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How to Employ Overseas Workers in the UK

Last updated: 19 July 2022

As an employer based in the UK, you will normally require a sponsor licence from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) before you can hire workers from overseas. Once you have secured your sponsor licence, any overseas candidates you have offered a job to must apply for a work visa (e.g. UK Skilled Worker visa) to gain entry to and remain in the UK. Work visa applicants must score enough points under the UK point based system (PBS) to successfully secure the permission they need to come to the UK.

As a result of Brexit and the ending of free movement, UK employers who wish to hire EU nationals must also be sponsored. However, if the EU nationals have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), then they do not need to be sponsored.

It is possible to hire a foreign worker without a sponsor licence under the high potential individual visa, youth mobility scheme, and graduate visa schemes. However, these are limited to 2 years and cannot be further extended. If you decide to hire an overseas national on one of these visas, they will need to switch to a sponsored work visa before their visa expires. Other schemes, such as the dependant family visa, allow holders to work in the UK without sponsorship and are typically granted for the length of the main visa holder’s leave, which may be longer than 2 years.

As specialists in global mobility representing many UK organisations and multinationals, Reiss Edwards has the expertise to advise on all aspects of your overseas worker strategy, sponsorship application, compliance, and recruitment processes.

For assistance with employing foreign workers in the UK, please speak to our business immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at info@reissedwards.co.uk.

How to hire foreign workers abroad?

If you are at the start of the sponsorship application process, there are several steps you will need to take to ensure this is completed successfully.

  1. Review the eligibility requirements of a sponsor licence
  2. Put the necessary processes, procedures, and systems in place to meet the eligibility requirements of a sponsor licence holder
  3. Apply for your employer sponsorship licence
  4. Wait for your sponsor licence to be approved
  5. Check the job role and eligibility of the person you want to hire
  6. Apply for a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) and allocate a CoS number
  7. Employee applies for a work visa (e.g. UK Skilled Worker visa)

1. Check the eligibility requirements of a sponsor licence

For a UK business to secure a sponsor licence from UKVI, they must demonstrate that they:

  • Are a genuine and operational business that is lawfully trading in the UK
  • Are based within the UK
  • Do not pose a threat to immigration control (i.e. will not hire workers illegally) – employers must have no unspent convictions for immigration offences, money laundering, fraud, or other similar offences
  • Have not had a sponsor licence revoked in the last year
  • Have honest and dependable key personnel who will manage the sponsorship of the employment process
  • Meet the compliance requirements of an employer sponsorship licence holder

2. Put the necessary processes, procedures, and systems in place to meet the eligibility requirements of a sponsor licence

To meet the compliance requirements of a licenced sponsor, you will need to show that you:

  • Have an HR system which will enable you to keep up-to-date records on sponsored workers
  • Have processes in place to ensure only suitable and qualified foreign workers are given a Certificate of Sponsorship
  • Report important changes in circumstances to UKVI within set timeframes (e.g. if a sponsored worker does not arrive for their first day of work or they leave the business’s employment)

It is important to check that you will be hiring overseas workers for a suitable job and you are paying the required level of pay (£25,600 for a Skilled Worker visa holder, or the required ‘going rate’). You will also need to choose your ‘Key Personnel’, including an Authorising officer, Key contact, Level 1 user, and Level 2 user of the UKVI Sponsor Management System (SMS).

See our full breakdown of how much it costs to sponsor an employee in the UK.

3. Apply for your sponsor licence

To apply for your sponsor licence, you will need to:

  1. Complete and submit the online application form1
  2. Pay the application fee (this depends on the size and type of business and the type of sponsor licence you require)
  3. Submit the submission sheet provided at the end of the application process to UKVI
  4. Submit your supporting documents to UKVI

As part of the application review process, a UKVI compliance officer may attend your premises for a pre-compliance visit to ensure you meet the requirements outlined above.

You can check our guidance on sponsorship licence application for more information about how to apply.

4. Wait for your employer sponsorship licence to be approved

In most straightforward cases, you can expect a decision on your sponsor licence application within 8 weeks. You may be able to pay an extra £500 for a much faster decision within 10 working days. It is important to note that the number of applications that can be fast-tracked is limited to a small number each day and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are able to apply for a faster decision, this will be explained to you when you apply.

5. Check the job role and eligibility of the person you want to hire

To sponsor a foreign national, you must ensure the job is eligible for sponsorship. The Skilled Worker visa has its own list of eligible occupations2 and shortage occupations3. It is important to check that the SOC code (Standard Occupation Classification) matches the role you have on offer.

You will also need to ensure you are paying the appropriate salary4 for the role being offered to an overseas national.

Once you are satisfied the role is suitable for sponsorship, you will then need to check the eligibility of any prospective foreign worker for the job. This includes making sure that they have the skills, qualifications, registration, and experience needed for the role.

6. Apply for a certificate of sponsorship and allocate a CoS number

Each sponsor worker must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) in order to apply for a visa. Sponsors can request a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) through the online Sponsorship Management System (SMS) once they have a sponsor licence.

You can check more in our guidance on Certificate of Sponsorship

How can Reiss Edwards help?

Reiss Edwards is a leading UK immigration law firm. We partner with domestic and international businesses to make the process of bringing overseas workers to the UK, whether on a short, long-term, or permanent basis, as easy as possible. Our immigration solicitors can:

For assistance with employing foreign workers in the UK, please speak to our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at info@reissedwards.co.uk.

References:

1 GOV.UK: Applying for a sponsor licence in the UK

2 GOV.UK: Eligible occupations and codes for skilled worker

3 GOV.UK: Jobs on shortage occupation list

4 GOV.UK: When you can be paid less as a skilled worker

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