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Please note that as of 1 December 2020, the Tier 2 sponsor licence system has been replaced by the Skilled Worker sponsor licence route. There are lots of important changes which have taken effect (mostly helpful ones!). If you are looking to sponsor then head over to our Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence section.
Most non-EU skilled workers will come to the UK under Tier 2 sponsorship. If you are looking to sponsor a non-EU worker then the chances are that you will require a Tier 2 sponsor licence.
There are four sub-categories of Tier 2 sponsor licence: General, Minister of Religion, Sportsperson, and Intra-Company Transfer. You will need to apply for the appropriate licence in the relevant sub-category. Here I will explain in more detail two of these specific sponsor licences: Tier 2 General and Tier 2 Minister of Religion.
Tier 2 General sponsor licence
What the Home Office call a ‘Tier 2 (General)’ licence will allow you to sponsor and employ skilled workers from outside of the EU. Tier 2 General is by far the most widely used type of sponsor licence.
Normally, under Tier 2 you can only sponsor roles which are recognised as being at approximately degree level (technically jobs which are at RQF Level 6 or higher– if you want to check which jobs are at RQF Level 6 or above then you need to look at Table 2, here).
However, there is an exception to this if the job is on the Shortage Occupation List. For example, although ‘skilled chefs’ are below RQF Level 6, restaurants can still sponsor chefs under a Tier 2 sponsor licence. If you want to know more about the particular requirements for sponsoring a skilled chef, my blog here goes into detail.
You will need to pay your sponsored migrant a minimum salary. There are general minimum salary levels as well as minimum salary levels specific to each job type. For example, to hire an ‘experienced worker’ there is a general minimum salary level of £30,000. However, if you were to employ a Business Development Manager then there is a separate minimum salary level specifically for Business Development Managers, of £34,800. As this is higher than the general minimum salary level, you will have to pay your Business Development Manager at least £34,800.
Note that if you want to sponsor an international student on a Tier 4 visa then they are classed as a ‘new entrant’. This brings certain benefits. A new entrant has a considerably lower minimum salary rate you need to pay them. To use the Business Development Manager example again, as a new entrant the minimum you must pay to sponsor in this position is £26,500.
If you are recruiting your sponsored employee from overseas, then unless that person is a ‘high earner’, then you will need to first undertake something called a Resident Labour Market Test, in order to show that no suitable ‘settled worker’ can do the job. The Resident Labour Market Test must be carried out in a highly prescriptive manner and you must retain certain documents to evidence the test.
You will need to apply for a certificate of sponsorship, which you will then assign to the migrant, allowing him or her to apply for a Tier 2 visa. If applying from abroad then you will normally need a restricted certificate of sponsorship. If applying from within the UK, then you will normally need an unrestricted certificate of sponsorship.
See below for how to apply for your Tier 2 sponsor licence.
Tier 2 Minister of Religion sponsor licence
There are special rules for religious organisations that want to sponsor a non-EU national. For short-term sponsorship you might be able to sponsor under a Tier 5 (Religious Workers) sponsor licence. Note, however, that in 2019 the rules were changed to prevent sponsorship of a minister of religion type-position under Tier 5.
If you want to sponsor a pastor or minister of religion, then you will need to do so under a specific licence called Tier 2 Minister of Religion. This category leads to settlement for the migrant. You can read more about this and other matters around immigration law for religious organisations here.
As with Tier 2 General, before you can sponsor under Tier 2 Minister of Religion you will need to run a Resident Labour Market Test, to show no suitable settled worker can fill the role. You will then need to apply for a certificate of sponsorship from the Home Office, which you can then assign to the migrant. Only then can the migrant apply for his or her Tier 2 visa.
How to apply for your Tier 2 sponsor licence
You do not necessarily need have to have identified a specific individual to sponsor (and to have run a resident labour market test if appropriate). However, in my experience your application is far more likely to be approved if you have identified an individual to sponsor and have done the resident labour market test where necessary.
The documents and information required to support your application are contained in a Home Office document called Appendix A. Be careful to provide all the requested information as well as the mandatory documents, otherwise the Home Office will reject or refuse your application.
If your application is refused then there is a minimum 6-month ‘cooling-off period’, during which you cannot reapply.
If you want to apply for a licence then you must ensure you are familiar with your sponsor duties. This is set out primarily in a detailed Home Office guidance document called Tiers 2 and 5: Guidance for Sponsors.
There is a good chance that you will be inspected by the Home Office to check you can comply with your sponsor licence duties. My advice would be to ensure you are complying with your duties, and that you have proper HR systems in place to do so, before you apply for your licence. This is because the Home Office will often inspect you before they grant you a licence.
There is further information around dealing with inspections and the compliance aspects of running a sponsor licence, including what to do if you get on the wrong side of the Home Office, here.
At Truth Legal we have Immigration solicitor Louis MacWilliam who heads up our Immigration Team. With over 11 years’ experience as a dedicated Immigration specialist, Louis is one of the few genuine immigration experts in the area.
Do you need help with applying for a Tier 2 sponsor licence or dealing with Tier 2 sponsorship matters? Book a consultation with us today.