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Self-Sponsorship Skilled Worker Visa

Whilst there is no dedicated ‘self-sponsorship’ Skilled Worker route, those who are seeking to set up a UK company, or have an existing UK company, may be able to sponsor themselves under the existing Skilled Worker route.

And here is how.

Step 1 – satisfy the mandatory requirements under the Skilled Worker route

There is no point in embarking on this route unless the role you plan to undertake in the UK will actually satisfy the Skilled Worker visa requirements. We therefore always advocate looking at this first before you start setting up a company in the UK. The Skilled Worker visa requirements include, having a genuine job vacancy, at the appropriate skill level, which will pay a salary in line with the general salary thresholds and the going rate for the UK role. In addition, you must be able to demonstrate a competent level of English language, and show that you have sufficient funds to support yourself without recourse to public funds.

You can find a complete breakdown of the mandatory requirements under the Immigration Rules, here. Please note that, as has been widely publicised, the basic salary threshold for new Skilled Worker visas is due to increase to £38,700 on 4 April 2024.

Step 2 – establish a UK company

Now that you’ve established that your role will meet the Skilled Worker visa requirements, you will have to set up a UK entity. If you already have a UK based company, you can skip straight to Step 3.

A non-UK national/resident individual can set up and become a director of a UK company. There is no minimum or maximum investment required and you can be a 100% shareholder of the company.  However, there are certain criteria that must be met in order to satisfy the legal requirements under the Company Act 2006. Meeting the criteria and completing the set up process correctly at the outset is vital, particularly with the upcoming changes to UK company law and the Companies House reforms. We have a very knowledgeable Corporate Services team at Michelmores who will be on hand to assist you with this part of the process. Amongst many things, they can prepare and file all of the necessary formal documents at Companies House to form a UK company and provide you with ongoing company secretarial support to ensure your company complies with its statutory obligations on a yearly basis. Registration of a UK company may be done electronically or by paper application and there is a same-day application facility if needed. Companies House charges a company incorporation fee of £10 for standard or £30 for same-day electronic application. Note that with the introduction of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act, Companies House fees are due to increase from 1 May 2024. Please contact the Corporate Services team at Michelmores if you need assistance with the formation of a UK company or provision of a company secretarial and/or registered office address service for your company.

In addition to the formal set up process, it is also advisable that you have an organisation chart, showing where your role will fit in, a business plan if your business is in the early stages of growth, a functional UK website, a company email address and, of course, sufficient funds to pay your proposed salary amongst other things.

There is also likely to be regulations specific to your home country in relation to setting up an overseas entity and we would strongly advise that you seek local legal advice to ensure you remain compliant with local laws. We have good connections with exceptionally talented lawyers around the world and we can put you in touch with the appropriate people to guide you through your local legal considerations.

Step 3 – apply for a sponsor licence

Once you have established a UK entity, or if you have an existing company, the next step is to apply for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence.

To successfully apply for a sponsor licence, the Home Office will require evidence that:

  • Your business is genuine and operating lawfully in the UK

To satisfy this requirement, the Home Office requires at least four documents (one mandatory and at least three optional documents) from a list set out under Appendix A of the sponsor guidance. The exact documents required will depend on the industry in which your business operates. Where the business has been trading in the UK for less than 18 months (and therefore qualifies as a ‘start-up’) the following documents will generally be required:

Type of document Requirement
Evidence of a corporate bank account with a bank regulated by the FCA and / or PRA. Mandatory
VAT registration Optional
Registration as an employer for PAYE and NI Optional
Employment liability insurance cover for at least £5 million (the insurer must be authorised by the FCA) Optional
A lease or purchase agreement to evidence you occupy / own the business premises Optional
Annual accounts

In addition, the Home Office will normally expect you to have registered with HM Revenues and Custom to pay PAYE and National Insurance Contributions. You must register before the first payday but you cannot register more than two months before you start paying people. It can take up to 15 working days to get your employer PAYE reference number.

