Small businesses and first-time Tier 2 sponsors

If you run a small or medium-sized business, the first time you encounter the “Sponsor Licence” system could well be when you offer a graduate post to an international student, or recent graduate. You come to the scheme out of necessity, having already selected your preferred employee.

The Home Office website has a very basic overview of the system. The process probably looks straightforward… until you investigate a little further and click on the link that says “Guidance…”

This leads you to a list of some 42 documents, ranging from “Sponsorship: code of practice for ballet”, through “Bulk data transfer of CAS: SMS guide 7”, to “Sponsor guidance appendix G: Croatian workers and students”.

Where do you start, and what information is most immediately useful? If you are a small business considering taking on a current Tier 4 migrant, the following might help you to navigate the application process

  1. Any job you offer to a Tier 4 graduate must be a “graduate level” job. This means a job considered to be at a skill level equivalent to level 6 of the National Qualifications Framework (“NQF6”). One of the first things to do is to look in the document called “Sponsorship: codes of practice for skilled workers”  under the “NQF6” heading, and find the job description that most closely matches the job you are offering. The job description and numbered code attached to it are very important because they determine the minimum pay you must provide.
  2. Now is the time to refresh your HR procedures. Even if you are a very small enterprise, you will still need to be able to show that your records can cope with the demands of being a sponsor. The most obvious investment is a suitable diary system, which records employee absences and can deal with important events such as the expiry of a visa. You will also need to keep HR files, which can hold the documents you have to keep as a sponsor such as qualifications, immigration documents, and job advertising.
  3. When you are ready to go ahead with your application, gather all your supporting documents first: after you have applied online you will only have 5 working days to send in your documents. You need to look at the document called “Appendix A”  and work out what documents you need. They must be originals or certified copies. You may need to allow time for them to be provided by your accountant or financial director.
  4. UK Visas & Immigration can issue a sponsor licence without visiting your premises. However, this does not mean they have decided you do not need a visit at all. You can profitably use any time while your licence is being considered in re-reading the Tier 2 Policy Guidance.
  5. Even if everything is in order you are likely to be registered with a “zero balance” of certificates of sponsorship. You will need to log into the “Sponsor Management System” and request a COS, which you must then allocate to your employee.


If you want to know more about registering your small business as a Sponsor, contact me for a free initial conversation.

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