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The UK Scale-up Sponsor Licence allows fast-growing UK businesses to recruit skilled workers from overseas. The UK Home Office issues scale-up sponsor licences to companies demonstrating significant growth, allowing them to sponsor international employees for critical roles. After obtaining this licence, UK businesses become authorised to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to foreign qualified workers to apply for a scale-up visa to work in the UK in their sponsored role. From their side, skilled overseas employees must be working in their job positions at the required skill and salary level for a minimum period of six months.
Tech Nomads prepared this article to explain why you should consider obtaining a scale-up sponsor licence for your business. We also cover UK scale-up sponsor licence requirements, the application process, and compliance.
The UK Scale-up Sponsor Licence offers several advantages for employers, as it helps them in high-growth stages and facilitates the hiring of skilled international workers:
Validity of the scale up sponsor licence
The UK Scale-up Sponsor Licence is valid for four years from the date the Home Office issues the document. Unlike other sponsorship licences, the UK scale-up route does not offer the possibility for renewal after this period. Instead of renewing the scale-up sponsor licence, companies are encouraged to apply for other sponsorship routes, like the Skilled Worker route. That is a suitable option if employers wish to continue sponsoring international talent beyond the four-year mark of the scale-up licence. The scale-up route facilitates temporary rather than long-term sponsorship opportunities for businesses in growth phases.
General Requirements for Scale-up Sponsor Licence:
In applying for a UK sponsor licence, businesses assign roles to staff who'll manage the sponsorship via the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). These roles, known as Key Personnel, include:
Only Level 1 and Level 2 Users can access the SMS directly. If an Authorising Officer or Key Contact needs SMS access, they must also be assigned as a Level 1 or Level 2 User.
Key rules for these roles are:
Employment: They must be directly employed or hold an office within the company. Exceptions allow for some roles to be filled by third-party HR staff or agency workers, but there must be at least one direct employee as a Level 1 User.
Specific Requirements for Scale-up Sponsor Licence:
Qualifying Criteria for Scale-up Businesses:
To become a recognized Scale-up sponsor, businesses can choose between two paths:
To qualify for an endorsing body pathway, the business must follow these guidelines:
For Newer Businesses: If you lack extensive HMRC records, get an endorsement from an approved body.
Meet Three of the Additional Criteria:
To apply for a Scale-up sponsor licence, follow these steps:
After submitting your application, UKVI may conduct a pre-licence visit to ensure you can fulfil your sponsor duties. Typically, applications are reviewed within 8 weeks, but you can opt for a faster decision within 10 working days by paying an additional £500.
If a business already has a valid sponsor licence for a different category, it can apply to include the Scale-up route in its existing licence. This addition can be made using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS). However, the business must fulfil all the specific requirements set for the Scale-up sponsor licence to successfully add this route.
The scale-up sponsor licence holders have responsibilities and duties, divided into several areas:
Adhering to Immigration and Other UK Laws:
Public Good Conduct:
Understand the Duration of Duties:
Stay Informed About Reporting Duties:
Be Diligent in Record Keeping:
Comply with Immigration Rules and UK Law:
Prepare for Compliance Visits:
Understand Non-Compliance Consequences:
For scale-up sponsors, their responsibilities for each worker last for six months from the start date on the worker’s visa. This includes reporting any significant changes in the worker's role or the organisation. After six months, the sponsor's responsibility ends, but the worker can continue to work for them or change jobs without needing a new visa application, as long as they meet the route requirements.
Yes. In fact, a business can lose a scale-up sponsor licence very easily due to failing to follow duties and compliance.
The Home Office holds the authority to take significant actions if a business fails to comply with its sponsorship responsibilities. These actions can include downgrading the licence's rating, suspending or revoking the licence, or even referring the business to the police or relevant authorities. This step is considered if the Home Office believes the business is not meeting its sponsorship duties adequately.
A Scale-up sponsor licence application may be rejected for several reasons:
If the application doesn't encounter these issues, automated assessments will then verify if the business meets the necessary criteria for growth in employment or turnover. Success in this assessment depends on the business having complete, accurate, and up-to-date HMRC records. Any gaps in these records could result in the failure of the Scale-up assessment.
Seeking assistance in your UK scale-up sponsor licence application?
Tech Nomads is ready to assist you in sponsor licence application and further renewal processes.
To explore your options of hiring foreign employees, you may:
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