Applying for UK Sponsor Licence as a Franchise

Table of Contents


  1. Overview of Tech Franchises in the UK
  2. Importance of Sponsor Licences for UK Tech Franchises

Understanding the UK Sponsor Licence

  1. Purpose and Benefits of the Sponsor Licence
  2. Types of Sponsor Licences: Workers and Temporary Workers
  3. Determining the Right Licence for Your Franchise

The Application Process for a UK Sponsor Licence

  1. Step-by-Step Guide to Applying
  2. Required Documents for Sponsor Licence Application

Key Personnel and Their Roles

  1. Designating Key Personnel within Your Franchise
  2. Understanding the Roles: Authorising Officer, Key Contact, Level 1 User, and Level 2 User
  3. Access and Permissions for Key Personnel

Maintaining Compliance and Licence Standards

  1. Compliance Requirements for Sponsor Licence Holders
  2. Home Office Compliance Checks and Inspections
  3. Dealing with Additional Scrutiny and Verification Processes

Financial Considerations and Costs

  1. Overview of Costs Involved in Sponsoring a Foreign Worker
  2. Breakdown of Fees: Sponsor Licence Fee, Certificate of Sponsorship Fee, and Immigration Skills Charge
  3. Financial Planning for Sponsorship Costs

Record Keeping and Reporting Obligations

  1. Essential Records to Maintain for Compliance
  2. Reporting Changes Through the Sponsor Management System (SMS)
  3. Importance of Right-to-Work Checks

Preparing for Home Office Reviews and Compliance Visits

  1. What to Expect During Home Office Reviews
  2. Submission Sheet Requirements and Post-Submission Review Process
  3. Streamlined Renewal Process for Compliant Franchises

Leveraging Support: How Tech Nomads Can Help

  1. Services and Support Offered by Tech Nomads for Sponsor Licence Applications
  2. Benefits of Partnering with Tech Nomads for Compliance and Application Management


  1. Summary of Key Points
  2. Encouragement to Pursue Sponsor Licence for Growth and Innovation

As a tech franchise in the UK, your expansion strategy may include the integration of specialist workers from across the globe. To facilitate the employment of international expertise, the Home Office mandates that UK-based tech companies secure a sponsor licence. This certification empowers the sponsoring of applicants for skilled worker visas under the Tier 2 and Tier 5 categories. Upon acquiring the sponsor licence, tech franchises can enlist the required global talent and enhance their operations.

This guide equips tech franchises and their management with the necessary resources and guidance to successfully acquire a sponsor licence in the UK.

Before delving into the qualifications and prerequisites for obtaining a sponsor licence for tech franchises in the UK, it's crucial to clarify what defines a tech franchise in this scenario and comprehend why such entities might necessitate a sponsor licence.

What is considered a franchise in the UK?

In the UK, a tech franchise is a special opportunity for entrepreneurs to dive into the digital world with the support of an established brand. Imagine starting your own business but with access to a treasure trove of technology, expertise, and a proven business model right from day one. This is what tech franchising offers.

Tech franchises span a wide array of services, from cybersecurity to web development, digital marketing to IT support. This sector thrives on the ever-increasing reliance on technology in all aspects of business, making it ripe with opportunities for those passionate about tech and innovation. The beauty of it? You're not going it alone. You have the backing of a brand that's already navigated the ups and downs and can guide you to success.

This model has proven its worth, creating jobs and driving growth in the UK's economy. FOr instance, as of 2023, franchises are significant contributors to the UK economy, employing over 710,000 people across more than 48,000 franchise units. It offers a safer route to business ownership for tech enthusiasts, blending the independence of running your own show with the support of a network that's as passionate about technology as you are.

Moreover, expanding your tech franchise in the UK isn't just about leveraging local talent. An effective growth strategy includes tapping into the global talent pool through obtaining a sponsor licence. This legal permission enables you to hire foreign talents who bring diverse skills and innovative perspectives essential for staying ahead in the fast-paced tech industry. By sponsoring skilled workers from overseas, you can fill niche roles within your franchise, ensuring that you have the best minds working on your technology solutions.

Why should UK franchises be interested in Sponsor Licence?

In the post-Brexit landscape, compounded by the pandemic's impact, franchises in the UK are encountering an acute shortage of local talent, a situation not seen since the 1990s. This scarcity necessitates an innovative approach to recruitment, highlighting the importance of obtaining a sponsor licence for franchises. Such a licence empowers franchises to tap into the global talent pool, allowing them to recruit skilled international workers to fill key roles. This strategy not only addresses the immediate shortfall in domestic talent but also brings in a wealth of diverse perspectives and skills essential for driving innovation and ensuring the franchise's growth and adaptability in a competitive market. This approach provides franchises with a strategic edge, enabling them to meet both their current and long-term talent requirements effectively.

