Applying For Sponsor Licences As A Care Provider
This article was written by Lisa Mulholland, Partner and head of Stephens Scown’s Immigration team, specialising in all aspects of UK immigration and nationality law.
It has become clear that many businesses across the UK are experiencing recruitment and retention issues in their workforce, particularly in social care. Many factors have affected this, not least the end of freedom of movement between the UK and EU. For many organisations in the sector, they have now had to turn to overseas recruitment in order to fill the gaps in their workforce. To employ overseas nationals, who do not otherwise have permission to work in the UK, organisations now need a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence from the Home Office.
What is a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence?
This type of licence gives permission to an organisation to sponsor overseas workers, in eligible occupations who meet certain criteria. Once your licence is in place, you are included on a register of licensed sponsors and you can issue the overseas worker a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). The worker will then need to apply for their own visa under the Skilled Worker immigration route.
To become an approved sponsor, you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) that you:
• are a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK;
• are honest, dependable and reliable;
• have appropriate HR systems in place to monitor sponsored employees and adequate personnel within the business to manage the licence;
• are able to sponsor a worker for an eligible role which has a suitable rate of pay and skill level;
• have genuine vacancies which meet the skilled worker requirements.
Under the new system, organisations of all shapes and sizes can now apply for a sponsor licence, provided they are able to evidence that they meet these requirements. The government has responded to the recruitment issues in the health and social care sector and in the last couple of years, adding various roles to the Shortage Occupation List (with senior carers and nurses already being eligible roles) under SOC Code 6145. Home carers (but not in private households), care workers, care assistants and support workers are now eligible for sponsorship. These roles are also suitable for a Health and Social care worker visa, which are attractive due to the worker then paying lower application fees, having their visas fast-tracked and being exempt from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge. As a result, we are seeing an increasing number of health and social care providers taking advantage of these changes and applying for sponsor licences.
Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence Application Process
The sponsor licence application form is completed and submitted online to UKVI. The fee is currently £536 for small/charitable sponsors and £1,476 for medium/large sponsors. Before submitting the form, it is essential that you have the correct documentation in place and that you carry out a full audit of your internal HR systems, to ensure your organisation meets the expectations of an approved sponsor.
Once your application form is submitted, you are then required to send a bundle of specified documents to UKVI to evidence that you meet the requirements set out above, within a strict timeframe. The documents required include corporate bank statements, CQC registration documents and proof of HMRC registration. Sponsor licence applications can take up to eight weeks for the Home Office to process, albeit there is a priority service available in certain circumstances.
The application process can take longer if the correct paperwork has not been provided or if the Home Office decides to visit your business as part of the pre-licence approval process. Once your licence is in place, it will be valid for four years provided it is not revoked for non-compliance. You will also have the option of renewing your licence at the end of this period. If your licence application is refused, you will be subject to a six-month cooling-off period, during which time you cannot apply again. Your subsequent application will also be subject to additional scrutiny by the Home Office and therefore it is best to get the application correct the first time round.
Although the prospect of obtaining a licence can be daunting, the recent changes to the immigration system means that with the right advice and support in place, businesses of all shapes and sizes can successfully apply for and maintain a skilled worker sponsor licence, which opens up their recruitment pool significantly. Organisations that we have assisted with this process have overwhelmingly said that the benefits of holding a licence outweigh the challenges, cost and efforts involved.
Our top tips
To maximise your chances of a successful sponsor licence application, here are our three top tips:-
1. Be proactive
If you are struggling with recruitment and retention now, it is a good idea to assess whether or not your organisation would meet the requirements to apply for a sponsor licence and submit an application ahead of time.
2. Prepare the correct documentation before submitting your application
We would advise that you don’t submit your licence application until the required documents are in place and are ready to be sent to the Home Office. Supporting documents must be sent within five working days of the date of submission. Failure to do so is likely to result in your licence application being rejected.
3. Be prepared for any compliance visits
As part of the application process, it is possible that the Home Office may carry out a compliance visit. Visits can be carried out by the Home Office on an unannounced basis so it is important to be prepared.
Our immigration team is on hand to assist you with the process of obtaining a sponsor licence and ensuring you meet the requirements regarding compliance, having years of experience in successfully supporting and guiding organisations.
About Stephens Scown
Stephens Scown was the first large law firm in the UK to become employee owned, and has recently gained B Corp™ Certification, which underlines our long-term commitment to also being a force for good in wider society, balancing people, planet and profit. This vision and ethos of doing things the right way for our people, clients, planet and community perfectly match the care and values of those working within the care sector.
The specialist Healthcare team at Stephens Scown is fully tuned into the pressures, opportunities and innovations affecting health and social care providers and the challenges brought about by significant changes in the healthcare sector in recent years.
We provide specialist marketing services to all corners of the care industry. From care homes and home care to the broader spectrum of health care, retirement living and recruitment.
Our goal is to bring your business right up-to-date with efficient and effective marketing strategies tailored to your audience and your objectives.
It’s time for someone to take care of you for a change
It's good to talk - book a discovery call today to discuss your challenges and goals.