Self-Sponsorship
UK Settlement through Self Sponsorship route

Overview of the UK Self sponsorship route

Self-Sponsorship is not a specific visa category but rather a strategic approach that combines different immigration routes to achieve settlement in the UK. It is a viable option for those seeking to accelerate their careers and establish themselves in the country.

The most common Self-Sponsorship approach involves using the Skilled Worker visa in conjunction with obtaining a sponsor licence for your own UK-based business. In essence, you sponsor yourself through your own company to work in the UK. This strategy is particularly suitable for business owners who wish to start, grow, or manage their business idea in the UK.

To be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa via self-sponsorship, you must either set up a new business in the UK or already own an existing UK business. Your UK company must first obtain a Skilled Worker sponsor licence before you can apply for a Skilled Worker visa through self-sponsorship.

For those who are entrepreneurial and committed to building a life in the UK, the self-sponsorship route offers a promising path to achieving their goals, both professionally and personally through settlement with partner and children.

It is important to note that self-sponsorship is not a straightforward process, and it is highly recommended you seek legal advice to guide you through the complexities involved.

The Self-Sponsorship Advantage

The key advantage of self-sponsorship is that it gives business owners the freedom to run their companies in the UK without the risk of having their sponsorship revoked by an external employer. This route is particularly suitable for experienced entrepreneurs or those who have identified a business opportunity in the UK market. Furthermore, the self-sponsorship route does not require the business to be innovative or unique.

The benefits of operating your business from within the UK are immense. You will have access to a wealth of cutting-edge resources and state-of-the-art facilities that can help you take your venture to the next level. Being based in the UK also provides you with easy access to the Western global market, opening a world of opportunities for growth and expansion.

Not to forget, the UK offers a supportive business environment, with numerous avenues for assistance available from both the government and the private sector. These resources are designed to help entrepreneurs like you succeed and thrive in the competitive business market. From funding opportunities and mentorship programmes to networking events and industry-specific support, the UK provides a comprehensive ecosystem that can help you navigate the challenges of running a business and achieve your goals.

On the personal side, you can bring your spouse and children (under 18) as your dependants to the UK and ultimately settle in the UK with your family through this route.

Eligibility criteria under the Self Sponsorship route to the UK

To sponsor yourself for a Skilled Worker visa, the following mandatory requirements must be satisfied (this is irrespective of the specific route you choose):

  1. Be at least 18 years old.
  2. Have an established, active, and genuine UK company presence.
  3. Ensure your UK company has successfully obtained a Skilled Worker sponsor licence.
  4. Have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship assigned to you by your UK company for the job you intend to do.
  5. The job offer must be a genuine vacancy that meets the appropriate skill level.
  6. As a sponsored employee, you are paid a salary that meets or exceeds the general threshold and the ‘going rate’ for the relevant SOC 2020 occupation code.
  7. Ensure your sponsor company has paid the Immigration Skills Charge, if required.
  8. Demonstrate English language competency at CEFR Level B1 or higher (equivalent to IELTS 4.0).
  9. You have sufficient funds to support yourself without relying on public funds.
  10. Provide a criminal record certificate and a valid TB certificate, if required.

Suitability criteria under the Self Sponsorship route to the UK

  1. You should demonstrate relevant knowledge, skills, or qualifications in the industry where you intend to establish your business. This expertise will help ensure the viability and success of the venture.
  2. You must present a well-developed business concept or have identified an existing company in the UK that you wish to expand. A clear vision and strategy are essential for the growth and sustainability of the enterprise.
  3. You must have adequate financial resources to operate and maintain your desired business in the UK. This financial stability is crucial for the long-term success of the company. There is no set minimum or maximum investment amount required for your business venture. The amount may vary depending on the specific needs and demands of your company and could potentially reach £25,000 or more.
  4. You must either appoint an individual who is both settled in the UK (for example, a British Citizen or someone with Indefinite Leave to Remain) and who is also a resident of the UK to take over the duties of the Authorising Officer on the Sponsor Management System. This ensures that the business complies with all necessary regulations and requirements.

