How to apply for a sponsor
licence for your
care home

As the UK’s adult social care sector continues to grapple with staff shortages amid soaring demand for services, many care homes and home care providers are increasingly recruiting workers from overseas to fill critical gaps within their business.

Under UK immigration rules, any business hiring workers without an existing right to work in the UK must seek approval from the Home Office in advance, by applying for a sponsor licence. Once a licence is obtained, employers can then ‘sponsor’ overseas care workers to work in the UK under the Health and Care Worker visa route.

In this article, we provide an overview of the Health and Care Worker visa and how this route can benefit employers in the care sector, and set out the steps required for a business to apply for a sponsor licence.

What is the Health and Care Worker visa?

In August 2020, the government launched the Health and Care Worker visa, which allows medical professionals to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care. This visa forms part of the Skilled Worker route. The Health and Care Worker visa offers a number of benefits, including:

  • Fast-track visa processing for entry to the UK.
  • The support of a dedicated team within UKVI in processing applicants’ and their dependent families’ visa applications.
  • Reduced visa fees.
  • Exemption from the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Overseas care workers can stay in the UK on this visa for up to five years, after which time the applicant will usually be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), and British citizenship thereafter.

Temporary visa provisions for care workers

In an attempt to provide short term relief from the mounting pressures on the adult social care sector amid the pandemic and widespread labour shortages, the government introduced some temporary changes to immigration policy which came into effect in February 2022.

The reforms saw care workers and home carers added to the list of occupation codes eligible for the Skilled Worker route for an initial period of 12 months. At the same time, these roles were also added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), meaning applicants can be paid a lower salary and still qualify for a visa.

The changes were made following a recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent body which advises the Home Office on migration related issues. It is anticipated that the reforms will provide short term relief from the mounting pressures on the sector amid the pandemic and widespread labour shortages.

How to apply for a sponsor licence for your care home

In order to sponsor overseas care workers under the Health and Care Worker route, your business must obtain a Skilled Worker sponsor licence. To make an application for a sponsor licence, your company must have:

  • An established business presence in the UK.
  • A fixed office address.
  • A suitable employee to nominate as the ‘Authorising Officer’. This person will take on overall responsibility for the Sponsor Licence but can delegate day-to-day immigration administration to a colleague.

The application process includes:

  • Completion of an online application form.
  • Submission of supporting corporate documentation such as: latest annual accounts; corporate bank account statement; employers’ liability insurance certificate; VAT registration certificate.
  • Confirmation that the company maintains robust HR processes and would therefore be able to comply with the strict reporting and monitoring requirements placed on all sponsors.
  • Appointment of people within your business to manage the sponsorship process. Chosen personnel will undergo criminality and other security checks.
  • Payment of fee. The cost of a Sponsor Licence for small or charitable sponsors is £536. Medium or large sponsors are charged £1,476 upon application.*

Once the application process is complete and the licence is granted, only then can the sponsor begin issuing Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to overseas workers.

How long does it take?

Employers looking to start the sponsorship process should be prepared to wait several weeks for the sponsor licence and visa applications to be processed before the first sponsored employee can begin work.

Sponsor licence applications can take up to 8 weeks to process, and can take longer if the correct documentation is not supplied or if the Home Office wishes to visit your business as part of the pre-licence approval process.

Visa applications under the Health and Care Worker route are usually processed within three weeks. UK visa processing times have been widely impacted by the war in Ukraine, as the Home Office is currently prioritising applications under the Ukraine visa schemes. However, as care workers fall under the shortage occupation list, Smith Stone Walters has found that the processing delays have not adversely affected these applications.

Where to get help

The UK’s immigration rules are complex and care homes that are new to sponsorship can sometimes find the process overwhelming. However, it is becoming increasingly necessary for employers to engage with the sponsorship system in order to access the staff they need now that freedom of movement from the EU has ended. Employers should therefore consider whether becoming a licensed sponsor could help their business’s recruitment strategy.

Before applying for a licence, Smith Stone Walters recommends employers read the Home Office guidance for sponsors to familiarise themselves with the requirements. Alternatively, our dedicated sponsor licencing team is on hand to provide support to your business in gaining sponsor approval and managing the visa application process for your overseas hires. To find out how we can help, please contact us today.

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