Employing Overseas Workers

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For an initial consultation, call us now on 0300 131 6767


If a UK-based business wants to employ foreign migrants to work for their business, they will usually need to apply for a sponsor licence from the Home Office. Settled workers and persons with existing immigration permission on a route that allows them to work for you do not need to be sponsored. A settled worker is defined as any of the following:

  • a British citizen
  • an Irish citizen (with limited exceptions )
  • a person who has been granted limited leave to enter or remain (pre-settled status) or indefinite leave to enter or remain (settled status) under Appendix EU to the Immigration Rules (also known as the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS))
  • a person who has made a valid application under the EUSS and is awaiting a decision on that application
  • an EU, an EEA or a Swiss national who started working for you on or before 30 June 2021, if you carried out the relevant right to work checks in force at that time
  • a British overseas territories citizen, except for those from sovereign base areas in Cyprus
  • a Commonwealth citizen who can prove they have the right of abode in the UK – Commonwealth citizen means:

o a British Overseas Territories citizen

o   a British National (Overseas)

o   a British Overseas citizen

o   a British subject; or

o   a citizen of a country listed here:  

  • a Commonwealth citizen (as defined above) who has been granted permission on the UK Ancestry route on the basis they have a grandparent born in the UK or Islands

All employers in the UK must carry out right to work checks. The business must check that any worker they wish to employ has permission to enter or stay in the UK and can do the work in question before they start work. This applies even if the worker is, or appears to be, a British citizen or other settled worker. If a UK business fails to carry out a right to work check, or any necessary follow-up checks, it may be liable for a civil penalty under illegal working legislation.

To speak to one of our solicitors about right to work checks and civil penalties, call us today on 0300 131 6767 or complete our enquiry form and we will get straight back to you.

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Options for employing overseas workers

If you wish to employ a person who is not a settled worker, or who does not otherwise have immigration permission to work for you in the UK, you will need to be authorised by the Home Office. This authorisation is known as a Sponsor Licence, and employers who hold a sponsor licence are known as Sponsors. Individual persons are not eligible to be recognised as sponsors, unless they are Sole Traders who wish to sponsor someone to work in their business.

You will also be assessed to ensure you are suitable to be a sponsor. For example, this means you cannot have:

  • unspent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes, such as fraud or money laundering
  • an unpaid or a recent civil penalty for employing illegal workers or certain other offences
  • had a sponsor licence revoked in the last 12 months

You will need appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees and people to manage sponsorship in your business.

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will review your application form and supporting documents. They may visit your business to make sure you are trustworthy and capable of carrying out your duties.

You can choose which route or routes, you wish to sponsor workers on, depending on the needs of the business. There are two main types of routes: Worker and Temporary Worker routes.

The Worker routes are: Skilled Worker; Senior or Specialist Worker (previously called the Intra-Company Transfer route); Minister of Religion; and International Sportsperson.

The Temporary Worker routes are: Charity Worker; Creative Worker; Graduate Trainee; UK Expansion Worker; Service Supplier; Secondment Worker; Government Authorised Exchange; International Agreement; Religious Worker; Scale-up; and Seasonal Worker.

The only routes listed above that lead to settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain) in the UK are the Skilled Worker; Minister of Religion; and International Sportsperson routes.

For an initial consultation, call us now on 0300 131 6767

What is the application process?

The application is submitted online on the gov.uk website. A differing fee will be payable, depending on the size of the business. You are usually a small sponsor if at least two of the following apply:

  • your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less
  • your total assets are worth £5.1 million or less
  • you have 50 employees or fewer

 Standard processing time for the application is 8 weeks, but the business might be able to avail of the pre-licence priority service for an additional fee to get a decision within 10 working days.

When you apply for the licence, you will need to appoint ‘Key Personnel’ within the business to 3 separate roles (these roles can be filled by the same person or a combination of different people):

Authorising Officer – this is the most senior person in your organisation responsible for the recruitment of all migrant workers and ensuring that you meet all of your sponsor duties

Key Contact – this person acts as the main contact between UKVI and the business. UKVI will contact this person if they have any queries about the sponsor licence application, the documents sent, or the payment. This role can be filled by a UK-based legal representative at the time of applying for the sponsor licence.

Level 1 user – this person is responsible for carrying out day-to-day sponsorship activities using the SMS. The business must have at least one Level 1 User in place at all times during the life of the sponsor licence, and it must have at least one Level 1 User who is an employee, a partner, or a director. If you have more than one Level 1 User, any additional Level 1 Users must be one of the following:

  • a paid staff member or office holder within your organisation
  • an employee of a third-party organisation engaged by you to deliver all or part of your Human Resources function
  • a UK-based representative

Furthermore, the business must always have a minimum of one Level 1 User who is a settled worker (as defined above), with some exceptions.

