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How To: I think we’ve got a Sponsor Licence, but we haven’t used it in years and I can’t find the login details….

Sponsor Licence, Steps to use

10 second summary:

"Before you can sponsor a migrant worker, you need to make sure you’ve got an up to date Sponsor Licence. In this article we answer 5 simple questions to determine whether you’re ready to go ahead with a skilled worker application"

The Sponsor Licencing system was first introduced in 2008 and since then, tens of thousands of UK employers have applied for and been granted a Sponsor Licence. Thousands of these companies no longer hold a Sponsor Licence, either because they let it expire (a licence needs to be renewed every 4 years), they surrendered it, or it was revoked by the Home Office. As of writing, 34,349 UK employers currently hold a Sponsor Licence.

A few large employers use their Sponsor Licence to sponsor tens, hundreds or even thousands of migrant workers a year, but the vast majority of licence holding organisations might only sponsor one or two people every year. This infrequent use, combined with the natural coming and going of HR and management staff often leads to situations where a company thinks it has a licence, but isn’t sure, and doesn’t really know how to use it. Successfully sponsoring a migrant worker requires an in-depth understanding of how the sponsorship system works, and if no-one in your organisation has needed that knowledge in the last year or two, it’s hardly surprising that it ends up dropping down the priority list!

We get asked these questions so much that we’ve compiled the most relevant queries and solutions here for your reference. If you can get through these questions, answering yes to each one, you’re good to go ahead with sponsoring a migrant worker!

This is easy to check – you can just review the official register of sponsors. If your organisation has changed its name in the last few years, you might also want to search the register for the previous name(s). if you’re unsure whether your organisation has changed its name, you can check this on Companies House.

If you’re on the register of sponsors, great – you have a Sponsor Licence. If not, the first step will be to apply for a Sponsor Licence.

Whilst you’re looking at the register of sponsors, you should also check the ‘Type & Rating’ and ‘Route’ columns. A Sponsor Licence can cover one or more of the following 10 ‘routes’, organised into 2 ‘types’:

  • Worker
    • Skilled Worker
    • Intra-company visas
    • Minister of Religion
    • Sportsperson

  • Temporary Worker
    • Creative or Sporting Worker
    • Charity Worker
    • Religious Worker
    • Government Authorised Exchange Worker
    • International Agreement Worker
    • Seasonal Worker

If the route you want to use (‘Skilled Worker’ and ‘Intra-company visas’ are the most common) is not shown on the register, you’ll need to apply to add the route to your Sponsor Licence.  

You should also check that your Sponsor Licence is listed as having an A-rating. A B-rating is only temporary and will prevent you from sponsoring new migrant workers until the licence is restored to an A-raring. In all likelihood, if your licence is B-rated, you would probably know about it, but it’s still worth checking.

To sponsor a migrant worker, you need to access the Sponsor Management System (SMS) – an online portal on the Home Office website. When an application for a Sponsor Licence is granted, the Home Office sends login credentials to the appointed Level 1 User – this is a nominated member of staff within the employer. These credentials consist of:

  • A User ID – this does not change
  • A password – this must be changed at first login and can also be changed by the user at a later date.

N.B. Crucially, credentials belong to the person they were issued to, and the Home Office explicitly prohibits the sharing of passwords, which can lead to your licence being revoked.

If you know that you were appointed as a Level 1 User but can’t remember your credentials, try searching your emails for ‘Level 1 User ID’. This should find you the User ID – you can then reset the password via the login page linked to above. If you can’t find your User ID, you could ask someone else who has access to locate it in the SMS, or if there is no-one else who has access, you can contact the Home Office directly (0300 123 4699) – they should be able to send it to you.

If you don’t think you have ever been given access, you should ask someone who does have access (this could be another member of staff or a legal representative) to request that you are appointed as a Level 1 User. If you can’t find anyone who has access, you will need to complete and submit a paper form. Either way, this process can take up to 18 weeks, but can be expedited to 1 week by paying an extra £200 to the Home Office.

If you haven’t used your Sponsor Licence in some time, you should check that all the information contained within the SMS relating to your organisation is accurate and up to date. At the very least, you should ensure the following are correct:

  • The name of the organisation
  • The main office address
  • The size of the company, e.g. whether it is a large or small sponsor
  • That the Authorising Officer listed on the SMS still works for the organisation (and is happy to remain the Authorising Officer!)
  • That the Key Contact listed on the SMS is either a current member of staff within your organisation or an immigration provider that you are still working with

You can update most of this information directly within the Sponsor Management System. If any further action is required – for example sending in a declaration or supporting evidence – the SMS will tell you what to do.

You’ll only need to check this if you need an Undefined CoS for the person you want to sponsor. If you need a Defined CoS instead, you can go ahead and apply directly via the SMS. Unsure on what type of CoS you need? See our explanation of the different types of CoS.

Your annual allocation of Undefined CoS will be listed on the ‘Licence Summary’ page of the SMS. If it’s zero or blank (as it will often be if you haven’t used your licence recently), you’ll need to request a new allocation via the SMS. The consideration of this request can take up to 18 weeks but can be expedited to 1 week by paying an extra £200 to the Home Office.

If you’ve answered all of the questions above ‘yes’, your Sponsor Licence is in great condition and you’re ready to use it to sponsor a skilled worker. The next step is to assign an Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship or apply directly for a Defined Certificate of Sponsorship. Either way, before you move forwards, you’ll need to have verified that the job you want to fill and the migrant worker you want to hire meet the Home Office requirements. Find out more about the whole process with our quick guide to sponsorship.

If you’ve hit a problem with any of the above steps or would like support with the whole process, please get in touch. As part of our service, we can either walk you through the steps in person or over the phone or get access to your Sponsor Management System and take the necessary actions on your behalf.

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