When does an employer need a sponsor licence?

An employer needs a sponsor licence if it intends to employ a foreign national who requires a UK visa, under certain immigration routes.

From 1 January 2021, a new immigration system applies equally to European Economic Area (EEA) nationals (except Irish nationals) and other non-UK nationals. Prior to 1 January 2021, employers needed a sponsor licence to employ foreign nationals from countries outside the EEA under tier 2, or the skilled worker route, and certain other routes of the immigration system. Employers that do not currently have a sponsor licence will need to apply for one if they wish to recruit any non-UK nationals, including those from inside the EEA, under the skilled worker route (and certain other routes) from 1 January 2021.

An employer will not need a sponsor licence to employ an EEA national who has settled or pre-settled status, or to employ an Irish national.

When an employer has a sponsor licence it can issue certificates of sponsorship to individual foreign nationals. The individual then uses the certificate to apply for a visa. Employers can sponsor an employee only if the role meets the minimum requirements relating to skills and salary.