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Businesses looking to hire talent from overseas need to ensure that they have the correct licences and procedures in place to avoid breaching UK immigration laws. A sponsorship licence is required in order to employ students, skilled workers or temporary workers from overseas. Applying for a sponsorship licence is a complicated process, and businesses need to ensure that the application is perfect when it is submitted; otherwise, they face the costly and time-consuming prospect of having to complete the application again following a rejection.

Businesses also have ongoing obligations once the sponsorship licence is obtained, including duties to keep proper records, monitor employees’ immigration status and report any changes to UK Visas and Immigration (‘UKVI’).

The Lester Aldridge Employment & HR team understand that these processes can be both daunting and time-consuming for UK businesses, and so our aim is to guide you through the process in a pragmatic and cost-effective manner.

How can we help?

Our immigration services include:

  • Applying for and renewing sponsorship licences
  • Upgrading licences, following a downgrading, and action plans
  • Assigning certificates of sponsorship
  • Advising on employer responsibilities once a licence has been granted
  • Advising on potential discrimination issues when recruiting
  • Preparing employment contracts and associated documents for overseas staff, including service occupation agreements, employee loan agreements and immigration cost recovery agreements
  • Conducting Right to Work checks
  • Undertaking Right to Work audits
  • Providing support and advice to help you retain overseas staff

How does sponsorship work / what is the process?

Before applying for a sponsorship licence, businesses must ensure they are eligible to employ overseas workers. When reviewing an application for a sponsorship licence, UKVI will look for evidence that the employer is trustworthy and capable of fulfilling its duties as a sponsor, as well as for evidence of unspent criminal convictions. UKVI may arrange a visit to the business premises to satisfy themselves that the employer is eligible. Lester Aldridge can help with auditing businesses before they apply for a sponsorship licence and can advise on any processes or policies which may be necessary to ensure a successful application.

If a business is eligible for a sponsorship licence, the next step is to determine the type of worker to be sponsored, depending on whether the worker will be employed permanently or temporarily.

Types of permanent workers include:

  • Skilled workers – workers carrying out certain skilled roles
  • Intra-company workers – for multinational businesses who wish to transfer an employee to the UK
  • Sportsperson – elite athletes and coaches to be based in the UK

Temporary roles capable of being sponsored include:

  • Unpaid charity workers – workers at a UK charity for up to 1 year
  • Government Authorised Exchange Worker – for workers undertaking work experience or training in the UK for up to 2 years
  • Seasonal workers – those coming to the UK for specific temporary work, such as farm work

Amongst the other factors businesses must consider before applying for a licence is who in the business will have overall responsibility for the sponsored workers. This is a very important role, and, as such, UKVI will look for assurances within any application that the chosen ‘key contact’ meets certain eligibility requirements.

Once eligibility, the type of licence required, and the key contacts have been established; the business will be in a good position to start its application. UKVI require in-depth information about each business applying in order to assess suitability for a licence, and it is, therefore, very important to ensure as much information as possible is given. For this reason, it is helpful to have an advisor who is familiar with the requirements of UKVI draft or review applications before they are submitted.

Right to Work

To comply with their obligation to prevent illegal working, employers must:

  • Carry out Right to Work checks on all prospective employees before employment starts.
  • Conduct follow-up checks on employees who have time-limited permission to live and work in the UK.
  • Keep records of all the checks carried out.
  • Not employing anyone it knows or has reasonable cause to believe is an illegal worker.

We appreciate that ensuring you have all the necessary paperwork in place for your staff, particularly if you are sponsoring staff from several different countries, is a time-consuming and potentially complex process. We provide a Right to Work audit service, where we review your Right to Work process and documents held in order to assist in your ongoing UKVI compliance.


Lester Aldridge is committed to giving clients as much information as possible regarding potential costs from the outset of each matter.

The cost of the advice and guidance will depend on the type of advice needed. However, to advise on a straightforward sponsorship licence application, we would charge in the region of £1,500 plus VAT. The cost of a Right to Work audit would be in the region of the following:

  • Less than 20 employees: £800 plus VAT
  • Between 20 and 50 employees: £1,000 plus VAT
  • Over 50 employees: £1,200-£1,500 plus VAT

Frequently Asked Questions

No. As of 1 January 2021, UK businesses wishing to employ EU migrant workers need to hold a valid sponsorship licence.

