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How Much Does It Cost a UK Company to Sponsor a Work Visa?

With the British economy expected to rebound strongly in 2022 and 2023, more and more businesses are making moves to apply for a sponsor licence to enable them to employ overseas staff. In addition, with the UK’s departure from the EU now complete, businesses that were able to rely on freedom of movement to employ skilled EU nationals without any paperwork or immigration concerns now need a sponsor licence to recruit anyone from outside of the UK. In this article, we will explain the costs associated with sponsoring skilled workers from overseas.

The cost of sponsor licence application

All businesses in the UK, whether public or private entities, have to apply for and secure a sponsor license before they are able to recruit overseas nationals. The application fees vary depending on the size and type of business and the type of licence being applied for, as follows:

Type of licence (new licence and renewal)

Fee for small or charitable sponsors

Fee for medium or large sponsors

Worker

£536

£1,476

Temporary Worker

£536

£536

Worker and Temporary Worker

£536

£ 1,476

Adding a Worker licence to an existing Temporary Worker licence

No fee

£940

Adding a Temporary Worker licence to an existing Worker licence

No fee

No fee


Your business will be classed as a small sponsor if it has (two of these must apply):

  • An annual turnover of £10.2 million or less
  • Total assets worth £5.1 million or less, or
  • 50 employees or fewer

Your business will be classed as a charitable sponsor if it is:

  • A registered charity in England or Wales
  • A registered charity in Scotland
  • A registered charity in Northern Ireland - if you’re not on the register, you must provide proof of your charitable status for tax purposes from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • An excepted charity
  • An exempt charity
  • An ecclesiastical corporation established for charitable purposes

A UK sponsorship visa licence is valid for 4 years, after which you can renew your licence if you still meet the eligibility criteria (the renewal application fee is the same as for a new licence).

The cost of sponsoring a skilled worker visa

In addition to the sponsor licence application fee, there are other fees and charges you should be aware of (and budget for) as a UK business seeking to sponsor overseas workers; these include:

  • Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) fee

  • Immigration skills charge (ISC)
  • Immigration healthcare surcharge

Certificate of sponsorship fee

Each time you issue a new Certificate of Sponsorship (Cos), you will also need to pay a certificate fee, as follows:

Type of licence

CoS Fee

Worker (except workers on the International Sportsperson visa)

£199

Temporary Worker

£21

International Sportsperson - where the certificate of sponsorship is assigned for more than 12 months

£199

International Sportsperson - where the certificate of sponsorship is assigned for 12 months or less

£21


There is no charge, however, if the worker is from one of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden or Turkey.

Immigration skills charge

The Immigration Skills Charge is paid by a sponsoring business each time a Certificate of Sponsorship is issued to a foreign worker. The purpose of the fee is to provide additional funding to the Department of Education for training and resources to fill existing skills gaps in the UK labour market.

Like the sponsorship licence application fee, the Immigration Skills Charge is set depending on the size and type of business; it also depends on the worker’s period of stay in the UK. The Immigration Skills Charge are as follows:

Duration of work

Small or charitable sponsors

Medium or large sponsors

First 12 months

£364

£1,000

Each additional 6 months

£182

£500


To check if your business is classed as a small or charitable business, please see above in the sponsor licence fee section.

The Home Office require that the charge be paid if the worker is applying from outside of the UK and is coming to the UK to work for 6 months or more, or if they are applying from within the UK to come for any length of time.

You will not need to pay the immigration skills charge if the employee is coming to the UK on the Intra-company graduate trainee visa route or if they are switching from a UK study visa. In addition, if the sponsor is hiring an overseas worker in one of the following occupations, they will not need to pay the charge:

  • chemical scientists (2111)
  • biological scientists and biochemists (2112)
  • physical scientists (2113)
  • social and humanities scientists (2114)
  • natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified (2119)
  • research and development managers (2150)
  • higher education teaching professionals (2311)
  • clergy (2444)
  • sports players (3441)
  • sports coaches, instructors or officials (3442)

For more details, please see our article that is talking about Immigration Skills Charge

Immigration healthcare surcharge

The immigration healthcare surcharge is also paid when submitting a work visa application and covers the cost of any healthcare provided by the National Health Service (NHS) while the worker is in the UK. Likewise, this is normally paid by the foreign worker, but some employers may elect to reimburse this cost.

The immigration healthcare surcharge is £624 per year per person (£470 for children) and is payable for the main visa applicant and each dependant.

For some visas, including the Health and Care Worker visa, the immigration healthcare surcharge is not required.

