Recruiting Skilled Workers – The Home Office ‘Sponsor Licence’

As the HR partner to over 900 clients in 30 sectors across the UK, we know first-hand that many sectors have been struggling in recent months to recruit the people they need.  Skills shortages, counteroffers, and salary increases have all made the recruitment market more challenging, and businesses are having to become more and more innovative not just in their offer and Employee Value Proposition, but in where they look for talent.

Following the UK’s departure from the EU and the end of free movement in December 2020, the UK’s immigration system has changed significantly.  In order to employ skilled workers from the EU and the rest of the world, UK businesses and organisations now require to obtain a Home Office Sponsor Licence.

Our guest writer, Mark Templeton, Head of Immigration at Anderson Strathern, discusses the Sponsor Licence and reasons why some employers might consider applying for one.

We need Skilled-Workers

Key sectors of the UK economy regularly report that critical shortages of skilled workers are having a serious negative impact on their current stability and plans for future growth. Despite this, the number of businesses utilising the Sponsor Licence system continues to be extremely low.

The reasons why several businesses and sectors are reluctant to utilise the new system are understandable. When the UK was part of the EU, employing EU workers involved almost no regulation from an Immigration Law perspective. The Sponsor Licence system, by comparison, does come with a level of regulation, compliance checking by the Home Office and of course cost.

Why consider a Sponsor Licence?

The Sponsor Licence system is here to stay and it is the only immigration system businesses and organisations can use to solve their serious shortages of skilled workers.  A Sponsor Licence can play a crucial role in recruiting skilled workers to meet immediate commercial or organisational demands and is an excellent source of recruitment for future growth.

A Sponsor Licence also offers businesses a serious competitive advantage to recruit international students who have graduated from UK universities and wish to live and work in the UK. By offering a sponsored skilled worker position, a business can offer an international student a route to settle permanently in the UK after 5 years, which a business without a sponsor licence cannot offer. Businesses with a Sponsor Licence can therefore make themselves highly attractive to educated graduates and secure a competitive recruitment advantage.

Once a Sponsor Licence is in place, businesses and organisations can sponsor a skilled worker for up to 5 years at a time. A skilled worker is eligible to settle permanently in the UK after 5 years. As it is one of the most attractive visa options for overseas nationals, businesses can have a level of confidence skilled workers will stay with them for many years.

What sectors can recruit skilled workers?

Almost every sector will find occupations in their sector on the Government’s list of “eligible occupations”, although to varying degrees. All highly skilled sectors can recruit essential workers including Finance, Accounting, Digital Technology, Renewable Energy, Engineering, Manufacturing, Construction, Architecture, Marketing, Advertising and Design.

Some sectors for the moment have fewer opportunities to recruit essential workers from the Government’s list of “eligible occupations”  The Hospitality sector, for example, cannot recruit front-of-house staff. Of importance, however, is that chefs and all hospitality management roles are eligible for sponsorship as skilled workers.

Other sectors including fisheries, meat producers and agriculture can recruit key staff including fish processors, butchers, farmers and skilled agricultural/land management staff.

The Care sector has been given special consideration and care workers have been designated as skilled workers, which allows every residential care home and home care provider to apply for a Sponsor Licence and recruit carer staff from outside the UK.

Where can a business find the list of occupations eligible for Sponsorship?

The following link provides the full list of the skilled worker occupations that businesses can recruit and employ when a Sponsor Licence is in place.

How do we apply for a Sponsor Licence?

To obtain a Sponsor Licence, a business needs to make an application to the Home Office and pay the required fees. Depending on the size of your business, the application fee is either £536 or £1476.

The Home Office will only grant a sponsor licence to an organisation that can show the roles they are recruiting for, and the workers they intend to sponsor, meet the necessary requirements.


Anderson Strathern provides expert advice and assistance to businesses and organisations applying for a Sponsor Licence. They understand this is a new area for many businesses and organisations and the regulatory aspects can appear daunting. Anderson Strathern aims to demystify the Sponsor Licence system, identify the positive contribution it can make to a business and provide support to businesses and organisations at every relevant stage of the application and throughout the duration of their Sponsor Licence.