Sponsor Licenses

If you are an employer wishing to sponsor someone for a visa, or someone with a job offer from a company willing to apply for a license to sponsor you, then here is a brief summary of the process to obtain a Sponsor License from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).


UKVI consider the holding of a Sponsor License to be a duty of trust – they are sharing the responsibility of border control with the license holder.  It is a legally upheld grant of responsibility.  The authority to grant a ‘Certificate of Sponsorship’ (COS) to an employee is therefore considered a privilege which carries mandated obligations.

These obligations include monitoring the employee closely, and reporting changes to their circumstances or role.  As a result, UKVI require certain checks and balances to be in place within the company’s HR procedures, and companies get audited on these procedures.

Steps required to sponsor an employee:

    1. Assessment of the role and salary, to ensure the sponsored person will qualify for the necessary points to obtain the appropriate visa
    2. Application for the appropriate type of Sponsor License, depending on what type of visa is required – this could be a Skilled Worker license, a Global Mobility license (for transferring people between international branches), a Minister of Religion License, one of the T5 Temporary Worker licenses, and so forth; a company is allowed to apply for multiple licenses at the same time if the need can be justified
      1. Gathering four specific documents, from a list of options, demonstrating the company’s trading presence in the UK
      2. Preparation of a questionnaire about the role (not required for T5 licenses)
      3. Preparation of HR procedures, and audit preparation procedures
      4. Reading the relevant sections of UKVI’s guidance for sponsors – whilst not necessarily exciting reading (!), and whilst this requires a time commitment, this is vital and cannot be omitted, otherwise when the company is audited they will not understand the language the auditor is using
      5. Submission of an online application form
      6. Submission of documents and questionnaire above, with the ‘submission sheet’ from the online application form – processing time is up to 8 weeks, although a Priority Service has been introduced reducing time to 10 business days for an additional £500 (there is a daily cap on requests for this)
      7. NB: It is possible the company will be audited as part of the assessment of their application, to check that HR procedures are in place and relevant guidances have been read and implemented, and that the role and has been assessed correctly and is a genuine job.
      8. If the license is granted, assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) to the potential employee
      9. The person then uses this COS to apply for their visa.

The above steps are time-consuming, and a company should be aware that the process is arduous!  (Nikki always says to companies that she cannot stress that word enough!)  It should only be entered into if there is a genuine time-commitment to seeing the process through properly, or the license is likely to be rejected on incorrect documentation (requiring a new application), refused due to not qualifying (meaning that the company cannot apply again for 6 months), or taken away at a later date due to not preparing properly for an audit.  The latter of course means that any people being sponsored would also lose their visa.

With that having been said, Nikki would love to work with you and walk you through the steps if you need or want to go ahead!

About Nikki de Prey

de Prey Consulting is an immigration consultancy based in Edinburgh, UK. Nikki advises clients on the variety of visa applications for entering or remaining in the UK. For more information read about her background in About dPC.