What type of Sponsor Licence would work best for UK franchises

The sponsor licence system offers two main categories for addressing staffing needs: ‘Workers’ for skilled, long-term roles and ‘Temporary workers’ for specific, short-term positions. Most franchises will find the ‘Worker’ licence category particularly aligned with their needs for sustained growth and operational stability.

The ‘Worker’ licence encompasses various subdivisions that cater to different skilled roles crucial for a franchise's development:

  • Skilled Worker: This subdivision is tailored for positions that fulfil the job requirements as defined by UK authorities, making it ideal for franchises looking to secure specialised talent for long-term commitments.
  • Senior or Specialist Worker Visa (Global Business Mobility): Designed for key employees within multinational corporations transitioning to the UK branch, this visa is a perfect match for franchises under a global umbrella or those with international operations looking to leverage existing talent in their expansion strategies.
  • Expansion worker visa

While other subdivisions under the 'Worker' licence exist, these two are particularly pertinent for growing franchises that require a robust blend of skills and expertise to thrive.

Opting for the ‘Worker’ licence opens up a vast reservoir of global talent, providing franchisees with the flexibility to fill essential roles from an international pool of candidates. This approach not only addresses the immediate need for skilled labour but also supports the franchise's long-term strategic objectives, including rapid scaling and diversifying the workforce.

In contrast, the ‘Temporary Worker’ licence, though valuable for short-term needs, might not align with the overarching growth trajectories and long-term aspirations of a franchise, emphasising the strategic importance of the ‘Worker’ licence for sustained development and success.

Documents for applying to UK Sponsor Licence as a franchise

When applying for a Sponsor Licence in the UK, franchises need to provide a specific set of documents to support their application.

For franchises specifically, one of the essential documents required is the franchise agreement, which must be signed by both parties involved. This agreement is crucial as it demonstrates the legitimacy of the franchise operation to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) authorities.

In addition to the franchise agreement, all applicants must supply various forms of evidence to show they meet the eligibility criteria. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Legal Establishment in the UK: Your franchise must be officially established and registered with Companies House in the UK. There's no required minimum operation period before you apply, but you should employ at least one UK resident who will act as the point of contact with the Home Office regarding sponsorship matters.
  • UK-Based Operations: It's crucial that the primary operations of your franchise are conducted within the UK. The Home Office will not consider applications from franchises whose main activities are based outside the UK. However, franchises that operate remotely or through virtual offices are eligible, as long as they can prove their operations are grounded in the UK and they can fulfil sponsorship obligations.
  • Effective Human Resources Management: Possessing a robust human resources management system is vital. This system should be capable of managing your responsibilities as a sponsor, including readiness for Home Office inspections before and after the licence is granted to ensure compliance with sponsorship regulations.
  • Reliable Management and Staff: Key individuals within your franchise, including owners, directors, and employees, must have a clean legal record, especially free from immigration or criminal violations such as fraud or money laundering. This requirement is to assure the Home Office of your franchise's reliability in managing sponsorship duties effectively.

It's also important to note that any documents not in English or Welsh need to be accompanied by a certified translation. The translation must state it is a true and accurate representation of the original document, include the translation date, and provide the full name and contact details of the translator or the translation company.

For the application to be considered valid, all required documents must be submitted within five working days of the online application submission. Missing or incorrect mandatory documents can lead to the application being rejected, but the application fee will be refunded in such cases.

These guidelines ensure that the UKVI can adequately assess the legitimacy and capability of the franchise to meet its sponsorship duties.

Personnel Requirements

When applying for a Sponsor Licence in the UK as a franchise, it's essential to designate specific roles within your organisation to manage and oversee sponsorship duties effectively. These roles, referred to as 'Key Personnel', are crucial for ensuring compliance with sponsorship responsibilities.

Understanding Key Personnel Roles

There are four primary roles you'll need to appoint:

  • Authorising Officer: A senior individual responsible for the recruitment of migrants and ensuring the franchise adheres to all sponsorship obligations.
  • Key Contact: Acts as the primary liaison with the authorities regarding your sponsorship licence.
  • Level 1 User: Manages everyday operations within the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).
  • Level 2 User: Although having fewer permissions than Level 1 Users, they can perform significant tasks within the SMS.

Access to the SMS is exclusive to Level 1 and Level 2 Users. Should the Authorising Officer or Key Contact require SMS access, they must be designated as either a Level 1 or Level 2 User.

