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UK Work Visas and Sponsorship.

Understanding UK Work Visas and Sponsorship.

 
Since the UK left the EU in January 2021, free movement has ended and a new point-based immigration system has been introduced. This has changed the way that workers from outside the UK are able to obtain work within the UK, with new rules on obtaining visas and sponsorship licences.
 
The information below outlines some of the key points on what you may need to know as an employer or international candidate. For more extensive information, we would recommend visiting the Gov.UK website for comprehensive guidance and information.
 
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UK Work Visa Sponsorship for Businesses

Employers that are concerned about their ability to recruit the required workforce after Brexit are recommended to research and consider obtaining a sponsorship licence. A sponsorship licence is essentially an approval from the UK Home Office, allowing an organisation to sponsor workers from outside the UK to come and work for them.
 
There are many benefits to holding a Sponsorship Licence:
  • Wider Talent Pool: The World becomes your oyster for sourcing the best talent
  • Appeal: You might look more attractive to candidates and other stakeholders
  • Once you have one, it's simple: The licence is valid for 4 years and the renewal process is much easier than a brand-new application

How to apply for a Sponsorship Licence

You can apply for a sponsorship licence through the Home Office. The application process is complex with several original documents having to be submitted in addition to the online application and staggered fee structure.
 
Decisions can take up to 16 weeks depending on whether any further information is requested on the initial review of the application, for example additional documents or on-site visits by the UKVI to your premises. The usual timeline on a decision is within 4 to 8 weeks.
 

What is a Skilled Worker Visa?

Since the UK left the EU on 1st January 2021, all workers who are not citizens of the UK are required to obtain a Skilled Worker Visa to be able to work in the UK with an approved employer. Most IT jobs are eligible within the Skilled Worker criteria. You can view the full list of eligible occupations here.
 
The Skilled Worker scheme is based on a points based system, meaning applicants will need to accumulate a minimum of 70 points to be eligible. See the list of Mandatory and Tradeable options for earning points below (image from the UK Gov Website).
 
Immigration points system

Tier 2 Visa vs Skilled Worker Visa, and Settled Status

The Skilled Worker Visa replaced the existing Tier 2 General Visa at the end of 2020.
  • No further applications for Tier 2 visas can be made, but existing Tier 2 visa holders will retain their current visas with no change to their conditions, and at the point of extension will apply for a Skilled Worker Visa under the rules of this visa route.
  • Workers from the EU who aren't already living in the UK will be required to apply for the new Skilled Worker Visa in order to obtain employment in the UK.
  • EU citizens who arrived in the UK before 01/01/2021 must apply for Settled Status before 30/06/2021 to allow them to continue working in the UK without a Visa. 

How to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa

 
You must meet the below to qualify for a Skilled Visa:
  • Work for a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office
  • Have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer with information about the role you’ve been offered in the UK
  • Do a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations
  • Be paid a minimum salary - how much depends on the type of work you do
How you apply depends on whether you are:
  • Outside the UK and are coming to the UK
  • Inside the UK and extending your current visa
  • Inside the UK and switching from a different visa
You are able to apply three months before the day you are due to start in the UK. You will need to provide documents and ID as part of the application process.
 
There is a cost for applying which can be found here: How much does a Skilled Worker Visa Cost?
 

Further resources

The information stated above are guidelines based on official information. We recommend visiting the following resources for more information:
 
Resources for Employers:
 
Resources for Candidates: