Under the UK immigration system, employers need to have a sponsorship licence in place to sponsor overseas skilled workers in the UK. Once granted, this licence lasts for four years. Employers will normally renew their sponsorship licence at that point but if you are considering letting it lapse there are some issues to consider first.
When can I renew my licence?
Sponsor licences last for four years and your licence end date can be found on the "Licence summary" function on your sponsor management system account (see the third SMS guide here). You can renew your licence up to 90 days before it expires including on the licence end date. If you do not do this, the licence will expire on the next day.
The Home Office will normally send you reminders when you get close to the expiry date. Employers should however diarise 3 months before the expiry date themselves. It is also worth checking that UKVI have up to date contact details on the SMS for your key personnel as the reminder will normally go to those individuals.
If you are already sponsoring an employee
If you are sponsoring any skilled workers, the employer must renew their licence to continue to employ these individuals. If you fail to renew your licence, you will not be able to assign any more certificates of sponsorship to new employees and usually the permission of any workers that you are sponsoring will be curtailed to 60 calendar days (if their visa does not expire before then).
If you miss the deadline to apply to renew your licence and you sponsor skilled workers, you may wish to seek legal advice as soon as possible on the immigration and employment issues that arise.
If you do not currently sponsor any skilled workers
Some employers may consider letting their licence lapse if they do not currently sponsor any employees. However, there are the following advantages to renewing your sponsor licence even if you do not sponsor any skilled workers at the time.
(1) It is far easier to renew a licence once you have it in place than to have to apply for a new one in the future
Renewing a sponsor licence is a relatively straightforward process. You complete some information online (ensuring that your information is up to date) and pay a fee. If you require support with this process contact firstname.lastname@example.org
If you let it lapse and then need to sponsor a migrant worker in the future, there will be more paperwork, admin and effort involved. You will need to prepare an application for a licence from scratch.
(2) Sponsoring a skilled worker will take far longer if you have to wait 8 weeks or longer to obtain a sponsor licence once you have identified them
It is possible that you could miss out on valuable overseas talent who would not be prepared to consider an employer who would have to go through the process, delay and uncertainty of applying for a sponsor licence.
The Home Office advise that 8 out of 10 applications are dealt with in less than 8 weeks of their receipt of the application but this could still be a significant delay. Having your licence ready and in place whenever you identify international talent is really useful and avoids delay.
The fees for renewing sponsor licences as at November 2021 are currently £526 or £1,476 for the 4 year period (depending on whether you fall under the category of medium or large sized sponsors or not). Once paid, there is no ongoing cost to keep hold of your licence (although you do need to ensure you are complying with your compliance duties under the licence).
The Home Office guidance recommends that sponsorship licence renewal applications are made in good time and at least one month before the expiry date. You can make your renewal application from 90 days before the expiry date of the licence. An outline of the process for completing the application is set out in the Home Office guidance available here.
For further guidance on renewing your sponsor licence, see here.
The SMS guides and further guidance can be found here.