How to get a faster decision
on your sponsor licence

Under UK immigration rules, any business wishing to hire workers from outside the resident labour market must first obtain permission from the Home Office by applying for a sponsor licence.

When applying for a sponsor licence, you will need to demonstrate that you are a reputable employer and have the necessary systems and procedures in place to enable your organisation to meet its ongoing compliance obligations or ‘sponsor duties’. All sponsor licence applications are assessed by Home Office caseworkers on a case-by-case basis, and the pre-licence approval process can take several weeks.

What are the average sponsor licence processing times?

Under standard processing times, you can expect to wait around 8 weeks from the date you submit your application before receiving a decision from the Home Office. The UKVI website states that 8 out of 10 sponsor licence applications are processed in less than 8 weeks.

However, the pre-licence assessment process may take longer for first-time applicants or for newly formed entities, as the Home Office may wish to carry out additional checks or pre-licence visits for these businesses. Delays can also occur if certain information is missing from your application, or if the Home Office needs to request further evidence before making a decision.

Getting a fast-tracked decision

There may be some circumstances where you need to obtain a sponsor licence urgently. For example, if you have found the ideal candidate for a job within your business, but that candidate will require sponsorship on a Skilled Worker visa. Or, if you are a multinational company and an employee based overseas is being transferred temporarily to your UK branch or subsidiary to complete an urgent assignment or training. In such instances, an eight week wait to obtain a licence can cause significant disruption to your business if you do not already hold sponsor approval.

In cases where a faster turnaround time is required, you may be able to get your application expedited to receive a decision sooner.

In November 2020, the Home Office launched a new priority service for the expedited processing of sponsor licence applications. When submitting your application, you may be able to pay an additional £500 to get a decision within 10 working days. You will be told if you can use this service after you apply.

However, there is a daily limit on the number of applications that can use the service, and only 10 priority applications per day will be accepted. Demand is high and, for this reason, several attempts to secure ‘priority’ clearance may be necessary.

Avoid delays with your sponsor licence application

If you are unable to secure a slot for priority processing, you can ensure your sponsor licence application has the best chance of succeeding without lengthy delays by adhering to the following best practice points:

  • Ensure all information provided is accurate – Before submitting your application, carefully check that you have provided all the requested information and that this information is up to date and accurate. It may cause unnecessary delays if the Home Office needs to contact you to request further details, and in some cases your application may be rejected if you have not provided the necessary information in the given timeframe.
  • Get the supporting documentation right – Many sponsor licence applications are rejected or delayed on the basis of missing or incorrect supporting documentation. You can find out which documents you must provide by checking Appendix A of the guidance for sponsors.
  • Pay the correct fee – The application fee you must pay depends on the size and nature of your organisation. Medium and large sponsors will pay a larger fee, and a smaller fee applies for small or charitable organisations. Paying the wrong fee could result in your application being delayed or rejected. You can find out which category your business falls under by speaking to a SSW advisor or contacting
  • Prepare for a pre-licence visit – The Home Office may wish to visit your place of business before making a decision on your application. Make sure you are prepared for this important step by carrying out a mock audit of your internal HR systems and processes. Smith Stone Walters can provide assistance in this area.

Help with your sponsor licence application

If you require support with submitting a sponsor licence application, or if you need a fast turnaround, Smith Stone Walters would be delighted to help.

To speak to an immigration advisor, please contact us today.

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