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Latitude Law


  • Business Work

Tier 2 or Tier 5? General or ICT migrant? Youth mobility or Government Exchange? What does it mean to be sponsored to work in the UK?

The language of sponsored work is complicated and confusing. The options available to potential migrant workers are numerous, but none of them is easy. Sponsorship is one of the most complicated areas of UK immigration law, with different categories of visa depending on whether an individual’s role in the UK will be permanent or temporary, voluntary or paid, highly-skilled or an internship. Here we look at some of the top tips to know when considering UK sponsored employment:

  • Understand the difference between Tier 2 and Tier 5 workers. Tier 2 workers are skilled individuals travelling to take long-term positions in the UK, or to complete a fixed-term contract (perhaps having transferred from a related company overseas). Tier 5 workers are generally less experienced (sometimes even voluntary) staff, and their time in the UK is often limited. Applying under the wrong category at the outset can limit your options later.
  • Choose the correct sub-category. Tiers 2 and 5 are broken down repeatedly, creating further visa routes for workers (sportspeople and ministers of religion have their own rules, for example), and additional opportunities for workers with a particular profile (eg the Youth Mobility route). It is important to choose the sub-category that fits you best, to maximise the opportunities the Immigration Rules can offer. Some visa routes are more straightforward than others; Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer can be simpler than Tier 2 General, for example.
  • Have a plan for how long you might stay in the UK. Relocating to the UK as an Intra-Company Transfer migrant might give you an easier application, but it will be of no use to you if you want to live in the UK long-term. For most ICT migrants, time under this route is capped at 5 years, with an additional 12-month ‘cooling off’ period if you leave the UK and then want to return under Tier 2. Tier 5 options are similarly restricted in terms of long-term residence, so planning is essential
  • Money is important. Tier 2 sponsored workers must be paid an amount which meets Home Office requirements, set at particular level depending on the role the individual will fill. There are also hidden fees associated with sponsored work, for the employer (licence fee, certificate of sponsorship fee and immigration skills charge) and the employee (visa fee, immigration health surcharge, additional visa centre fees). Have a clear idea of costs before starting the process.
  • Timing can be key. If the proposed worker will be employed by a company which does not yet have the appropriate licence, sufficient time is needed to complete the licensing process in addition to individual sponsorship. This is a particular concern for Tier 2 General migrants, whose entry to the UK is dependent on a monthly ballot for sponsorship places, causing further delays in the process. Planning is again essential, to make sure you can start work on time.


If you would like to speak to one of our experts concerning sponsored work in the UK, contact us online or on 0161 234 6800 (Manchester and London) or 0151 305 9600 (Liverpool).