Behind the Numbers: What Your Sponsor Licence Fees Really Pay For

8 minutes read

If you’re in the process of becoming a UK visa sponsor, you might be wondering about where your money is going. The UK sponsor licence fees certainly aren’t cheap. And like all immigration fees, they’re on an upward trend, rather than a downward trend.

Knowing where your money is going can help to soften the blow of the added financial burden associated with hiring workers from overseas. It’s also helpful to think about the potential benefits to your company, not just the cost.

When you have access to a worldwide pool of talent, you can accelerate your recruitment timescales and ensure that you always have the skills you need to drive your company forward. This can help you to grow your business and expand, so the cost of becoming a UK visa sponsor essentially pays for itself.

How much does it cost to sponsor a UK visa?

There are multiple costs associated with achieving and maintaining your visa sponsorship licence. The amount you pay will also depend on the size of your organisation. Medium to large firms will pay the full amount, while small companies and charitable organisations will be eligible for a discounted rate.

To qualify for the discounted rate as a small company, your organisation will need to meet at least two of the following:

  • Annual turnover of less than £10.2 million
  • Total assets worth less than £5.1 million
  • 50 employees or less

Your organisation would be considered to be a charitable organisation if:

  • You are registered as a charity in the UK
  • You are are excepted charity
  • You are an exempt charity
  • You are an ecclesiastical corporation established for charitable purposes

UK sponsor licence fee

To become a UK visa sponsor, you will first need to apply for your licence. The fee to do this will vary depending on your status and the type of licence you want to acquire.

  • Small companies and charities will pay £536 to sponsor a worker or a temporary worker
  • Medium to large companies will pay £1,476 to sponsor workers and £536 to sponsor temporary workers

Certificate of Sponsorship

Once you have achieved UK sponsorship status, you will then be able to sponsor a worker to come to the UK. And this is known as issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). There is a flat fee of £199 per worker, and this will be refunded if the visa application is unsuccessful.

The next UK sponsor licence fee you will need to consider is the Immigration Skills Charge. This will vary depending on the size of your organisation and the length of the contract you offer to the worker.

  • Small companies and charities will pay £364 for the first 12 months of the worker’s contract, and then £182 for each additional 6 months.
  • Medium to large companies will pay £1000 for the first 12 months of the worker’s contract, and then £500 for each additional six months.

Some things worth noting about the UK sponsor licence fees:

  • If the contract is for less than 12 months, you will still need to pay the initial 12-month period.
  • There is a limit of 5 years on how long you can sponsor a worker. This means the most you can pay for a worker as a small business or charitable organisation is £1,820. The most you can pay as a medium to large company is £5,000.

What does your sponsor licence pay for?

The UK Visas and Immigration sector does not publish a breakdown of where the fees for immigration applications are used. However, we do know that there are costs incurred by the Home Office to ensure that sponsors are following the rules. So here are just some of the ways that your fees might be used:

Checking the validity of applications

Firstly, when a company applies to become a UK visa sponsor, UKVI must carry out extensive checks to ensure they are a suitable candidate. These checks can include background checks on the company and its directors. It will also include a visit to the workplace to ensure the company is legitimate and the job really exists.

Monitoring existing licence holders

Secondly, once you have your UK visa sponsor licence, UKVI will continue to monitor your operations to ensure that you are still eligible to be a sponsor. If you fail to follow the rules, UKVI will downgrade you to a B-rated sponsor. They will then issue the company with a “road map”. This outlines the steps they need to take to have their UK visa sponsor licence restored.

Renewing licences

And finally, every four years, visa sponsors will need to re-apply for their licence. This will typically incur more checks to ensure they are still eligible to be a sponsor. UKVI will typically carry out the same checks as 

What else does the sponsor fee pay for?

It’s no secret that the UK uses its immigration system to help fund public spending. By ending free movement and switching to a skills-based immigration system, the Government is hoping to plug a hole in its finances. 

It’s helpful to think about your UK visa sponsor fees as an additional tax on your operations. By paying this tax, you will have access to a wider pool of workers, which can help you to grow your business.

How can I reduce my UK sponsorship fees?

Certain professionals are exempt from the Immigration Skills Charge, which can help to dramatically reduce your recruitment costs. Examples of workers that are exempt include:

  • chemical scientists (2111)
  • biological scientists and biochemists (2112)
  • physical scientists (2113)
  • social and humanities scientists (2114)
  • natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified (2119)
  • research and development managers (2150)
  • higher education teaching professionals (2311)
  • clergy (2444)
  • sports players (3441)
  • sports coaches, instructors or officials (3442)

You also will not have to pay the charge if you are sponsoring someone who is switching from a UK student visa. This is one way to get around the higher fees, and it will also give you access to a highly motivated talent pool.

Access expert advice from UK immigration lawyers

If you are navigating the process of hiring overseas workers for the first time, we recommend you get in touch with A Y & J Solicitors.

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