UK companies need to obtain the relevant Sponsor Licence from UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI), also referred to as the Home Office, before employing skilled workers from outside the UK.


The application for a Sponsor Licence is a process that involves initially becoming compliant by having the requisite HR and recruitment infrastructure in place, then sourcing the information required by the Home Office in the application, followed by the online application.

Thereafter, depending on a review of your application form and supporting documents, and the organisation’s risk status, your organisation could experience extensive checks and a visit by the Home Office to make sure you’re trustworthy and capable of carrying out your duties.

If your Sponsor Licence application is successful, your company will be placed on the List of Registered Sponsors. You will be given a licence rating and will be permitted to assign Certificates of Sponsorship (COS) to qualifying candidates, enabling them to make their visa application to the Home Office.


Woodcock Law has extensive experience in applying for UK Sponsor Licences. We will guide you through the application process to ensure that you can recruit the specialist talent that you require, while meeting all legal and regulatory requirements.

  • We can advise on eligibility and the most appropriate type of sponsorship application.
  • We offer guidance on sponsorship-related fees.
  • We can assist in building a comprehensive and persuasive submission for Home Office to mitigate the risk of Home Office refusal.
  • We can assist in collating supporting documentation for your submission.
  • We can assist with the compliance & licence management duties your organisation will need to meet as an employer of migrant workers.
  • We can advise and train key staff on their duties and responsibilities.
  • We can audit your HR and recruitment systems and procedures to get them in order before the Home Office visit.
  • We offer training and advice on issuing Certificates of Sponsorship and assigning SOC codes.
  • We can assess whether a prospective employee satisfies the points criteria before the sponsor issues a Certificate of Sponsorship.
  • We can assist your employees with their visa applications both inside and outside of the UK.



Check that your business is eligible.


Choose the type of licence you want to apply for. This depends on what type of worker you want to sponsor


Decide who will manage the sponsorship within your business.


Apply online and pay
the fee.


There are two types of licence, depending on whether it is a long-term or temporary position. 

You can apply for a licence covering either category of worker, or both.


A ‘Worker’ licence is for skilled workers who you want to employ long-term or permanently.

  • 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.


A ‘Temporary Worker’ licence will let you employ skilled people on a temporary basis.
  • Creative or Sporting Worker – to work as a high-level sportsperson (up to 1 year), entertainer or artist (up to 2 years)
  • Charity Worker (up to 1 year)
  • Religious Worker (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


To get a licence, you cannot have unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering.

There must also be no history of failing to carry out your sponsorship duties.

You must not have had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months.

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

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 will use is the Sponsorship Management System (also known as 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 Home Office.
  • Level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS.
  • Level 2 user – this is an optional SMS user that can be appointed once you have your licence. Their access is more restricted access than a level 1 user, so for example they cannot withdraw a Certificate of Sponsorship.

    You can allocate any of the roles to a UK-based legal representative, apart from the authorising officer role.

    Woodcock Law assists employers as the Key Contact and as Level 1 users.


  • You must check that your workers have the necessary skills, qualifications or professional accreditations to do their jobs
  • You must only assign Certificates of Sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship.
  • You must tell Home Office 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.


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

    • 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 with your employee.


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 Home Office if you are changing your details, like your address or allocated roles.

To register a change of circumstances, use the sponsorship management system (SMS).


Sponsor Licences

A skilled worker sponsor licence grants permission to a UK organisation to lawfully employ non-UK resident workers in skilled roles. The organisation must make an application and if granted, will assume a number of compliance duties in respect of managing the licence and monitoring its sponsored workers.

A Certificate of Sponsorship is a reference number assigned to a foreign national from their UK sponsor, enabling them to make an application for a visa to work in the UK.

Most applications are processed in less than 8 weeks. Home Office may need to visit your business.
You may be able to pay £500 to get a decision within 10 working days. You will be told if you can after you apply

A Sponsor Licence is valid for four years.


The Sponsor Licence application process is one of the most complex areas of Immigration Law. We recommend getting in contact with us on 020 7712 1590 for our expert advice on such an application before any action is taken.

The information contained on this page is sourced from UK Visas and Immigration and is subject to change. While Woodcock Law Limited makes every effort to keep this information current, prices and information cannot be guaranteed and should always be checked on www.gov.uk.


Woodcock Law & Notary Public is the combined trading name of Woodcock Law Limited (Co. No: 12080697) and Woodcock Notary Public Limited (Co. No: 12085976). Woodcock Law Limited is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (registration number 664924). Woodcock Notary Public Limited is regulated through the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury for work undertaken by Mr Nathan Woodcock as a Notary Public. Woodcock Law Limited is a member of Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association. (Membership Number: 7980).

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Woodcock Law and Notary Public specialises in a wide range of visa categories.