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Sponsor Management Series – Becoming a Tier 2 Sponsor

In the first edition of our Sponsor Management Series we look at how to become a Tier 2 sponsor.


The Tier 2 visa is the most frequently used immigration route into the UK for skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

In order to be eligible to apply for a Tier 2 visa, a migrant worker must demonstrate that they have a confirmed job offer from an employer who is a licensed sponsor in the UK.

Due to the Government’s stated aim to bring non-EEA migration down to the tens of thousands, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is subjecting employers to a stricter application process, higher fees and a more rigorous compliance enforcement regime.

Application process

To become a registered sponsor, you must complete a lengthy online application form, provide supporting documents and a covering letter, all of which must satisfy UKVI’s exacting criteria.

As part of the application, UKVI will assess your suitability to be a sponsor, and will consider:

  • whether you are a genuine, lawful business in the UK;
  • the business’ background and key personnel;
  • whether you are capable of complying with UKVI’s sponsor duties, including examining HR and recruitment practices; and
  • whether you are capable of providing suitable work and remuneration to migrant workers.

Supporting documents

Supporting documents and a covering letter are to be provided within five working days of submitting the online application form. Failure to provide these will invalidate the application.

These documents provide evidence to UKVI that you are a genuine business and commonly relate to you being registered with the tax authorities, any required regulatory body and having suitable insurance in place.

It is not uncommon for UKVI officers to visit your premises following an application for a sponsor licence being made. These visits can be announced or unannounced and can be at any of your offices, branches or client sites.

The purpose of the visit is to verify whether or not you have adequate HR systems in place to meet UKVI’s requirements and to assess whether or not to grant the licence.

Key personnel

As part of the application process, you need to appoint people internally and provide their details to UKVI to manage the sponsorship process and the sponsored migrant workers. The main way in which this is done is through the Sponsor Management System (SMS).

The roles are:

  • Authorising Officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff who use the SMS;
  • Key Contact – your main point of contact with UKVI; and
  • Level 1 user – the member(s) of staff responsible for all day-to-day management of your sponsor licence using the SMS.


A sponsor licence is granted for four years and must be renewed thereafter. There are initial fees to pay as part of the application process which vary depending on the size of the business.

If you have an annual turnover of £10.2 million or less and employ fewer than 50 employees, the fee is currently £536. If you do not satisfy these criteria, the fee is currently £1,476.

Next steps

If UKVI issue you with a sponsor licence, it will be necessary to decide which type of Certificate of Sponsorship is required for the migrant worker you intend to recruit.

It may also be necessary to advertise the role using the Resident Labour Market Test before the migrant worker can go on to apply for their Tier 2 visa.

We will be covering these steps in future editions in our sponsor management series.

How we can help

If you are thinking about becoming a Tier 2 sponsor and want to discuss this further, or if you already hold a sponsor licence and have any questions, please do get in touch with a member of the immigration team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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