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Sponsorship License

The UK Points Based System (PBS) forms a key element of the most comprehensive overhaul of UK immigration in the last 30 years. Tier 2 of PBS is now in force and has replaced the work permit scheme and other employment schemes. Any employer wishing to sponsor a non-EEA national or extend the permission of current non-EEA employees whose presence in the UK is continuing must first obtain a Sponsor Licence.

Once a sponsor licence is in place, the company or appointed representative can issue Certificates of Sponsorship to the employee (or prospective employee) to progress their application for Entry Clearance and a biometric identity card.

How does PBS affect UK Employers?

  • PBS has replaced the current UK work permit and other employment schemes.
  • It directly affects the international transfer of employees to the UK, the local hire of non-EEA individuals in the UK and any applications to extend the immigration approval of current non-EEA employees whose presence in the UK is continuing.
  • Any new immigration employment applications that an employer wishes to sponsor will need to be submitted under Tier 2 of PBS.

Criteria of Tier 2

  • The criteria to be met before an individual will be granted immigration permission under Tier 2 will be very similar to the current UK work permit scheme.
  • Two new criteria are to be introduced – English language ability and a maintenance test.

Process of Tier 2

  1. Any UK employer wishing to sponsor a non-EEA national for employment must first be detailed on the Government Sponsorship Register by having applied for a Sponsorship Licence.
  2. Once a company has obtained its Sponsorship Licence, it will be the company (with the support of its legal representative) that issues the work permit (to be called the "Certificate of Sponsorship") rather than the UK Government. To ensure that Registered Sponsors are issuing its certificates responsibly and correctly, the UK Government will carry out periodic post-issue checks, can conduct an annual audit of employers and has introduced new penalties for non-compliance.
  3. The current two-application process of work permit and visa/residence permit is now one visa/residence permit application process only. This has two impacts.
    • The visa/residence permit application has become fundamental as the only application to be made.
    • The vast majority of applications will be submitted to a British Diplomatic Post overseas and not to the Home Office in the UK. As such, more home country support may be required to ensure that the application is processed correctly and supported by the necessary original documentation.

Risks of non-compliance

Although PBS offers significant benefits in process and flexibility, the liberalisation, which effectively allows employers and their legal representatives to issue their own work permits, is accompanied by new penalties for non-compliance to ensure that the system is not abused.

These include:

  • New criminal penalties
  • New civil penalties
  • New automatic bans from entering the UK
  • Downgrading from "A" to "B" rating and possible removal from the sponsorship register (accompanied with a requirement to dismiss all sponsored employees within 60 days).

Preparing for PBS – Key considerations

When reviewing an application for a sponsorship licence, the UK Government will be checking to ensure that the applicant is an established and trading UK company. Additionally, the UK Government will also be assessing five individual areas of the sponsor’s HR systems to ensure that the company is able to meet its current obligations under UK legislation and future obligations under PBS.


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