 

The company must always have an active Authorising Officer as part of its sponsorship duties. If the current Authorising Officer leaves, you must appoint another eligible employee or post-holder to replace them, or risk having the licence revoked by UKVI.

 

Application process and requirements

Embarking on the self-sponsorship route to establish your business in the UK can be broken down into four key milestones:

Milestone 1: Company formation in the UK

To be eligible for the Skilled Worker visa via the self-sponsorship route, the initial step is to establish a UK company. This can be done by registering a new company or by having an existing UK-registered company.

The good news is that overseas entrepreneurs can register a UK company without being subject to the restriction of being a UK resident or a British national. You have the option to be a 100% shareholder or the Director of the UK-registered company.

As the founder of your UK company, you have the flexibility to assume a leadership position that best suits your skills and the needs of your business. This role may include being the Managing Director, overseeing the overall strategy and direction of the company; the Director of Operations, ensuring the smooth running of day-to-day activities; or any other relevant position that allows you to effectively manage and grow your enterprise. As a majority shareholder, you will have significant control over the decision-making processes and the future trajectory of your UK venture.

How to Register a UK Company as an Overseas Entrepreneur

To establish your UK company, you must complete the registration process through Companies House, the official government body responsible for incorporating and dissolving limited companies in the United Kingdom.

This process involves submitting the necessary documents, such as the Memorandum and Articles of Association, and providing details about the company’s directors, shareholders, and registered office address.

Once all the required information has been provided and the registration fee has been paid, Companies House will review the application and, if approved, issue a Certificate of Incorporation, officially confirming the creation of your UK company.

In the event where a non-UK resident director is unable to physically attend board meetings or sign official documents in person, they have the option to nominate a UK-based representative to fulfil these responsibilities on their behalf.

We recommend that professional help is sought to carry out the formalities of registering a company in the UK to ensure all the specific requirements and obligations under UK law are met.

MAK25 London helps with all formalities for Company registration for overseas entrepreneurs seeking the option for Self-Sponsorships routes to the UK.

Get in touch with us today to find out more.

Opening a UK Business Bank Account as an overseas individual

It is possible to open a UK Bank Account as a non-UK resident person.

This is usually carried out under Non-Resident Banking schemes offered by quite a few commercial, high-street banks in the UK.

The specific requirements and procedures can vary depending on the banking institution and your individual circumstances.

When applying for a UK business bank account as a non-resident, you will generally need to provide several key documents, such as:

  1. A valid passport or national ID card to prove your identity.
  2. Proof of your residential address, which can be more challenging to obtain as a non-resident. However, there may be options available to have a registered company address at the time of company formation.
  3. Evidence of your income or funding source for the business.

 

Be reminded that some banks may have additional requirements, such as having a UK address. Furthermore, certain banks may only offer limited account options to non-UK residents, such as basic bank accounts with reduced features.

Another factor to consider is that some banks may necessitate an in-person visit to a branch to open an account, while others may offer the convenience of online account opening.

Directly contacting the banks can provide clarity on the specific documents and information needed to open a business bank account. It would also assist in helping you find which bank can offer you more favourable terms for the suitability of your business needs.

Milestone 2: Obtaining Your Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence

After successfully registering your UK company, the next crucial milestone in your journey to securing a Skilled Worker visa through the self-sponsorship route is to apply for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence. This licence is essential, as it grants your UK business the legal authority to sponsor foreign workers, including yourself, for employment in the United Kingdom. The application process involves demonstrating that your business meets the necessary eligibility criteria and has the appropriate systems in place to fulfil its responsibilities as a licenced sponsor.

To summarise, the Home Office will want to be satisfied that:

  1. Your UK business is a genuine business operating lawfully in the UK.

 

To satisfy the Home Office that you are a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK, you will need to provide at least four specified documents as set out in Appendix A of the sponsor guidance.  

Appendix A is split into four tables.

  • Table 1: confirms that a public authority or a company listed on the London Stock Exchange does not have to submit documents other than those specific to the licence they are applying for.
  • Table 2: covers starts-ups (organisations that have been trading for less than 18 months), as well as franchises and charities.
  • Table 3: lists the specific evidence that needs to be sent for a particular tier.
  • Table 4: then lists all the other possible documents you could provide, one of which must be the latest set of audited accounts if the organisation is legally obliged to submit them.

