To apply for a sponsor license, your U.K. business must be genuine, capable of carrying out its sponsor duties and offer employment that meets the salary and skill level requirements.
If you set up a new business in the U.K. or already own one, you may be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa through your own U.K. company via self-sponsorship. Your U.K. business will need to obtain a Skilled Worker sponsor licence before you can apply for a Skilled Worker visa.
Applying for a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence
To be granted a Skilled Worker sponsor licence the Home Office will, broadly, want to be satisfied that:
- Your U.K. business is genuine and operating lawfully in the U.K.
- Your U.K. business is capable of carrying out its sponsor duties
- Your U.K. business is offering genuine employment that meets the salary and skill level requirements of the Skilled Worker route.
To satisfy the Home Office that your business is genuine and operating lawfully in the U.K., you will need to provide at least four specified documents as set out in Appendix A of the sponsor guidance.
The exact documents you will need to provide will vary depending on the circumstances of your application. If a business has been trading in the U.K. for less than 18 months and therefore qualifies as a start-up business, a Skilled Worker sponsor licence application will typically need to include the following documents:
- Evidence that the business has a current, corporate bank account with a bank registered by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority in the U.K.
Apart from this, you will need any three of the following documents:
- Proof that the business has registered with HMRC as an employer for PAYE (pay as you earn) and National Insurance; or
- Proof that the business has registered for VAT; or
- Proof that the business has employer’s liability insurance cover for at least £5m from an insurer authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority; or
- Proof of ownership or lease of business premises by the business; or
- Most recent annual accounts of the business.
Opening a U.K. Business Bank Account for a Non-U.K. Resident
It is possible for a non-U.K. resident to open a business bank account in the U.K., but the requirements and procedures may vary depending on the bank and individual circumstances.
To open a U.K. bank account as a non-U.K. resident, you will typically need to provide identification documents such as a passport or national ID card, proof of address (which may be more difficult to obtain as a non-resident), and proof of income or funding source.
Some banks may require you to have a U.K. address or to be a tax resident in the U.K. In addition, some banks may only offer certain types of accounts to non-U.K. residents, such as basic bank accounts.
Some banks may require you to visit a branch in person to open an account, while others may allow you to open an account online.
You should research different banks and their requirements for non-U.K. residents, and contact them directly to find out what documents and information is needed to open a business bank account.
The U.K. Business May Not Need to Be Trading in the U.K.
Your U.K. business will need to be registered with Companies House, have a U.K. business bank account and, in most cases, be registered for PAYE/NI and VAT, but it will not need to be actively trading or have generated any revenue in the U.K.
However, it will often be easier to satisfy the Home Office that your U.K. business is a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the U.K. where, for example:
- You have an existing overseas business that is actively trading and a legitimate business case can be made for establishing a branch of your overseas business in the U.K.;
- You have a detailed business plan for your U.K. business;
- You have sufficient investment funds to operate your U.K. business, particularly any staffing costs;
- You have undertaken some early stage business activities in the U.K. such as setting up a functioning website, telephone number and email address.
Business Is Capable of Carrying Out Its Sponsor Duties
All licensed sponsors must fulfil certain duties. Your duties as a licensed sponsor will include recording duties, record-keeping duties and compliance with U.K. immigration laws.
The Home Office will judge whether your business is capable of carrying out its sponsor duties by looking at your current human resources and recruitment systems and practices. For example, it will want to know whether you have systems in place that allows you to know when a sponsored worker has not turned up for work or to identify when their current permission is coming to an end. They may also conduct a compliance audit, either before they decide your application or after your licence is granted.
Genuine Employment That Meets Salary and Skill Level Requirements
In addition to reviewing documentation about your company in the U.K., the Home Office will want to be satisfied that:
- Your U.K. company will be offering employment which meets the skill level requirement of the Skilled Worker route (normally RQF Level 3 or above);
- Your U.K. company will be offering employment which meets the salary level requirement of the Skilled Worker route (normally at least £26,200 per year, but may be at least £23,580 or £20,960 per year if you, as the worker, score alternative ‘tradable points’);
- The job you are looking to sponsor is genuine;
- There is a direct employer-employee relationship between the sponsoring business and the worker, although the worker can be employed overseas and self-employment is permitted in some circumstances;
- The business is not looking to sponsor a role which will involve hiring a worker to a third party to undertake an ongoing or routine role.
As part of your company’s sponsor licence application, you will therefore additionally need to provide the Home Office with the following:
- An explanation as to why your company is applying for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence, the sector you operate in and your opening/operating hours;
- A current hierarchy chart detailing any owner, director and board members;
- A list of employees, including names and titles (if your business has 50 employees or less);
- Information about the jobs your company wishes to fill and for which it intends to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), including the job title and occupation code, duties, where the job sits on the hierarchy chart, the minimum salary the company would guarantee if the job were vacant today and the skills, experience and qualifications required;
- If the role for which the business intends to assign a CoS has not been advertised but a person has already been identified for the role, details of how the person was identified as the most suitable person for the job and various personal details.
Appointing Key Personnel
Prior to submitting your application for a sponsor licence, you will need to appoint 3 Key Personnel:
An Authorising Officer – to manage the sponsorship licence and be ultimately responsible for the licence, ensuring that your sponsor licence duties are met;
A Key Contact – to act as the main contact between your business and the Home Office;
At least one Level 1 User to carry out day-to-day sponsorship activities using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).
When considering self-sponsorship, the following specific key personnel requirements should be kept in mind:
The Key Personnel roles can be filled by the same person or a combination of different people;
- Each of the key personnel (or the key person, where all roles are filled by the same person) must be based in the U.K. at the date of appointment and throughout the period over which they will fill the role that they have been appointed to;
- The Authorising Officer and initial Level 1 User must be a paid director, employee or office holder (e.g. a company secretary) of the U.K. entity at the date of application;
- The Authorising Officer must have sufficient oversight over the U.K. business to fulfil his or her responsibilities; and
- The Level 1 User must be British or settled in the U.K.
In practice, these requirements mean that in order to apply for a Skilled Worker visa via self-sponsorship you will need to have a trusted person based in the U.K. who is either British or settled here and who you are willing to appoint as a paid director, employee or office holder of your U.K. business.
Please also consider that the Home Office can, and regularly does, conduct unannounced compliance visits to the Authorising Officer’s business premises.
For expert advice and assistance, please contact the Visa Kings Global’s team who will be happy to provide you with the latest information relevant to your requirements.
This is the second of four articles on obtaining a self-sponsored Skilled Worker visa.