Typically, Key Personnel should be your franchise's employees or directors. Exceptions include employing a third-party organisation's employee for HR functions or appointing a UK-based representative.

Location and Background Check Requirements

Key Personnel should predominantly reside in the UK and have a clean legal record, notably free from serious criminal convictions. There are specific conditions for overseas Authorising Officers, particularly relevant if applying under routes like the UK Expansion Worker.

Certain individuals are ineligible for Key Personnel roles, including non-UK-based representatives, specific project contractors, or individuals under legal constraints like bankruptcy.

Application and Ongoing Responsibilities

Your licence application must specify your Authorising Officer, Key Contact, and at least one Level 1 User. Additional Level 1 and Level 2 Users can be appointed subsequently.

It's crucial to maintain current contact information for your Key Personnel and ensure their compliance with all requirements. Any changes in these roles must be promptly reported.

The authorities will perform background checks on your Key Personnel, focusing on criminal records or immigration offences, especially during the application process or when updates to these roles occur.

By adhering to these guidelines, your franchise will be better positioned to manage its sponsorship duties and maintain compliance with UK immigration laws.

Application Process

The process for franchises in the UK to apply for a Sponsor Licence involves several key steps, tailored to ensure that they can legally sponsor foreign workers. This streamlined approach ensures franchises can meet their recruitment needs effectively, especially when local talent is scarce or specific skills are needed. Here's an overview:

  1. Evaluate Hiring Needs: Franchises should first assess whether their recruitment needs can be fulfilled locally or if they need to look abroad, considering the UK's skills shortages in certain areas. It's important to remember that Irish citizens, EU nationals with settled or pre-settled status, and others with the right to work in the UK don't require sponsorship.
  2. Check Job Eligibility: Ensure that the positions you're looking to fill qualify under the Skilled Worker visa requirements, including being listed on the government's job classification list and meeting the salary and skill level criteria. Assistance from professionals in immigration law can be valuable in this step to ensure compliance.
  3. Prepare Your Systems and Appoint Key Personnel: Franchises must review and potentially update their HR practices to align with Home Office standards, crucial for managing sponsored workers. This includes appointing key personnel responsible for handling sponsorship duties.
  4. Complete the Online Application: The application is submitted online, accompanied by the necessary fee and documentation specific to the franchise's operations.
  5. Post-Approval Steps: Upon approval, the licence is valid for four years, allowing the franchise to issue certificates of sponsorship to foreign employees, who must then secure their Skilled Worker visas.

After the online submission, supporting documents should be provided within five days to ensure the application proceeds without delays. This comprehensive approach aids franchises in navigating the sponsorship process smoothly, ensuring they have access to the global talent pool needed to drive their growth and success in the competitive UK market.

How to confirm job authenticity

Franchises in the UK looking to obtain a sponsor licence for hiring international specialists must demonstrate the authenticity of the job offers they extend. This involves providing detailed information to validate the legitimacy of the roles for which they seek to sponsor foreign workers:

  1. Relevance to Occupation Demand: The role offered should fall within an occupation that is recognized as being in high demand in the UK, potentially featuring on the government's official shortage occupation list. This indicates the essential nature of the role to the UK labor market.
  2. Alignment with Franchise Needs: The qualifications and skills of the international worker should closely match the specific requirements of the franchise. It’s crucial to show that there is a genuine need within the franchise for this specialist, highlighting how the role is integral to the franchise's operations and growth. The candidate must fulfill the role's specific skill and qualification requirements.
  3. Candidate's Suitability for the Role: For franchises that have already identified a potential candidate, it's important to illustrate how the candidate’s background, including their work experience and educational qualifications, aligns with the demands of the job.

Franchises must maintain these standards not only during the sponsor licence application process but throughout the validity period of the licence. Home Office compliance officers may conduct inspections after the licence has been issued to ensure ongoing adherence to these guidelines. Deviations or actions that compromise immigration control could result in the revocation of the licence.

In certain scenarios, applicants for the UK Skilled Worker visa may undergo additional scrutiny to further authenticate the job offer. This may include requests for more evidence or a face-to-face interview focusing on:

  • The applicant's education and work history are relevant to the job offer.
  • The applicant's knowledge about the franchise making the job offer.
  • The details of the proposed employment terms in the UK.

While such extensive verification steps are not routine for every application, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) exercises particular vigilance in sectors it considers high-risk, though it does not specify which sectors are categorised as such in the Home Office caseworker guidelines. This heightened scrutiny underscores the importance of thorough preparation and compliance for franchises during the sponsor licence application process.

