes to get a decisions

Most applications (8 out of 10) are dealt with in less than 8 weeks. UKVI may need to visit your business.
You may be able to pay £500 to get a decision within 10 working days. You’ll be told if you can after you apply.

Applications 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.

Sponsorship, employer and education helpline
Telephone: 0300 123 4699
Monday to Thursday, 10am to 3pm
Find out about call charges
You can also join the premium customer service scheme to get extra support from a licence manager – this costs at least £8,000 a year.

UK businesses and Tier 1 (Investors) can get help from the Business Helpdesk:

Business Helpdesk


Your licence rating

You’ll get an A-rated licence if your application is approved.

A-rating – full sponsor licence

An A-rated licence lets you start assigning certificates of sponsorship.
Your business will be listed in the register of sponsors.

Downgrading to B-rating

Your A-rated licence may be downgraded to a B-rating at a later stage if you do not continue to meet your sponsor duties.
If this happens, you will not be able to issue new certificates of sponsorship until you’ve made improvements and upgraded back to an A-rating.
You’ll still be able to issue certificates to workers you already employ who want to extend their permission to stay.

Upgrade to an A-rating

You need to follow an ‘action plan’ provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to upgrade your licence.
You have to pay £1,476 for an action plan.
You must pay the fee within 10 working days of the date UKVI tells you about the downgrade. If you do not, you’ll lose your licence.

At the end of the action plan

You’ll be upgraded to an A-rating if you complete all the steps and there’s nothing else you need to improve.
You’ll lose your licence if you do not complete all the steps.
If you need to make other improvements, you’ll be given another B-rating and will have to follow a new action plan. You’ll have to pay the fee again.

If you get a second B-rating

You can only have 2 B-ratings in the 4 years that your licence is valid.
You’ll lose your licence if you still need to make improvements after your second action plan.

How to reapply

You cannot appeal if your licence is revoked, but you can reapply. You have to wait at least 12 months before reapplying.
You need to start a new application when you reapply.

Certificates of sponsorship

You must assign a certificate of sponsorship to each foreign worker you employ. This is an electronic record, not a physical document. Each certificate has its own number which a worker can use to apply for a visa.
When you assign the certificate to a worker, they must use it to apply for their visa within 3 months. They must not apply for their visa more than 3 months before the start date of the job listed on the certificate.

Defined certificates

These are for people applying on a Skilled Worker visa from outside the UK.
You must apply for defined certificates for these workers through the sponsorship management system (SMS). You’ll get access to this when you get your licence.
When you get the certificate
Applications are usually approved within one working day. It may take longer if UKVI need to carry out further checks on the information in your application.
Defined certificates will appear in your SMS account once they have been approved. You can then assign them to a worker.

Undefined certificates

These are for Skilled Workers applying from inside the UK, and applicants on all other visas.
When you apply for your licence you’ll be asked to estimate how many undefined certificates you’ll need for Workers and Temporary Workers in the first year.

Certificate costs

Certificates are free for citizens of the following countries:
Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden or Turkey.
For other citizens, you need to pay for each certificate

Type of certificateCost per certificate
Temporary Worker£21

If you assign a certificate of sponsorship to a worker on a Skilled Worker or Intra-company Transfer visa, you might also need to pay the immigration skills charge.

Immigration skills charge

You might have to pay an additional charge when you assign a certificate of sponsorship to someone applying for a Skilled Worker or Intra-company Transfer visa. This is called the ‘immigration skills charge’.
You must pay the immigration skills charge if they’re applying for a visa from:

  • outside the UK to work in the UK for 6 months or more
  • inside the UK for any length of time

When you do not need to pay

You will not pay the immigration skills charge if you’re sponsoring someone:

  • on an Intra-company Graduate Trainee visa
  • who is on a visa to study in the UK, and switches to a Skilled Worker or Intra-company Transfer visa – if they then extend their stay on the new visa, you will not have to pay the charge

You will also not have to pay the charge if you’re sponsoring someone with one of the following occupation codes:

  • chemical scientists (2111)
  • biological scientists and biochemists (2112)
  • physical scientists (2113)
  • social and humanities scientists (2114)
  • natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified (2119)
  • research and development managers (2150)
  • higher education teaching professionals (2311)
  • clergy (2444)
  • sports players (3441)
  • sports coaches, instructors or officials (3442)

You also might not have to pay the charge if you’re sponsoring a worker who was assigned a certificate before 6 April 2017 – there’s more information in part 2 of the guidance for sponsors.
You will not need to pay the charge for any of the worker’s dependants, for example their partner or child.

If the person you’re sponsoring changes jobs

If you’ve assigned a certificate of sponsorship to someone in your organisation, who then moves to a new job in your organisation, you’ll need to assign them a new certificate. They will use this to apply for a new visa.
You only need to do this if the new job has a different occupation code.
You’ll need to pay the immigration skills charge again if the end date on their new visa is later than the end date on their existing visa.