You can only nominate one Level 1 user when you apply for the licence, but you can add more users after the licence has been granted.

Once the licence has been granted, you can also nominate persons to be Level 2 users (these users have fewer permissions than Level 1 users), which includes the persons listed above, in addition to a temporary staff member supplied to you by an employment agency.

 The initial Level 1 user will have access to the sponsor management system (SMS)  which allows them to assign Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to prospective or existing employees. Without a CoS, the employee cannot apply for their visa.

There is a fee to assign a CoS which differs depending on whether the employee in on a Worker route; Temporary Worker route; or an International Sportsperson visa.

The business might have to pay an additional charge when it assigns a CoS to someone applying for a Skilled Worker or a Senior or Specialist Worker visa. This is called the ‘immigration skills charge’, with exceptions for certain occupations. These fees differ for small and charitable sponsors, and for medium or large sponsors, and are payable in full when the CoS is assigned. 

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How we can help

The expert solicitors at Latitude Law can provide expert advice on all aspects of right to work checks and guidance, and sponsor licensing. We can provide detailed guidance about the requirements or prepare the entire application alongside a detailed representation document explaining how the relevant rules are met. Our experts can also provide assistance in applications for any of the sponsored work routes, including switching into any of the sponsored work routes from another immigration category, extensions, and settlement applications.

Why choose Latitude Law?

Latitude Law has significant experience with preparing successful Sponsor Licence applications. We also have extensive knowledge of reconsideration requests, managing the SMS on behalf of a business, assigning CoS, and preparing & submitting all types of UK immigration applications.

Thanks to our in-depth insight of immigration rules, we are able to provide pragmatic advice and meet our clients’ needs. We have connections with the Home Office and other immigration authorities so we can advise you with confidence and ensure the entire immigration procedure runs smoothly and efficiently for you.

Working with a law firm can be a big decision, which is why we ensure that our clients are at the heart of everything we do. We are a highly driven team that is dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration advice.

As a boutique law firm specialising in UK-inbound business immigration, our experts understand the complexity and uncertainty that constantly shifting regulations and compliance create for businesses wanting to recruit or relocate the very best workers from around the globe. Our lawyers can provide up-to-the-minute legal advice on how any changes will impact your sponsor licence requirements.

We are pleased to be recognised as a leading law firm by the following independent bodies: The Times Best Law Firms 2024, Chambers & Partners 2024, Legal 500 2024 and Who'sWhoLegal 2024. These endorsements from the international legal directories demonstrate our integrity and success in dealing with difficult cases. We are also proud of our 5-star Google reviews from over 150 satisfied clients.

Call us today on 0300 131 6767 or fill out our enquiry form and we will get straight back to you. Let our legal experts take the uncertainty out of employing overseas workers so you can recruit, relocate and maintain your workforce with confidence.

Content correct as of 21st June 2024

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Contact us

As the requirements for gaining & maintaining a sponsor licence are complex, to ensure success, you should seek specialist advice from an immigration solicitor before you proceed with an application. Latitude Law’s specialist lawyers can advise your business about your particular requirements and ensure that your ongoing Sponsor Licence remains fully compliant with the very latest immigration rules since the implications of violation can be very costly in terms of both financial penalties and the time & energy required to rectify any breaches.

Get in touch with our legal team today on 0300 131 6767 or fill out our enquiry form and we will get straight back to you. Face your future knowing you have the dedicated support of one of our expert lawyers.

Our other relevant visa services

Office- skilled worker visa

Skilled Worker Visa

A Skilled Worker visa is available for skilled workers of all nationalities that have been offered a position from an eligible UK company who is a registered sponsor. This route can lead to settlement and applicants can be joined by dependent partners and children.

This visa can last up to 5 years before you need to apply for an extension and should be updated if you change jobs or employer. You may be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain after working in the UK for 5 years on the Skilled Worker visa.

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Senior or Specialist Worker Visa

The Senior or Specialist Worker visa (Global Business Mobility route) enables businesses with linked entities overseas to transfer existing employees to the UK for a specified period of time. The employee will need to be assigned to a UK business that is linked to their employer overseas to be considered for this type of visa. The Senior or Specialist Worker visa is a category under the UK’s points-based immigration system that replaces the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) Visa.

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Sponsor Licence Compliance

Once a sponsor licence is issued, organisations have a number of duties that they must adhere to. These include reporting, record-keeping, complying with immigration laws and sponsorship guidance. Failure to comply can lead to suspension or revocation of your sponsor licence which will prove costly and time-consuming to rectify.

For an initial consultation, call us now on 0300 131 6767

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