There are immigration companies promoting a UK self-sponsorship visa or a UK self-employed visa as a quick and easy method for business owners to move to the UK by serving as their own licensed sponsor. However, the process is not as simple as it seems, and it’s crucial to be aware of the actual requirements and procedures involved.

To clarify, some immigration companies make claims about a specific visa called the UK self-sponsorship visa, but in reality, it does not exist. However, there is a way to establish a business presence in the UK and eventually sponsor yourself for a Skilled Worker visa. This involves starting a new business or expanding an existing business in the UK, obtaining a sponsorship license, and meeting the qualifications for the Skilled Worker visa. This can lead to permanent residency and UK citizenship.

The Four Stages of Self-Sponsorship Visa

Stage 1 – Business Expansion to the UK

To ensure a smooth immigration process, it is crucial to set up your business in the UK correctly. This involves several key steps, including:

  • Incorporate a new company or decide if you will open a branch or subsidiary in the UK if you have an established business.
  • Register your company for taxes in the UK.
  • Set up a UK bank account for your business.
  • Register for auto-enrolment, which is a mandatory UK pension scheme for employees.
  • Create and provide your company with a comprehensive Human Resources pack, which includes employment agreements and HR policies covering areas such as a code of conduct, work health and safety, privacy, leave, performance management, and complaints and grievances.

To ensure a smooth process of setting up your business in the UK, it is crucial to appoint a director who is a UK citizen or someone with indefinite leave to remain (ILR). This will facilitate the opening of a UK bank account for your business, which is a vital step in the process.

Step 2 – Apply for a Sponsor Licence

After your business is established, your UK-based employee can act as the Authorising Officer when applying for a sponsor licence.

It is worth noting that the Authorising Officer does not necessarily have to be a director of the company. Another UK citizen or someone with ILR can also be employed to fulfil this role. The person appointed as the Authorising Officer should be a competent and senior individual who has the ability to make decisions on behalf of the company and take charge of the operations. The Authorising Officer will be responsible for the actions of the staff and representatives who use the Sponsor Management System (SMS).

When applying for a sponsor licence, your UK company will need to provide at least four documents, including:

  • Employer’s liability insurance
  • PAYE and accounts reference number
  • VAT certificate
  • Most recent UK bank statement, showing funds in the account

Additionally, it is recommended to have the following:

  • Company Email ID
  • Website
  • Business Plan, even if it is in its Early Stages
  • Organisation Chart Showing the Vacancies and Staff
  • Letter Confirming Details about the Company including business details, operating hours,vacancies and salary

To apply for a sponsor licence, it is crucial to ensure that your company has adequate HR policies and procedures in place to sponsor you as a skilled worker.

Currently, the fee for small or charitable sponsors to apply for a sponsorship licence is £536.

Stage 3 – Issue a Certificate of Sponsorship

You are gonna need a Certificate of Sponsorship. A CoS is an electronic certificate assigned to a migrant worker who wishes to apply for a Skilled Worker visa.

When issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), you will also need to pay an Immigration Skills Charge (ISC). Since your business will likely be small or new, the ISC for smaller companies is currently £364 per year per sponsored worker.

Stage 4 – Apply for your Skilled Worker Visa

To apply for the Skilled Worker visa, you need COS and must meet the following criteria as well:

  • The eligible occupations list must include your job
  • To qualify for a Skilled Worker visa, your occupation must be on the eligible occupations list. Additionally, your job must meet the minimum salary requirement which varies based on the nature of your work. In most cases, the minimum requirement is £25,600 per year or £10.10 per hour, whichever is higher. However, if the going rate for your occupation is higher than both of these, you will need to be paid the going rate to qualify
  • You must demonstrate proficiency in the English language
  • You must have an A-level qualification or equivalent.
  • You must demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to support yourself.

Your spouse and dependents can join you on the Skilled Worker visa, but you will have to pay an application fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) for each of them separately.