 

In addition to information about your organisation, the proposed job role, and the candidate in mind, you will also need to explain to the Home Office why you are applying for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence. 

A Business Plan defining your company’s goals and growth would come handy at this point.

  1. Your UK business is meeting its obligations under Sponsor Duties for the UKVI.

 

If your application for a sponsor licence is approved, you will be required to fulfil various sponsorship duties, including reporting obligations, record-keeping of all staff members (also known as Right to Work checks), and compliance with UK immigration law.

As a newly formed company, you will be subject to more rigorous initial checks by the Home Office. They will visit your organisation during the Sponsor Licence application process to ensure that your systems are sufficient, particularly if your application is deemed high risk.

The Home Office may conduct both announced and unannounced visits throughout your time as a Sponsor Licence holder to ensure you are fulfilling your sponsor duties, particularly those related to record-keeping.

During these visits, they will inspect your HR systems, engage with your designated Authorising Officer, and possibly interview sponsored employees.

The Home Office will evaluate your current HR and recruitment processes to confirm that you can carry out your duties and demonstrate compliance within the specified timeframes and manner outlined in the sponsor guidance.

You will be responsible for reporting information about your sponsored workers and your business using the sponsorship management system, with reportable events such as changes to start dates and work locations needing to be submitted within 10 or 20 working days, depending on the nature of the event.

  1. Your UK business is offering genuine employment that meets the salary and skill level requirements of the Skilled Worker route.

 

When applying for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence, the Home Office will assess whether the vacancy offered is genuine and meets the necessary skill and salary requirements.

To assure the Home Office of the genuineness of the vacancy, you must ensure that there is a legitimate need for the role within your organisation, the applicant in concern for the skilled worker visa has the necessary skill level, the business has the capacity to meet the salary criteria and that it aligns with your business activities.

Documents required for Sponsor Licence Application:

Your UK company must provide at least four supporting documents demonstrating its lawful presence in the UK. These documents can include (but are not limited to)

  • The most recent UK business bank statement
  • Employer’s Liability Insurance certificate
  • VAT certificate
  • HMRC documents showing PAYE and Accounts Reference Number
  • An organisation chart showing current staff and vacancies
  • A letter detailing various aspects of your company, such as business services, operating hours, current vacancies, your future role, and the salary you will be paid

 

This is not an exhaustive list, it will be tailored as per your company’s profile and industry.

Milestone 3: Assigning Your Certificate of Sponsorship

A CoS is an electronic record that contains a unique reference number, which is essential for the worker to proceed with their self-sponsorship Skilled Worker visa application.

After your company’s sponsor licence application has been approved, your business will be in a position to apply for and assign a Defined Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to each migrant worker you intend to employ.

The CoS must be issued within 3 months of the date you plan to submit your Skilled Worker visa application and include key pieces of information, such as your name, job title, salary details, and a start date that falls no later than 3 months after the submission of your Skilled Worker visa application.

Additionally, the CoS must confirm that it has not been used in any previous applications, regardless of whether they were granted, refused, withdrawn by the sponsor, or cancelled by the Home Office.

By ensuring that all the necessary information is accurately included in the Certificate of Sponsorship, you can proceed with confidence in your self-sponsorship Skilled Worker visa application process.

Skill Level Requirement

Prior to applying for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence, employers must ensure that the job they intend to recruit for meets the skill-level requirement of the Skilled Worker route.

The sponsored job must be skilled to level 3 or above (equivalent to A-level) on the Regulated Qualifications Framework for England and Northern Ireland, or the equivalent level in Wales or Scotland.

You should check for eligible occupations for the Skilled Worker route as listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations and Appendix Immigration Salary List of the Immigration Rules, assigned alongside the SOC 2020 occupation code. Sponsors are required to select the most suitable SOC 2020 occupation code from here.

