Concept for recruitment trial - key considerations

If you run a care home and are struggling to recruit staff from within the UK or have staff shortages, you may be able to hire employees from overseas through the Skilled Worker route, provided your organisation holds a Sponsor Licence.

As of last year, eligible sponsors can now recruit carers under their licence, as well as senior carers and nurses, which has been the case for some time. Due to the changes in the Rules in this area, this route is now a viable and attractive one for businesses in the care sector post-Brexit. For many organisations, holding a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence has become a vital part of the recruitment process.

What is a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence?

This type of licence gives permission to an organisation to sponsor overseas workers, who do not otherwise have permission to work in the UK. The organisation is known as the sponsor. To become an approved sponsor, your organisation will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) that they:

  • 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, businesses of all shapes and sizes can now apply for a sponsor licence, provided that they are able to effectively evidence that they meet these requirements. For more information on the Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence see our article for employers.

Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence Application Process

The sponsor licence application form is completed and submitted online to UKVI by the Authorising Officer. The fee for this application 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 that your organisation meets the expectations of an approved sponsor. The paperwork needed to support the application depends on the nature and size of your business. You would also need to clarify who in your organisation will act as the key personnel (Authorising Officer, Key Contact and Level One User) on the licence.

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. Sponsor licence applications can take up to 8 weeks for the Home Office to process, albeit there is a priority service available in certain circumstances which means you may be able to get a decision on your application sooner. The application process can take longer if the correct paperwork has not been provided (or has not been provided in the correct format) 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 4 years provided it is not revoked for noncompliance. You also will 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.

What happens once you have a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence?

Once the Sponsor Licence has been granted you will then be able to assign Certificates of Sponsorship(s) to overseas workers under the relevant Standard or Shortage Occupation Code. A number of key roles relevant to care homes can be sponsored under this route, many of which are now contained under the shortage occupation list: Skilled Worker visa: shortage occupations. The overseas worker will then use their Certificate of Sponsorship reference number to apply for their personal Skilled Worker visa to work for your organisation, provided they meet the relevant criteria, which includes an English language requirement.  Your care worker could already be in the UK in another visa category or could arrive here for the first time from overseas.

During the lifetime of your licence you must meet certain duties around record keeping, reporting, compliance and cooperating with the Home Office in order to retain your licence. UKVI will continue to monitor your compliance with your duties as a sponsor on an ad hoc basis, which may include a follow up visit to your premises. You will therefore have to ensure that you are full aware of what your duties entail and that these duties are prioritised on an ongoing basis. Failure to comply could lead to your licence being downgraded or in the worst case scenario, withdrawn.

What is the next step?

Taking adequate time to submit a strong application will give your organisation every chance of obtaining a sponsor licence. Our immigration team is on hand to assist you with the process of obtaining a sponsor licence and ensuring that you meet your requirements surrounding compliance, in addition to managing the visa application process for your sponsored employees. If you have any queries about recruitment issues and what you can do to address your concerns, please contact our immigration team.