Work visa application fee

Each time a visa application is submitted for an overseas worker, whether as a temporary short-term worker, full-time skilled worker, or through the Intra-company transfer (ICT) scheme, an application fee is payable. This is typically paid by the worker themselves, however, as an employer, you may decide to reimburse this cost to your employee. The application fees for work visas depends on a range of factors, including the visa type, the duration, and whether the candidate is applying from within the UK or outside. For example, for the Skilled Worker visa, the following application fees apply:

Skilled Worker visa duration

Inside the UK

Inside the UK and on the shortage occupation list

Outside the UK

Outside the UK and on the shortage occupation list

Up to 3 years

£704 per person

£464 per person

£610 per person

£464 per person

More than 3 years

£1,408 per person

£928 per person

£1,220 per person

£928 per person


For the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa, the application fees are as follows:

ICT visa type

Apply from outside the UK

Extend or switch in the UK

Intra-company Transfer (up to 3 years)

£610 per person

£704 per person

Intra-company Transfer (more than 3 years)

£1,220 per person

£1,408 per person

Intra-company Graduate Trainee

£482 per person

£482 per person

Premium service fee

Depending on the location of the foreign worker, it may be possible to pay an additional fee to have their visa processed faster than the standard processing time. The priority service is an additional £500 and provides a decision within 5 working days. The super-priority service costs an additional £800 and provides a visa decision by the end of the next working day. This is paid by the visa applicant, but some employers may choose to cover this cost.

Biometric fee

A biometric fee of £19.20 is payable for each work visa applicant – this covers the cost of having their fingerprints scanned and a photo taken for a biometric residence permit. This is paid by the visa applicant, but some employers may choose to cover this cost.

Other costs

In addition, we recommend looking at any further costs to your business of sponsoring overseas workers, including:

  • Any IT system/s you implement to help adhere to your sponsor license duties. Remember, you will be expected by the Home Office to keep records on right to work checks, recruitments and interviews you have conducted, and information on your sponsored workers, including their qualifications and occupational registration, attendance, and up to date contact details. As such, you will need a way of recording this information in a timely, secure, and up to date manner.
  • Hiring additional staff to help manage the sponsorship process
  • Any legal advice you seek during the application process and for carrying out sponsor licence compliance mock audits (to ensure you are always prepared for a Home Office compliance visit, and hence can retain your licence at all time).
  • Premium customer service scheme – £25,000 per year for large companies, and £8,000 for SMEs. This is an optional scheme offered by the Home Office providing premium customer service and an enhanced level of support for organisations employing foreign workers. Premium customers are provided with their own dedicated account manager who provides tailored advice and support with all their immigration needs.

Which costs must be paid by the employer?

The following costs must be paid by the employer:

  • Sponsor licence application fee (and renewal fee)
  • Immigration Skills Charge
  • Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) fee
  • Premium customer service scheme
  • Any other costs associated with sponsorship (including staffing and systems)

Case studies

The following provides an example of the costs payable when sponsoring an individual worker without dependant family members (i.e. a single worker) and a worker with a dependant family:

Example 1: Sponsoring an individual worker without dependant family members

UK Widgets Limited is a medium-sized export business and currently do not sponsor any overseas workers. They require a specialist engineer and are unable to find a person with suitable skills in the UK. They find a suitable candidate, John, a US national. John plans to come to the UK without any family members. The costs would be as follows:

Mandatory employer costs (medium-sized company)

  • Sponsor licence: £1,476
  • Certificate of sponsorship: £199
  • Immigration Skills Charge: £5,000 (£1000 x 5 years)

Employee costs

  • Immigration Health Surcharge: £3,120 (£624 x 5 years)
  • Application fee: £1,220
  • Biometric fee: 19.20

Example 2: Sponsoring an individual worker with dependant family members

In this example, we will use the same scenario as example 1 above, but assume John wishes to bring his wife and child (under 18). The additional costs would be as follows:

Employee costs

  • Immigration Health Surcharge: £3,120 (£624 x 5 years) + £2,350 (£470 x 5 years)
  • Application fees: £2,440 (£1,220 x 2 people)
  • Biometric fees: £38.40 (£19.20 x 2 people)

How can Reiss Edwards help?

Reiss Edwards provide global mobility expertise to many of the world’s largest multinational organisations and many small, medium, and large employers in the UK, ensuring they always have the necessary skilled international staff where and when needed. We can assist with all aspects of your international employee sponsorship, including:

  • Advising on global mobility strategy
  • Handling all aspects of visa applications
  • Handling sponsor licence applications
  • Advising on sponsorship systems, processes, and procedures
  • Carrying out mock audits and providing advice to ensure your ongoing Home Office sponsor compliance
  • Overcoming application refusals
  • Dealing with the downgrading or revocation of sponsor licences

Reference:

GOV.UK: UK visa sponsorship for employers

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