How to pay

You pay the immigration skills charge when you assign a certificate of sponsorship to the worker.

How much it costs

The amount you need to pay is based on:

  • the size of your organisation
  • how long the worker will work for you, using the start and end dates on their sponsorship certificate

PeriodSmall or charitable sponsorsMedium or large sponsors
First 12 months£364£1,000
Each additional 6 months£182£500

If the worker will be in the UK for longer than 6 months but less than a year, you must pay for at least 12 months.
You must pay the full charge in one go.

Contact the Business Helpdesk if you’re not sure which category your business fits into.
As the longest you can sponsor a worker for is 5 years, the most you have to pay will be:

  • £1,820 (5 x £364) if you’re a small or charitable sponsor
  • £5,000 (5 x £1,000) if you’re a medium or large sponsor

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will contact you if you do not pay the charge or pay the wrong amount. You’ll have 10 working days to pay the charge – the worker’s visa application will be refused if you do not.


You’ll get a full refund if the worker’s visa application is:

  • refused or withdrawn
  • successful, but they do not come to work for you

You’ll get a partial refund if the worker:

  • gets less time on their visa than you sponsored them for
  • starts working for you but then changes to another sponsor
  • leaves their job before the end date on their certificate of sponsorship

You’ll also get a partial refund if you paid the medium or large sponsor fee when assigning the certificate, but had already notified UKVI that you’re now a small or charitable sponsor.
How long it takes
You usually get a refund within 90 days of:

  • telling UKVI that the worker did not come to work for you
  • the expiration date on the worker’s certificate of sponsorship, if they did not use it to apply for a visa
  • the date the worker’s visa application is refused or withdrawn
  • the date you assigned the certificate of sponsorship, if you had already notified UKVI that you became a small or charitable sponsor

If the worker’s visa application is refused, they can ask for the decision to be reviewed. This is known as an ‘administrative review’.
If they do not ask for an administrative review, you’ll get a refund within 90 days of the deadline for applying for one.
You’ll get a refund within 90 days of the administrative review being dismissed if the worker applied for one and were unsuccessful.
Contact UKVI if your refund is not paid within 90 days.

Job suitability

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.

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).
When you do not need to advertise the job, you need to have records showing that there is not a suitable person who does not require sponsorship to take on the role.
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 or Sporting Worker visa include:

  • ballet dancers and other dancers
  • film and TV performers
  • theatre and opera performers
  • film and TV workers
  • models

For creative jobs, you must make sure that either:

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.

Additional requirements for sporting workers

For sporting jobs that will be done by someone on either the Creative or Sporting Worker visa or Sportsperson visa, you must get an endorsement letter from the relevant governing body.

Sponsoring under-18s

You cannot sponsor a foreign worker under 18 on:

  • a Skilled Worker visa
  • an Intra-company visa
  • an International Agreement Worker visa, if they’ll be working as a private servant in a diplomatic household or in the household of an employee of an international organisation
  • a Seasonal Worker visa

You cannot sponsor a child under 16 for a Minister of Religion or Sportsperson visa.

Your responsibilities

You must:

  • check that your foreign workers have the necessary skills, qualifications or professional accreditations to do their jobs, and keep copies of documents showing this
  • only assign certificates of sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship
  • tell UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) if your sponsored workers are not complying with the conditions of their visa

Your licence may be downgraded, suspended or withdrawn if you do not meet them.
Read the full guidance on sponsor requirements and duties and check workers have the right to work in the UK.

Monitoring employees

You must have HR systems in place that let you:

  • monitor your employees’ immigration status
  • keep copies of relevant documents for each employee, including passport and right to work information
  • track and record employees’ attendance
  • keep employee contact details up to date
  • report to UKVI if there is a problem, for example if your employee stops coming to work

Changes to your business

You must report any significant changes in your own circumstances within 20 working days, for example if you:

  • stop trading or become insolvent
  • substantially change the nature of your business
  • are involved in a merger or take-over

You must also tell UKVI if you’re changing your details, like your address or allocated roles.
To register a change of circumstances use the sponsorship management system (SMS).
Requests can take up to 18 weeks. You can register a change within 5 working days instead if you use the priority service. It costs £200.

Sponsoring under-18s

You must make sure that foreign workers under 18 have suitable care arrangements for their:

  • travel to the UK
  • arrival in the UK
  • living arrangements in the UK

You must also get a letter from their parents giving consent to the care arrangements.
You must get a Disclosure and Barring Service check on any of your workers who need it.
You’ll lose your licence if you do not do this.
Children under 16
You must get a licence from the local education authority in the area where the child will work.

The information above is from the government website which we have set out for your convenience and can be accessed in full here.