Self Sponsorship for UK Investors through the Skilled Worker route

Article published (or last modified) on 11 January 2024

Recently, options for non-UK nationals to set-up, run, or own a business in the UK have narrowed. The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa closed in 2019, and the relevance of the replacement Innovator route has drastically narrowed in recent years.

In this landscape, one area attracting a lot of interest is the concept of ‘self-sponsoring’ within the Skilled Worker route. If managed correctly, this provides a method by which non-UK nationals may take on significant roles in UK-based companies, such as Managing Director, CEO, or Business Development Manager.

However, in order to be successful, it is important to follow the correct route, ensuring that the criteria for each step are met. This route fundamentally consists of three steps:

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The Route to Skilled Worker Self Sponsorship

  1. A UK Company with At Least One British/ Settled Director: The first step is to ensure that a UK company exists which is at least partially managed by British or Settled individuals. This requirement ensures a level of established connection and responsibility within the UK.
  2. Obtain a Sponsor Licence (SL): For a company to sponsor a non-UK national, it must first acquire a Sponsor Licence.
  3. Sponsor a non-UK National to a key business role: Once the company has the Sponsor Licence, it can sponsor an individual to take on a key position within the company. This position can be a second director, perhaps a Managing Director, CEO, CFO, or Business Development Manager - depending on the company’s needs and the individual’s expertise.

Is ‘Self Sponsorship’ Any Different to Regular Sponsorship?

It is important to note that the Home Office does not officially recognise the term ‘Self Sponsorship’: there is, from this perspective, only Sponsorship within the Skilled Worker route. There is no separate ‘Self Sponsorship’ visa or immigration route.

The difference is one of perspective. ‘Self Sponsorship’ alludes to the fact that in these cases, the migrant who is being sponsored will be, to at least some extent, driving and instigating the process of sponsorship.

This difference is important, since it makes it particularly important to ensure compliance with Home Office rules surrounding ‘Genuineness’: ensuring that the company, the role, and the fit with the migrant in question, are all genuine, defensible, and appropriately evidenced.

This general consideration raises some important specific considerations for prospective Self Sponsors.

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Considerations for Prospective Self Sponsors

  • Company Compliance and Integrity: The sponsoring company must maintain a clear record and demonstrate ongoing compliance with UK immigration laws. This includes ensuring that all the roles that they plan to fill (and have filled) are genuine and meet the salary and skills requirements. A solid and well-informed record keeping regime is a must, in the event that the company faces a Home Office compliance visit at any point.
  • Role and Responsibility Alignment: The role that the non-UK national is being sponsored for must align with the company’s genuine needs. Furthermore, it’s imperative that the migrant’s skills and work history are a good fit with this particular role.
  • Financial and Long-Term Commitments: Both the individual and the sponsoring company must be aware of the financial implications of following the ‘Self Sponsorship’ route. Costs will include the Sponsor Licence application fee, Immigration Skills Charge, assigning the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), the Immigration Health Surcharge, Skilled Worker visa fee, alongside payment for any professional assistance.
  • Immigration and Legal Guidance: Navigating the complexities of Sponsor Licensing - and in particular, in cases of ‘Self Sponsorship’ - often requires expert legal guidance from immigration specialists. It is better to arrange everything correctly from the outset, than to face a problem down the line - whether from a refusal, a compliance visit, or some unanticipated situation - and only then reach out to expert help.
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Self Sponsorship: Case Study

At White Rose Visas, we’ve assisted numerous companies and individuals in navigating the Skilled Worker and Self Sponsorship route. From initial consultations, to obtaining the Sponsor Licence and ensuring ongoing compliance, our team is dedicated to making the process as smooth and successful as possible.

One success story involves a manufacturing startup that sought to bring on a dynamic Brand Development Director from China. Through careful planning and expert guidance, the company was able to fulfil its ambition, contributing significantly to the growth of the company, and the local economy too.

Self Sponsorship: Next Steps

While Self Sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route offers exciting possibilities for non-UK nationals and UK companies alike, it is important to make sure that all aspects of the applications are meticulously planned and carried out. The Home Office will be looking very carefully at applications of this sort, and it is therefore imperative that all company decisions and actions are fully defensible and evidenced.

If you’re considering this route, or are a company looking to expand your leadership team, White Rose Visas are here to help explore your options. We offer a fully inclusive self sponsorship package - get in touch for a detailed discussion on how you can navigate the world of Self Sponsorship.

Do take a look at this recent video from senior Immigration Adviser Kim Day’s Q&A at the International Conference of Global Migration in Delhi, 14 February 2024.


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United Kingdom

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