Yes. The licence fee will depend on the size of the business and the type of worker. The fee for a permanent worker at a small or charitable sponsor is £536, whereas it is £1,476 at a large sponsor.

Once you’ve been granted your sponsorship licence, you will need to apply for Certificates of Sponsorship for each worker you’re intending to sponsor via UKVI’s Sponsorship Management System. Each certificate costs £199.

You’ll also need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge for each sponsored worker, which is £364 for small or charitable sponsors and £1,000 for large sponsors for the first twelve months, and then £182 and £500, respectively, for each subsequent six-month period.

The processing time for a sponsorship licence application will vary depending on the complexity of the application, any additional queries UKVI need to raise and the volume of applications being handled by UKVI at that particular time. Typically, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, although there is an expedited service offered by UKVI to a limited number of applicants each day. It is essential to apply well in advance of when you intend to sponsor individuals.

Yes, a minimum salary requirement can vary depending on the job role, whether the occupation is a shortage occupation and the individual’s experience. You must ensure that the offered salary meets or exceeds the relevant minimum threshold set by UKVI.

Your responsibilities include the following:

  • Keeping records of sponsored individuals and reporting any changes or issues to UKVI.
  • Ensuring sponsored workers or students comply with the visa conditions and reporting any breaches to UKVI.
  • Informing UKVI of any changes in your business’s circumstances or activities that may affect the sponsorship.
  • Cooperating with UKVI during compliance visits or audits.

Yes, sponsored students under the Tier 4 visa category are generally allowed to work part-time during their studies. However, there are restrictions on the number of hours they can work per week. Typically, degree-level students can work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during holidays.

Yes, sponsored workers can switch employers.  Before doing so, they need to find a new sponsor with a valid sponsor licence who is prepared to continue to sponsor them, and will then need to apply to UKVI to update their visa. Once the new visa is granted, they can start working for the new employer.

Once granted, sponsorship licences are valid for four years (unless revoked by UKVI before the expiry of that term).

Yes, UKVI has the authority to revoke a sponsorship licence if they find evidence of non-compliance with immigration rules or if you fail to meet your responsibilities as a sponsor. This can lead to serious consequences for both your business and the individuals you have sponsored.

Employment & HR

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Edward O'Brien's practical legal advice and drafting skills allowed us to achieve our ambition of successfully building our migrant workforce.Close quote
Fonthill Care
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I am delighted to provide this testimonial for Lester Aldridge LLP, our trusted employment law firm, regarding their invaluable services and advice on immigration-related matters, specifically in relation to the fees we charge overseas staff for training and development.

Lester Aldridge LLP has been an exceptional partner in navigating the complex landscape of immigration regulations within the care sector. Their in-depth knowledge and expertise in this field have been instrumental in ensuring compliance and providing us with tailored advice to meet our specific needs.

One area where Lester Aldridge LLP has been particularly instrumental is in guiding us through the intricacies of training and development fees for our overseas staff. Their insightful advice and recommendations have helped us establish fair and compliant fee structures, ensuring that our employees receive the necessary training and development opportunities while adhering to legal requirements.

Their team of experts has consistently demonstrated a deep understanding of the care sector's unique challenges, keeping us informed about relevant updates and changes in immigration laws. This proactive approach has enabled us to stay ahead of the curve and make informed decisions regarding our overseas staff's training and development needs.

We have always been impressed by Lester Aldridge LLP's professionalism, attention to detail, and commitment to providing timely and accurate advice. Their responsive and approachable nature has made it easy to engage with them, fostering a strong and trustworthy working relationship.
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Graham Care Group
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We are small company based on the South coast specialising in high performance racing yacht management. Post Brexit we have struggled to recruit from within the UK for the highly skilled technicians we need to maintain the yachts we manage. We there investigated how we could employ foreign nationals to work for us from our UK base (we used to recruit from the Europe which is now not possible). It was almost impossible to find out online how and if you could employ people from outside the UK, so we asked our legal team at LA Marine if they could assist. We then worked with Edward Obrien and team to apply for a UKVI Sponsor Licence Application. Something we had never heard of and that requires detailed knowledge to apply for. Edward guided us through the complex process of documentation to application and we now have the licence that we need to employ the high skilled workers that we need. There is no way we could have done this ourselves and this has been essential to our business.Close quote
5 West Ltd

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