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Obtaining a Tier 2 or Tier 5 licence to employ workers from outside the European Economic Area.

The looming Brexit deadline to leave the EU and the amount of European migrants who have left the UK since the referendum result means that many businesses have vacancies they are struggling to fill from the UK resident labour market. Businesses are now considering employing people from overseas. In order to do this, businesses require a licence from the Home Office. This is known as a Tier 2 or Tier 5 licence.

This blog looks at who is eligible for a licence and the roles that must be filled in the management of the licence. We look at who the best people within the practice are and how they are placed to fill these roles. 

Who can you employ?

If your company wishes to obtain a licence to employ non-EEA nationals, then you will need to ensure that you are eligible to do so. Having any unspent convictions for immigration offences, or crimes of dishonesty, such as fraud, will bar you from applying for a licence. You are also likely to be ineligible if you have any history of failing to carry out your sponsorship duties. For example, if you have previously held a Tier 2 licence and have had that licence taken away from you. 

What is the Sponsor management role?

The Sponsor management roles exist in every licence; these are the Authorising Officer and the Level 1 User. 

The Authorising Officer is a senior, competent person, responsible for ensuring compliance within the business and ensuring that the sponsor management system requirements are properly fulfilled. The Level 1 User is a person with day to day management of the Sponsorship licence. 

Often, particularly when the licence is first granted, these two roles are filled by the same person, this is particularly the case in smaller firms. In larger firms, the level 1 user is often a person from human resources. When the licence is first granted, the level 1 User cannot be a legal adviser, however, as soon as the licence is granted, a legal advisor can be added as a Level 1 User. A licence has only one Authorising Officer but can have more than one Level 1 User. 

Level 2 Users in Tier 2 and Tier 5 applications

Level 2 Users are optional. This role allows a user to carry out some actions on the licence but not others. They cannot change, or request to change organisational details on the licence, for example.

The ‘Key Contact’ role in Tier 2 and Tier 5 applications

The ‘Key Contact’ role is a role usually held by the legal representative, or by the authorising officer. It is this person who will be contacted by the Home Office in respect of the licence.  

People who fill these roles will need to ensure that they do not have any unspent criminal convictions. They also must not have had negative involvement with UKVI in recent years or been involved as an Authorising Officer, Level 1 User, Level 2 User or Key contact with a revoked licence in the past year. 

Where can the key personnel be based?

Key personnel cannot be based outside the UK, be a contractor or consultant, be subject to a bankruptcy restriction, or have any history of non-compliance.  

You’ll need to bear this in mind when considering who should hold the roles indicated above.

Additional considerations

When considering who will fill the sponsor management roles, bear in mind likely longevity of employment for those employees taking on the roles. If an employee leaves who holds a key role, it will be your responsibility as the authorising officer to ensure that that role is reassigned, and an application made to the Home Office for the new person taking on the role.

For further information on Tier 2 and Tier 5 visas call 020 7118 4546 or email 

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