As an employer, should I apply for a sponsor licence now?

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Free movement between the UK and the EU came to an end on 31 December 2020, meaning that any EU nationals entering the UK after this date will be subject to the same immigration rules, regulations, and restrictions as non-EU nationals.

Since 1 January 2021, in most cases, employers will need a sponsor licence to employ both EU and non-EU nationals in the UK. The good news is that the Home Office no longer require you to have specific candidates identified at the sponsor licence application stage, thus allowing for speculative applications in anticipation of the need to recruit international employees.

Should you make an application?

The Home Office is clearly encouraging applications even where the employer does not currently have a specific vacancy to be filled by an overseas applicant. However, it is still important for prospective sponsors to consider whether their circumstances align with the sponsorship conditions and to factor this into their application. In particular, applications should ideally cover the following:

  • The ability to offer genuine employment: Employers will need to explain its requirement for a particular role or roles and submit information on its financial status to evidence that it can cover the relevant employment costs. It is likely that smaller businesses will be subject to more onerous evidential requirements. 
  • Details of prospective hires (where applicable): strong applications will include as much detail as possible in this regard, e.g. planned employment dates, job titles, job descriptions and salaries for specific roles to be filled.
  • Meeting all other requirements of the Sponsor Guidance: prospective sponsors need to be familiar with the voluminous Guidance for Sponsors and have personnel and procedures in place to meet the duties and responsibilities contained therein. 

Our view

Employers should assess whether their business would benefit from holding a sponsor licence. If the answer is “yes” we recommend applying sooner rather than later, even if there is not an existing vacancy or immediate need to sponsor.

In doing so, it is still vital for the prospective sponsor to demonstrate to the Home Office that it is in a position to meet all relevant conditions and that it is likely to have genuine vacancies which will meet the criteria for sponsorship.

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