International Recruitment – Sponsorships and Visa Applications

Steps to getting a sponsorship licence
  1. Check your business is eligible. To get a licence as an employer, you cannot have unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, including fraud or money laundering. Or had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months.You will need to show that you have systems in place to monitor sponsored employees and people to manage sponsorship in your business. Sponsorship of a skilled worker must only be done by a business.
  2. Check if the job you are offering is suitable for sponsorship. All international recruits must be paid the required salary – a minimum of £20,480 annually or £10.10 per hour (based on a 39 hour week).Adult social care workers are on the shortage occupation list and qualify for Health and Care worker visas. There are no qualifications required for a job in adult social care.
  3. Decide who will manage sponsorship within your business. There are three different roles identified by UKVI, but they can all be fulfilled by the same person. The Sponsorship Management System (SMS) is UKVI’s primary method of communication. 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.
  4. Applying for sponsorship licence – There are many supporting documents that will be required as part of your application, these documents show your suitability to UKVI. What you are required to provide will vary depending on what type of organisation you are.The process usually takes up to 8 weeks, but this sometimes can be longer if the UKVI require more information and supporting documents, you would be contacted accordingly.The requirements for most non-public sector social care providers are set out in the Government Guidance. Getting these documents right at an early stage is vital to help the process run smoothly.Using a solicitor to make sure the process is done correctly the first time, is often an approach that providers choose to take. However, this is not required.
Application process for Sponsorship Licence

When assessing the application, UKVI will want to see evidence that your organisation meets the requirements of a sponsor, hence the importance of supporting documentation. The process can take up to 8 weeks and is outlined below:

  1. Complete the online application form
  2. Pay the fees required
  3. Submit your supporting documentation as instructed at the end of your online application. Sponsor guidance appendix A: supporting documents for sponsor applications (GOV.UK) gives a full list of the documents required.
  4. Case workers will be looking at what the prospective employee will do for the organisation and what it means to your business plan. If there are no requests for further information you will not hear anything until the end of the process.
  5. Once you have obtained your sponsorship licence, you will then gain access to the SMS, which is an online portal that will allow you to manage your license and Certificates of Sponsor (CoS).
  6. When you have your sponsorship licence, you will then need CoS for each person you intend to recruit. The Sponsorship Licence runs for four years, this enables you to recruit within the agreed business plan.
Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

The CoS relates to the workers who are linked to the sponsorship licence. There is one certificate required for each worker. A number are issued when the sponsorship licence is granted. They are then reissued annually in line with the agreed business plan. If additional CoS are required at any point, applications can be made via the SMS. Information about how the additional recruitment supports the business plan and how the new recruits fit into the structure will be required. Not having a CoS impacts the visa application, applicants will use this as supporting documents.

There are two types of CoS:

  1. Defined Certificate of Sponsorship: These are for candidates applying for a Skilled Worker visa from outside the UK. Applications are usually approved in one working day.
  2. Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship: These are for Skilled Workers applying from inside the UK and applicants on all other visas.

Key things to note about certificates of sponsorship:

  • Can take up to 18 weeks for approval
  • Any unused certificates of sponsorship will expire after 3 months
  • Certificate of sponsorship must have a work location, showing the wrong location can result in fines
  • If an employee leaves, their certificate of sponsorship should be cancelled

There is a compliance team that monitor organisations that are employing individuals from outside the UK, they investigate things such as:

-Whether a company checks an individual’s right to work

-Whether a company can show that UK residents can still be employed by your organisation.

-Whether you assign CoS to applicants that meet all the requirements

-Whether you keep a record of immigration and identity documents

-Making sure that workers only work within the conditions of their visa

Requirements on the Employee's Side

Employee’s must have a confirmed job offer from a registered sponsor.

  •  All international recruits must be paid the required salary of minimum £20,480 or £10.10 per hour (based on 39 hour week).
  •  There is a criminality check upon every applicant.
  •  There is an exemption from the immigration health surcharge for applicants and their families, as well as reduced visa fees for their families.

The decision takes three to eight weeks depending on the applicants’ circumstances.

A visa lasts up to five years with the opportunity to extend subject to eligibility. There is then the option to apply for leave to remain.

Sponsorship Responsbilities

CoS are vital for visa applicants from overseas, your organisation must hold a CoS issued by the UKVI. Read the full guidance on sponsor duties from UKVI.

There is a Code of Practice for International Recruitment that applies to the appointment of all international health and social care personnel in the UK, including all permanent, temporary and locum staff. As an employer it is important to familiarise yourself with this, as failing to comply with the Code of Practice can affect your organisation’s reputation. Please see the Code of Practice on GOV.UK.

Employing refugee health and care professionals

A refugee is a person who has had to evacuate their home country because of a natural disaster, war or persecution. In the UK, an individual can be seen as a refugee by the government, if they claim asylum and then can be issued refugee documentation.

It is important to work closely with the local authorities, as this can maximise the potential work opportunities for refugees. Hiring refugees doesn’t always have to go down the same route as an individual who isn’t a refugee, contact places like the Refugee Council and offer work.

In terms of pastoral care, refugees should be able to have easy access to diaspora or local community groups for support as well as the same pastoral care you provide for every employee. Providing systems like buddy schemes can really help refugees integrate, especially if you’ve hired a refugee before, pairing them together can help them feel more comfortable.

Look at these existing schemes for refugees:

Ukrainian Visa Support

Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme

Skilled refugees recruited into health and social care will continue to be recruited through the Health and Care Visa route of the points-based immigration system, where migrants are required to meet a particular level of skills and experience and employers are given sponsorship duties, relate back to the sponsorship responsibilities section.


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