Under the Points Based System (PBS) for immigration most people applying to come to or remain in the UK to work or study who are not nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss nationals will, in addition to having to meet the criteria set by the PBS of assessment, require a certificate of sponsorship from a licensed sponsor in order to qualify for permission to enter or remain.

If you wish to employ migrants under the PBS, you must apply to join the register of sponsors in order to obtain a licence enabling you to issue certificates of sponsorship. Acceptance onto the register means that you agree to meet a number of sponsorship duties, including cooperating with the Border and Immigration Agency, record keeping, reporting, compliance and tier-specific duties.

A licence will be valid for four years from the date when it is issued, or from the day that applications are accepted for the relevant tier, whichever is later.

The five tiers under the PBS and the starting date from which migrants can apply to come to the UK under that category are:

Tier (Application date)

1 - Highly skilled workers (29 February 2008)

2 - Skilled workers with a job offer (Autumn 2008)

3 - Low skilled workers to fill temporary labour (Tier Suspended)

4 - Students - application date (Spring 2009)

5 - Youth mobility and temporary workers (Autumn 2008)

Tier 3 is currently suspended for those wishing to enter the UK from outside the EEA. Entry to this tier will only be allowed if specific shortages are identified that cannot be filled from the domestic or European labour force.

All applicants in tiers 2 to 5 must give a certificate of sponsorship from a licensed sponsor when applying for permission to come to the UK or for permission to stay.

Employers who wish to apply for a licence as a sponsor for skilled workers and inter-company transfers under tier 2 can apply now online. The aim is that applications for a licence for tiers 4 and 5 and for tier 2 licences in the categories for sports people and religious workers will be accepted from mid-2008.