Sponsor licence applications increase following Brexit



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Sanwar Ali: Additional comments and reporting

Following the UK’s exit from the European Union and the end of the transitional period, there has been an increase in demand among British employers for sponsor licences, which allow organisations to hire employees on Skilled Worker visas, intra-company transfer visas and temporary visas. The end of free movement means that newly arriving EU citizens can no longer work freely in the UK.


Due to increased demand for a sponsor licence from UK employers it is now much more difficult to come under the ten working day priority service.  There are only ten priority service applications accepted each day on a first come first served basis.  Demand currently greatly exceeds the number of places available.


In order to recruit EU workers, UK companies now require a sponsor licence, resulting in a surge of applications as companies seek continued access to the "brightest and best" talent around the world. 

Since 1 December 2020, it has seemingly become easier for British businesses to employ overseas workers. The Resident Labour Market Test has been scrapped, while the minimum salary threshold for skilled workers has been reduced from £30,000 to £25,600 per annum.  In reality, there are a number of situations where the salary can actually be lower than £25,600 per annum.


Overseas business owners can more easily qualify for a Skilled Worker visa

Meanwhile, business owners can also qualify for a sponsor licence more easily because there is no longer any restriction on share ownership under the Skilled Worker visa scheme.  Entrepreneurs can set up a business in the UK and then sponsor themselves in the UK as long as the business is already trading in the UK.  There should already be someone in the UK to manage the business (could be part-time).

Recently, following the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget announcement on 3 March, immigration rules for sponsor licence holders will change from 6 April 2021.

Under the rule changes, sponsor licence holders must pay sponsored workers a minimum of £10.10 per hour, while ensuring that the salary is at or above the Skilled Worker visa minimum salary threshold amount of £25,600 or £20,480. The actual salary that needs to be paid will also depend on the points score, which takes into account whether the applicant is a new entrant, has an occupation on the shortage occupation list, etc.

Employers must now also check that the salary is at or above at least £10.10 per hour. This check is still required even if the going rate for the occupation code is less than £10.10 per hour and the person is contracted to work long hours to ensure that their annual salary is above the general salary of £25,600 (please also see points score) or £20,480 for new entrants.

If a sponsor licence holder wants to reduce an employee’s salary, they must still meet the same minimum salary threshold that was applicable to the last application made. 

For example, if the minimum salary threshold was £30,000 per annum at the time of the last application, even if the sponsored worker could be eligible for a different tradeable points option with a lower salary threshold, the salary cannot be lowered below the same £30,000 salary amount – otherwise a fresh application will need to be made.


Shortage Occupation List extended 

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) has been extended to include more health-related job roles. Currently chefs can qualify both under the shortage occupation list on the SOL, and also qualify for sponsorship in a skilled role under the usual occupation list. However, from 6 April 2021 chefs will be removed from the shortage occupation list. This may not make a big difference. Since 1 December 2020 there is no need to advertise the vacancy to show a shortage under the Resident Labour Market Test, even if the occupation is not on the shortage occupation list.  The UK visa fee is lower for shortage occupation list visa applicants.

The SOL was extended based on recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee in September. However, the decision was only taken recently to add some of the roles to the SOL.


Different types of sponsor licence

There are different types of licence available to employers, which are the skilled worker licence or intra-company transfer licence – reserved for businesses looking to recruit foreign workers on a long-term basis – and the temporary/short-term worker licence – reserved for companies looking to hire staff on a short-term basis.


Sponsor licences can be used to hire people with the following visas:


Temporary/short-term worker licences can be used to recruit those with a:


Workpermit.com can help with Sponsor Licences

If you need help with employing Skilled Workers and help to apply for a Sponsor Licence, including complying with your Sponsor Licence obligations, workpermit.com can help.

For more information and advice on Sponsor licences, please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at london@workpermit.com