Tier 2 Sponsor Licence Application Legal Advice For Businesses

Border Control 2

Recruiting a non EEA national? 

If the answer is ‘yes’ then your UK business may need a sponsor licence to hire a skilled worker under a Tier 2 visa and the worker will need a visa in place before coming to work for you in the UK.

Different rules will apply depending on whether the candidate is currently based in the UK or overseas and on their personal and business circumstances.

Why do I need legal advice?

Before hiring any employees on a Tier 2 visa, a company must have a sponsor licence in place. The application process to obtain a sponsor licence can be complex and a rejected application could result in your business having to pay the fee again and wait 6 months as part of the Home Office “cooling off” period before making a further application. If a company ignores its responsibilities to ensure that all its workers are working in the UK legally, the criminal penalties are extreme, with hefty fines for each illegal worker and even a possible prison sentence if the employer had reasonable cause to believe that the person was employed illegally. This expense, reputational damage and serious criminal penalties are things all businesses could do without.

The Doyle Clayton team has extensive experience of assisting businesses to obtain Tier 2 sponsor licences and of advising individuals on their visa applications. We can provide detailed advice on each step of the process set out below including preparing and certifying the relevant documents. Because of its broad immigration experience, the team can also consider other routes of entry into the UK where appropriate. So we can provide practical advice on the best way to navigate immigration restrictions, either under Tier 2 or alternative routes.

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Overview of Tier 2

Tier 2 is an employer-sponsored route of entry into the UK for skilled workers. There are four types of Tier 2 visa for skilled workers with the most commonly used types being Tier 2 (intra company transfer, or ICT) and Tier 2 (General).

Applying for a sponsor licence

In order for an employer to sponsor any employee on a Tier 2 visa, it must make an application for a sponsor licence to UK Visas and Immigration accompanied by a fee and the relevant supporting documentation. Once in place the employer must use the online Sponsor Management System (SMS) to maintain the licence and it must continually fulfil its obligations in terms of record keeping, appointing key personnel, establishing HR systems and controls and reporting to the Home Office. Doyle Clayton can be appointed as a user on the SMS to ensure that it is managed properly and used correctly.

Once the sponsor licence is in place, the company must use the SMS to issue a certificate of sponsorship for each migrant it intends to sponsor. The allocation process can be complex and if mistakes are made, the company will not be able to hire their desired candidate.

Who can be sponsored?

The company can sponsor employees on a Tier 2 visa who meet a minimum skills level and salary requirement. If the candidate is currently employed by the same company overseas then a Tier 2 (ICT) visa is likely to be appropriate and if not, a Tier 2 (General) would probably be the correct route. Where the business is looking to hire an employee on a Tier (General) visa, the resident labour market test (RLMT) must be satisfied which means that the company must show that the role has been advertised visibly enough in the UK without success to prove the need to recruit from overseas. The RLMT need not be completed where a business is looking to hire an employee on a Tier 2 (ICT) visa or where the candidate in question earns above the high earner level.

Individual visa applications

Once the sponsor licence is in place, the employer has issued a Certificate of Sponsorship from the SMS and the RLMT has been complied with (where appropriate), the employee can apply for his/her individual visa and a visa for his/her dependants if applicable. This process has a number of stages and requires a considerable amount of information to be collated in advance.

This application process can be tricky and prospective employees frequently need advice and guidance to ensure that the process runs smoothly and they are able to come and work in the UK without delay which would no doubt be disruptive to your business.

How long does the visa last for?

Tier 2 visas are issued for up to five years. A Tier 2 (General) visa can be extended for a further year, making six in total and the individual may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) at the end of that period (see below). A Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer (ICT) high earner can extend for a further four years, making 9 years in total. 

Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

Once a Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer (ICT) visa expires, there is no option to apply for ILR (also known as settled status/permanent residence). The migrant must leave the UK for the duration of the “cooling off” period unless he/she can find an alternative means of staying in the country or he/she earns above the high earner threshold. Migrants in the Tier 2 (General) category can apply for ILR once they have been in the UK for 5 years and if they meet a certain salary level.

Upcoming changes

The landscape of Tier 2 visas is currently changing with some new laws coming into effect which will limit the routes of entry into a single visa category (rather than the current four types of Tier 2 visa) and introduce a skills charge payable by employers hiring skilled workers from outside the EEA. The Doyle Clayton team will be able to advise as to how these issues will affect your business or your visa.

Additional services

We can advise on any issue relating to the above and we can also provide advice and guidance on:
a) alternative routes to working in the UK which may be applicable; and
b) employment-related issues that arise in relation to the above (such as employment contracts, start dates and terminations).


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