If the job is not listed as eligible, the worker will not meet the skill-level requirement, and an application for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence will not be appropriate.

The Home Office will evaluate the appropriateness of the chosen code by assessing factors such as the genuine need for the role, the applicant’s qualifications and experience, and the employer’s compliance history.

If the Home Office has valid reasons to suspect that the occupation code is not the most fitting, they will refuse the applicant’s Skilled Worker visa application.

Salary Level Requirement

The second criterion for a Skilled Worker sponsorship licence is ensuring that the offered salary meets or surpasses both the general salary threshold and the ‘going rate’ for the relevant SOC 2020 occupation code.

The salary paid to a Skilled Worker must generally meet or exceed both the general salary threshold, which is typically £38,700 per year (but may be lower if the worker scores ‘tradable points’), and the ‘going rate’ for the specific SOC 2020 occupation code.

Exceptions to the general salary threshold include lower thresholds for workers previously granted permission as a Skilled Worker before 4 April 2024, those sponsored for Health and Care ASHE salary jobs, and those sponsored in Health or Education occupation codes with going rates based on national pay scales.

The ‘going rate’ for the occupation code can be found in Appendix Skilled Occupations, and a percentage of this rate may be acceptable if the worker scores ‘tradable points’.

The salary paid to a Skilled Worker must meet the higher of either the general salary threshold or the going rate for the specific occupation. The general salary threshold is based on actual gross earnings, capped at 48 hours per week, unless the worker has irregular hours resulting in uneven pay. In such cases, work exceeding 48 hours in some weeks can count towards the salary thresholds, provided the average over a regular cycle (up to 17 weeks) does not surpass 48 hours per week, and any unpaid rest weeks are included in the average.

The going rate is calculated based on a 37.5-hour work week and must be pro-rated according to the weekly hours stated on the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).

Tradable points

In certain cases, sponsored skilled workers applying under the Skilled Worker route may be paid less than the general threshold of £38,700 per year by being awarded ‘tradable points’ for specific attributes. These include:

  1. Applicants with a relevant PhD qualification can be paid a salary of at least £34,830 per year and 90% of the going rate for the SOC 2020 occupation code.
  2. Applicants with a relevant PhD in a STEM subject can be paid a salary of at least £30,960 per year and 80% of the going rate for the SOC 2020 occupation code.
  3. Applicants with a job offer on the Immigration Salary List can be paid a salary of at least £30,960 per year and the going rate for the SOC 2020 occupation code.
  4. New entrants to the labour market can be paid a salary of at least £30,960 per year and 70% of the going rate for the SOC 2020 occupation code.

 

These ‘tradable points’ provide flexibility in meeting the salary requirements for the Skilled Worker route, enabling employers to sponsor workers with valuable skills and qualifications at a lower salary threshold.

What is an Immigration Salary List?

The Immigration Salary List is a tool used by the Home Office to identify skilled occupations where employers face challenges in finding enough qualified workers to meet their labour needs. This list allows employers to sponsor migrants for these hard-to-fill positions at a salary lower than the general threshold set for the Skilled Worker route.

For an occupation to be included on the Immigration Salary List, it must be eligible for the Skilled Worker route and have demonstrated a shortage of suitable candidates within the local labour market. By offering this flexibility in salary requirements, the Home Office aims to support businesses in addressing skills gaps and maintaining their competitiveness.

The Immigration Salary List is regularly reviewed and updated to reflect changes in the labour market and to ensure that it continues to support employers in sectors with genuine skills shortages.

Milestone 4: Securing Your Skilled Worker Visa

After your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) has been assigned, you can apply for a Skilled Worker visa for you and your family through the self-sponsorship route.