  • Why does your business want a Sponsor Licence?

It is recommended that you also detail the specific reasons why you require the licence to sponsor you. In scenarios where your company is already set up, this may include reasons why you are no longer able to perform your duties remotely and you are required to undertake your business activity in the UK for the benefit of the organisation.

  • Opening a UK bank account

Firstly, it is possible to open a UK bank account as a non-UK resident, however, the requirements vary depending on the bank and the individual opening the account. Only some banks offer accounts to overseas nationals. Other banks will require you to have a UK address or to be tax resident in the UK. Additionally, some banks may require you to attend in person in order to open a bank account whereas others do not. Further, some of the documents that the bank require, can be difficult to obtain whilst outside of the UK.

Therefore, we strongly encourage you to seek professional financial advice to assist with this process. We have many contacts in this area that we can recommend to you.

It is important to remember that, whilst the requirement to open a UK bank account is mandatory, it is not a requirement that your company be actively trading, or have generated any revenue, at the date of the application. If your company is not yet trading or has yet to generate income, we would suggest that the following evidence is provided to the Home Office to satisfy them that you are a ‘genuine’ organisation:

Suggested documents
Where you have an existing overseas business that you want to expand into the UK
  • Accounts/bank statements to show it is trading;
  • Detailed business case demonstrating the plans for expansion; and
  • An organisation chart.
Where there is no existing overseas entity and your plan is to establish a UK company
  • Detailed business plan for the UK company;
  • An organisation chart showing where your role will fit in;
  • Evidence of sufficient funds for your venture, e.g. investment agreements; and
  • Early business activities, e.g. a functional website/social media and email addresses presence.
  • Your business is capable of carrying out its sponsor duties

As a UK sponsor licence holder, your business will need to comply with certain duties, including record keeping, reporting and compliance with UK immigration laws.

Therefore, as part of the application process you will need to demonstrate that you have in place:

    • a HR policy and procedure (we can assist with drafting this);
    • recruitment systems and compliant right to work practices (we can provide you with the necessary training for doing this);
    • a system of record keeping; and
    • the required Key Personnel (see below).
  • Appointing the Key Personnel

As part of the application process, you will need to appoint three Key Personnel, including:

    • An Authorising Officer (AO) – this individual is ultimately responsible for the licence and oversight of all migrant employees the business employs;
    • A Key Contact – who will act as the main liaison between the company and the Home Office; and
    • At least one Level 1 User – they will have unfettered access to the Sponsor Management System (SMS) and will, under the AO’s direction, undertake all the main functions required (e.g. reporting migrant activity, assigning Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) and lodging any business changes). We can act as an additional Level 1 User to assist you with your compliance obligations.

In deciding who should fulfil these roles, it important to keep some key mandatory criteria in mind, such as Key Personnel roles can be filled by the same or different people and, importantly, each must be resident in the UK at the date of the application and throughout the period they fulfil the role. Also, the Level 1 User must be British or settled in the UK. There are various other requirements, which we will advise you on as part of the process.

Given the position here, it is essential that you have at least one trusted person, who is either British or settled in the UK, who you are willing to appoint as a paid director, employee or office holder of your UK business.

Step 4 – apply for your Skilled Worker visa

Once your sponsor licence has been approved, and you have assigned a Defined CoS to yourself, you will be ready to submit your Skilled Worker visa application.

You can apply for a Skilled Worker visa up to three months before you are due to start work in the UK. A decision on the application should be received in around 15 working days, and there are priority services available at an additional cost to expedite the process to around five working days.

You can elect to apply for the Skilled Worker visa to last for up to five years. After five years on a Skilled Worker visa, you may be able to apply to settle in the UK. It is currently possible for your partner and children to join you in the UK if you have a Skilled Worker visa (some limited exceptions exist).

If you would like to discuss the self-sponsorship process in more detail, please do get in touch with the Immigration team here.