How to get a UK visa sponsor licence

If you want to employ foreign nationals to work in the UK, you might need a sponsor licence. Here’s how you get one.


If your organization strongly supports the recruitment of the best global talent, there’s no reason to exclude foreign nationals from the recruitment process. 

Your organization needs to ensure that all employees have the right to work in the UK before they start working:

  • For UK and Irish nationals working in the UK, this usually involves scanning a copy of their passport.
  • For foreign nationals working in the UK, this may involve confirming that they have a current student or graduate visa in place before taking on the role. The employee can typically generate and send a Right to Work Share Code to provide right to work evidence.
  • For other potential employees, however, you’ll likely want to sponsor a Skilled Worker Visa to allow them to come and work in the UK. 


In order to sponsor a visa, you’ll need a visa sponsorship licence (or “sponsor licence”) in place. Here’s how you get one.


UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is the authority that manages sponsor licences. You must have four documents that meet UKVI’s requirements to obtain a sponsor licence. For a new organization, the following documents are normally the most straightforward to rely on when applying for a UK sponsor licence: 

  • Lease documentation for a UK office
  • PAYE registration number
  • Employers’ liability insurance certificate
  • Bank account with a UK (high street) bank


Lease documentation

If you don’t currently have a UK office address, one reasonably inexpensive way of obtaining one is to take a lease with a serviced office. A serviced office is an office building that’s fully equipped and managed by a facility management company, which then rents individual offices or floors.

The cost of a lease for a one-person office is typically in the range of £275–£500 per month, depending on location. In London, we’ve had a good experience with Fora, although there are lower-cost options too (like 1st Formations, which we haven’t used). 

Alternatively, if someone on your team would like to make use of a co-working space, you can explore suitable options and ensure the arrangement comes with the appropriate required paperwork. 


PAYE registration

PAYE registration is straightforward and can be done via HMRC online. The process typically takes around 4 weeks to complete. Rapid Formations can assist with this process at a low cost. 


Employers’ liability insurance certificate

Employers’ liability insurance is the easiest part of the process to set up, and can usually be secured within 2 business days. We typically recommend Hiscox, which we’ve found easy to work with, but alternative providers include Aviva and AXA.


Bank account

Setting up a UK high street bank account can take several weeks, if not months. Virgin seems to be very responsive once you’ve applied for the account, but we’ve also had success with Barclays. When setting up a bank account, you’ll typically need proof of ID for all trustees/directors. 

Application process 

We’ve worked with Kingsley Napley for the application submission process. Its visa team is well-regarded and very responsive. Its fees to assist with a sponsor licence application are typically £4,500 plus VAT and disbursements (which include an application fee of ~£500 and an optional 10-day priority fee of £500). We may be able to arrange preferential rates, so get in touch if you’d like support here.

Now what?

Once your company has obtained a sponsor licence, you’ll want to secure some visas!

It can take 2–8 weeks from the job offer being accepted to the visa being issued. It may take longer if the candidate isn’t from a native English-speaking country, or there are other restrictions based on home nationality — we can’t make any guarantees.

If there’s particular urgency for the person to start work, it may be possible to put in place interim arrangements e.g. working remotely outside the UK or carrying out limited activities as a contractor. However, this will depend on the circumstances, and will require careful consideration to make sure you comply with all immigration, employment, and tax rules.

The cost of an immigration application depends upon where the application is submitted.

If you choose to use Kingsley Napley for support with the visa application process, the typical fee is £2,200–£2,500 per visa, plus VAT and disbursements. Disbursements include:

  • £719 UKVI application fee (for a 3-year visa)
  • £364 or £1,000 annual Immigration Skills Charge (depending on whether your organization is classed as a small or large sponsor)
  • £1,026 annual Immigration Health Surcharge
  • £199 Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) fee
  • (Optional) £500 UKVI priority fee

Getting support

At Impact Ops, we’ve helped a number of high-impact projects obtain UK visa sponsorship licences. Our mission is to solve critical operational bottlenecks for our clients, and we’re excited about helping them recruit the best global talent, so that teams can spend more time on their mission, strategy, and execution.

If you’d like support obtaining a UK sponsor licence, please get in touch at

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