To successfully sponsor yourself, your visa application must demonstrate:

  • You have a valid CoS and a genuine job vacancy that meets the appropriate skill level.
  • When applying for a self-sponsored Skilled Worker visa, your job role must closely align with one of the eligible occupations listed in the UKVI’S Guidance. As you will be working for your own company, it is highly likely that you will be required to undertake a position that is at a managerial level or higher. This ensures that your role meets the necessary skill level and responsibility requirements set forth by the UK immigration authorities for the Skilled Worker visa category.
  • To prove your eligibility for a self-sponsored Skilled Worker Visa, you must submit a detailed and current CV highlighting your relevant work experience and qualifications, along with supporting evidence such as educational certificates, professional licences, recommendation letters, and work contracts. By providing a comprehensive portfolio of your skills and expertise, you can effectively demonstrate to the Home Office that you have the necessary qualifications to successfully run and develop your business in the UK, thus also partially fulfilling genuine vacancy requirement.
  • Your salary is equal to or higher than both the general threshold and the ‘going rate’ for the relevant SOC 2020 occupation code.
  • Your sponsor has paid the Immigration Skills Charge, if required.
  • You have a minimum English language proficiency of CEFR Level B1 (equivalent to IELTS 4.0).
  • You can support yourself financially without relying on public funds.
  • You have provided a criminal record certificate and a valid TB certificate, if required.

Submissions for Self-Sponsored Skilled worker application

  • You can submit your Skilled Worker visa application up to 3 months before your intended start date in the UK.
  • If applying from outside the UK, you can expect a decision within 3 weeks.
  • For those switching into or extending their stay in the UK as a Skilled Worker, the standard processing time is 8 weeks, with priority services potentially available.

 

Ensuring your application comprehensively addresses all the required criteria can increase your chances of securing a successful outcome for your self-sponsored Skilled Worker visa.

What is the typical timeline for the Self-Sponsored Skilled Worker Visa process?

The self-sponsored Skilled Worker Visa process, from establishing your UK business to successfully obtaining the visa, may take up to between 3 to 6 months.

However, it’s important to note that this is an estimated timeline, and the actual duration may vary depending on factors such as the complexity of your business setup, the efficiency of your application preparation, and the processing times of the relevant authorities.

What happens after the Self-Sponsored Skilled Worker Visa is obtained?

Stay compliant: As a self-sponsored business owner, you must ensure compliance throughout the duration of holding a licence. This involves fulfilling sponsorship duties, which include, but are not limited to, monitoring immigration status to prevent illegal employment, keeping records, maintaining migrant contact details, tracking attendance and absences, and fulfilling reporting duties. While this may seem complex, we offer comprehensive Sponsor Licence Training to guide you and your team through obtaining a self-sponsorship route seamlessly.

Apply for Extension: If your CoS covers a 5-year period, you will be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) once this time has elapsed.

If your CoS is valid for less than 5 years, you may need to extend your visa in order to reach the 5-year threshold, unless you decide to continue extending your visa rather than applying for ILR. It is important to note that for a successful visa renewal, your company must still have a genuine job vacancy available.

Additional employment: You are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week in an additional job, provided you continue fulfilling the role for which you are sponsored. The extra work must either be in the same occupation code and level as your sponsored job, or in a shortage occupation.

If your business is going in a loss: You can continue to retain the licence, subject to condition that your business remains active.   However, if your business ceases trading, you must surrender the licence and switch your immigration category to continue living and working in the UK.

The self-sponsorship route offers a unique and highly advantageous pathway for ambitious entrepreneurs and business owners seeking to establish or expand their ventures in the United Kingdom.

By taking control of your own sponsorship through your UK-based company, you gain the freedom and flexibility to pursue your professional goals without relying on external employers.

This underutilised approach not only accelerates your entry into the UK market but also provides a direct route to settlement for you and your family.

With MAK25 London’s proven track record of success in sponsor licence applications, comprehensive support in company setup, and unparalleled expertise in global mobility, you can confidently mauver your way through the self-sponsorship process.

Our Founder’s (LINK TO FOUNDERS PAGE) passion and expertise will guide you through every step, ensuring that your business meets all necessary requirements and is well-positioned for long-term success in the UK.

With MAK25 London on your side, you can unlock the full potential of the self-sponsorship route and transform your entrepreneurial dreams into a thriving reality in one of the world’s most dynamic and opportunity-rich markets.

Get in touch with us today to discuss your options.

Enquiries welcome aamil@mak25.co.uk or call +44 7823733189 (virtual conferences available for international clients)