The new UK business immigration rules – what you need to know

Immigration plays an essential role in the economic development of the UK, plugging labour shortages in critical sectors of the economy such as health and agriculture, to name a few.

Prior to Brexit, this was hardly an issue because of Free Movement within the European Union. On the 1st January 2021, the UK government introduced a new points-based immigration system.

Under this new system, all non-UK citizens wishing to come to the UK after 1 January 2021 for purposes of work, study, family reasons, or a short visit, will be treated in the same way. They will need to get the necessary number of points for the category that they wish to apply for.

Skilled workers

In many ways, this is a total game-changer, especially for businesses. It means that most businesses will now need to assess their labour needs and consider whether they require their own Sponsor License. Without it, it will not be possible to employ anyone from outside the UK.

How does the new UK business immigration system work?

A migrant worker must score at least 70 points in order to get what is called a Skilled Work visa. Of those, 50 points are Mandatory, made up of:

a) 20 points for the employer’s Sponsor License;

b) 20 points for an eligible occupation (an eligible Skilled Occupations must be listed and have a unique SOC code);

c) 10 points for ability to speak English assessed through a specified test;

The additional 20 points are called Tradeable Points because there are various options for earning them; for example by having a PhD degree, a STEM degree, or applying for a job that is on the Shortage Occupation list.

How does an employer get a Sponsor License?

To become an approved sponsor who is listed on the Register of Licensed Sponsors  a business must apply for a sponsor license. The Home Office charge £536 for a standard application for small business, and £1,476 for medium to large businesses. There is a turn-around of about 8 weeks and the Home Office do keep to this time-frame unless the application is complex or raises queries that need to be checked.

It is possible to expedite the process by paying £500 more but getting a slot on the fast-track is quite difficult as the Home Office operate a first-come, first serve system.

The business must apply online and submit a number of documents such as proof of premises, a business bank account, registration for PAYE, and of paying its corporate taxes. This goes towards proving that the business is legitimate and has genuine vacancies.

The business must also decide on who will carry out the 3 key roles associated with a Sponsor License, being;

1. The Authorising Officer – who is usually the most senior person;

2. The Key Contact – who will be the main contact with the Home Office; and

3. The Level 1 user – who will have the day-to-day management of the licence through what is known as the Sponsor Management System (SMS).

If an application is approved, you will get an A-rated sponsor, valid for 4 years. It is critical to maintain an A-rating.

Axiom DWFM have assisted numerous businesses through the complex process of applying for a sponsor license. We also have a lot of experience with ongoing compliance.

This article was written by Katie Vernon but if you need lawyers for business immigration legal advice, please contact Taffi Nyawanza  on 0121 725 2512 or email:

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