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UK Immigration Rules for Recruiting Social Care Workers from Abroad

Disclaimer: as immigration lawyers, we are unable to help you to find a job in the UK. You must have a UK job offer in order to apply for a UK Social Care Worker visa / Skilled Worker visa . After that, we can advice and handle your visa application on your behalf.

As a social care provider in the UK, you can employ social care workers from abroad under the UK’s Skilled Worker visa or Health and Care visa schemes. UK social care employers first require a sponsor licence that enables them to sponsor overseas carers to work in the UK.

The Skilled Worker visa enables social care workers to work in the UK, including senior care workers, social workers and residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors.

Under the current rules, it is also possible for care assistants, care workers, resident wardens, carers, home care assistants, home carers, and support workers (nursing home) to work in the UK on a Skilled Worker visa as long as they do not work for a private household or individual (unless they are a sole trader who is sponsoring someone to work for their business).

The Health and Care visa or Senior Carer visa is for those working for the NHS or an NHS provider as a care worker, home carer, or social worker. For private households, a more suitable visa route would be the Domestic Worker visa.

In this article, we will discuss the eligibility requirements for social care workers, how to apply for a sponsor licence as a care provider, and the timeline for sponsoring overseas social care workers.

For advice on how to apply for UK visas for social care workers from overseas, speak to one of our friendly and experienced immigration solicitors at 020 3744 2797 or by email at

How to employ a social care worker from abroad

When recruiting care workers from abroad, you will need to complete the following key steps:

  • Check if your company is eligible for a sponsor licence
  • Apply for a sponsor licence (see the section below)
  • Check the job role and eligibility of the person you want to hire
  • Apply for a certificate of sponsorship and allocate a COS number
  • Employee to apply for a work visa (see the section below)

Sponsor licence eligibility

As a potential sponsor, you will need to demonstrate to the Home Office that you have the necessary permission to operate in your sector and provide social care services. This may mean, for example, that you are fully registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) if you are a care home or the equivalent bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or the General Medical Council as an NHS provider. You must also have a footprint or trading presence in the UK. Applicants must also not have any unspent criminal convictions or had a sponsor licence revoked in the past 12 months.

Crucially, to make a successful sponsor licence application, all sponsors must have in place the necessary processes and systems to manage their sponsored workers in a compliant manner. This includes carrying out the necessary check for eligibility to work in the UK, record keeping, monitoring of sponsored workers, and reporting information to the Home Office.

Job role and eligibility

The Home Office provides a list of eligible and shortage occupations for the Skilled Worker visa and the Health and Care visas. In addition, you must:

  • Only offer genuine employment
  • Be able to offer employment that meets the required skill level and salary requirements for the route.
  • Only sponsor workers for roles on the eligible occupation or shortage occupation list
  • Offer pay that meets or exceeds the minimum salary requirements for the specific role

How to apply for a sponsor licence

To apply for a sponsor licence, you will need to complete a number of steps, as follows:

  1. Implement the necessary systems and processes to ensure you can meet your sponsorship duties and obligations (e.g. right to work checks, record keeping and monitoring)
  2. Decide who will be your “Key Personnel” (i.e. Authorising officer, Key contact, Level 1 user of the Sponsor Management System, and Level 2 user of the Sponsor Management System)
  3. Collate the appropriate documents for submission with the application
  4. Decide how many Certificates of Sponsorship (UK CoS) you will need for your first year of sponsorship
  5. Complete and submit the online sponsor licence application1
  6. Provide any documents required to the Home Office
  7. Prepare for a pre-compliance visit from a UKVI compliance officer

Once you have been granted your sponsor licence and your Sponsorship Management System (SMS) is in place, you can start to apply for and issue Certificates of Sponsorship to overseas workers. A nominated person within your organisation can apply for a CoS using SMS. A fee of £199 must also be paid. If approved by the Home Office (this normally only takes 1 day), the CoS can then be issued to the overseas worker to prove they have been offered a job, which they can then use to apply for a work visa.

Immigration application process for overseas social care workers

The approximate timeline for securing the necessary immigration permission to hire an overseas worker in a social care role is as follows:

  • Put in place the necessary systems and processes for sponsorship: 1 – 4 weeks
  • Apply for and receive a decision on your sponsor licence application: 8 weeks
  • Apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship: 1 day
  • Apply for a Skilled Worker or Health and Care Worker visa: 3 weeks

If you need overseas social care workers to start urgently, an extra fee can be paid when applying for your sponsor licence (at the cost of £500 for a decision within 10 days) and for the work visa (for a decision within 1 day at the cost of £800 or 5 days at the cost of £800).

How can Reiss Edwards help?

Reiss Edwards can help with all aspects of the sponsor licence and work visa application process. Our immigration solicitors can:

  • Advise on all aspects of social care workers’ immigration
  • Secure your sponsor licence
  • Provide sponsor licence compliance visit support and help you make changes after a home office compliance visit
  • Manage the suspension, downgrading, or revoked sponsor licence
  • Handle the visa application process on behalf of your sponsored workers
  • Deal with the refusal of a sponsor licence or work visa.

For assistance with your UK immigration matters, please speak to our business immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation at 020 3744 2797 or by email at


1 GOV.UK: Online application for sponsorship licence

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