Costs involved in sponsoring a foreign worker

For franchises planning to recruit internationally through the UK's Sponsor Licence system, there are several costs to consider:

  • Sponsor Licence Fee: This initial fee is crucial for franchises looking to hire from abroad. The cost varies based on the size of the franchise, with small businesses or charities required to pay £536, whereas medium or large franchises face a fee of £1,476.
  • Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) Fee: To sponsor each international worker, a franchise must obtain a CoS, which is essentially a digital document that details the job offer and the prospective employee's information. For each CoS issued, a fee of £199 is applicable.
  • Immigration Skills Charge (ISC): This charge is designed to encourage the training of the domestic workforce. The cost depends on the size of the franchise and the duration of employment. Small companies and charities are levied £364 for the first year of employment and £182 for each additional six-month period thereafter. Conversely, medium and large franchises are charged £1,000 for the first year and £500 for every six-month period following.

These fees are an integral part of the financial planning for franchises considering the sponsorship route to fill roles with international talent, reflecting the UK government's efforts to balance the needs of businesses with the development of the local workforce.

Sponsor Licence Duties and Maintenance

After being granted a sponsor licence, franchises have a series of important duties to uphold as mandated by the Home Office. These responsibilities are essential to ensure that their international employees comply with their visa conditions, including working in the job they were sponsored for and reporting any significant changes in their situation. Franchises must be prepared for regular scrutiny from the Home Office, which includes aspects such as:

Record Keeping and Reporting

Franchises are obligated to maintain and regularly update comprehensive records of their sponsored employees. This encompasses details such as contact information, residential addresses, passport and visa copies, records of any absences, biometric residence permits (BRPs), employment agreements, and National Insurance numbers.

It's also vital for franchises to report specific changes through the Sponsor Management System (SMS) to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). These changes could pertain to the franchise itself, like changes in business ownership, or relate to the sponsorship, including situations where a sponsored employee ceases their employment.

Right-to-Work Checks

Performing right-to-work checks to verify the legality of all employees to work in the UK is mandatory. Franchises must retain copies of relevant documentation, such as passports and visas, ensuring they are valid and up-to-date.

Compliance Visits and Licence Maintenance

The Home Office performs compliance checks, which may be announced or unannounced, to ensure franchises are meeting their sponsor duties. These checks are crucial for verifying compliance with immigration rules and the proper maintenance of records.

Continuous Monitoring

The Home Office also conducts ongoing monitoring to ensure ongoing compliance with the sponsorship obligations. This involves audits that assess whether franchises are adhering to regulations and identify any areas where improvement or additional guidance may be necessary to uphold compliance standards.

By adhering to these responsibilities, franchises demonstrate their commitment to compliance with UK immigration laws, ensuring the integrity of their operations and the legality of their international workforce.

Renewal Application Essentials for Franchises

  • Renewal Via SMS: Franchises must submit their renewal applications through the Sponsor Management System (SMS). The applicable fee, contingent upon the franchise's size, must be paid at this stage.
  • Accuracy Check: Ensuring that all data on the SMS is current and correct is vital. This encompasses details about SMS users (Authorising Officer, Level 1/2 Users), updates on franchise locations, and employee specifics. Discrepancies could jeopardise the renewal process.
  • Submission Sheet Requirements: Following the application submission, a submission sheet provided by the SMS needs to be accurately filled out, signed, and forwarded to the Sponsor Licensing Unit for processing.

Home Office Review Post-Submission:

The Home Office undertakes a comprehensive review spanning the last four years, focusing on:

  • Compliance with the sponsor licence's eligibility criteria and adherence to guidelines.
  • Examination of HR systems and procedures employed in managing international staff.
  • Analysis of the Certificates of Sponsorship that have been issued.

Requirement for Additional Documentation:

Should the Home Office request further documents, franchises must provide these within a five-day timeframe to avoid adverse outcomes such as application denial, licence revocation, or a reduction in the allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship.

Streamlined Renewal for Eligible Franchises:

Franchises with a history of two or more successful renewals and devoid of compliance issues may qualify for a simplified renewal process. This typically omits exhaustive checks, focusing instead on essential verifications to expedite the process.

Preparing for Potential Compliance Visits:

Franchises not inspected within the last four years should anticipate a Home Office visit as part of the renewal approval process. It's crucial for franchises to ensure all aspects of their licence and SMS data are meticulously updated prior to applying for renewal.

By following these guidelines, franchises can navigate the sponsor licence renewal process more effectively, ensuring continued compliance and the ability to sponsor international talent.

How Tech Nomads Can Help

Seeking assistance in your sponsor licence application as a franchise?

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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