Employing Foreign Workers in The UK – Expert Guide for 2024


Expert Advice on Employing Foreign Workers in the UK

The UK is an attractive prospect for some of the world’s most skilled and talented workers and is also a base for numerous global companies, start-ups and organisations. 

When companies set up in the UK, whether they are British or international, they must look for the right employees with the appropriate skill sets, which can be challenging if they are limited to strictly British nationals.

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Therefore, expanding your horizons in terms of recruitment as a company will give you access to a vast number of highly qualified workers from around the world who are ready to fill any position, help globalise your business and aid you in building relations in an international and multi-cultural context, make your business more efficient by introducing innovative ways of working and more competitive in terms of work ethic.

It is for these reasons and in the interest of helping the UK retain its title as a global business powerhouse that the Home Office provides a number of different routes geared towards making employing foreign workers in the UK possible.

We will outline these routes but would also like to state the importance of seeking legal counsel to ensure your employees do have the right to work in the UK and avoid any fines linked to illegal work in the UK.

*Please note that all salary requirements listed in this article are subject to change by the UK Home Office; for the most up-to-date information it is always best to contact us directly.

Obtain a Sponsor License

Firstly, if you are thinking of employing foreign workers in the UK, you will need to get your company a skilled worker sponsor licence which is a government-issued license which permits you to employ qualifying foreign nationals. It replaces the old Tier 2 Sponsor License, and the conditions for gaining the new license are as follows:

  • Your organisation has a UK presence and trades lawfully with all the required forms of registration and compliance. The Home Office may wish to inspect your documentation or premises at any point. You can apply for a license which covers a section or branch of your business or a license which encompasses your whole company.
  • The Home Office will want assurance that you will provide genuine employment in a skilled occupation which pays the going rate. The rate is determined by the Home Office on an ad hoc basis, but guidelines on job suitability and the going pay rate are provided. 
  • You agree to undertake all the responsibilities which are related to owning a Sponsorship License.
  • Private persons are not usually eligible to become Sponsors. 

However, please keep in mind that there are exceptions to the rule which we can advise you on, like:

  • There are additional criteria when sponsoring religious or creative workers, international sports professionals and under 18 or 16 persons working under these titles. We can advise you on the particulars of eligibility in these circumstances.
  • You should understand how to use share codes to regularly check up on your employee’s immigration and right-to-work status.

You will not be allowed to obtain a Sponsorship License if:

  • You have criminal convictions in the past for immigration offences, fraud or money laundering activities.
  • You have had a Sponsorship License that has been taken away from you within the last 12 months.

You will not need a Sponsor License to employ certain types of foreign nationals, including:

  • Citizens from Ireland
  • EU citizens or individuals who are in the UK with settled or pre-settled status
  • Individuals who already have indefinite leave to remain in the UK

Global Business Mobility Visa 

Another way of employing foreign workers in the UK is through the Global Business Mobility Visa, which the Home Office introduced on March 15, 2022.

The idea of this Visa is to help employers bring workers to the UK temporarily and is not a route that will lead to the permanent settlement of the employee in the UK. The Global Mobility Visa is split into five sub-categories depending on the criteria and intended function of the employee:

Senior or Specialist Worker Visa

If you have a foreign employee working for your organisation abroad but require them in the UK due to their specialised skill-set, then you should follow this route. The following criteria apply:

  • Provide the employee with a valid certificate of sponsorship
  • The employee has worked for you outside of the UK for over 12 months unless they are earning over £73,900.
  • They will take up a role of employment that is on the list of eligible occupations; this can be checked with the four-digit occupation code.
  • They will be prepared to be paid the minimum salary for the job or at least £42,400 – whichever is higher.
  • An employee can apply to stay for up to 5 years at a time.

Graduate Trainee Visa

This Visa will allow you to bring employees to work in the UK branch of your organisation if it is part of a training programme leading to managerial or specialist roles in the future. The following criteria apply:

  • The Home Office has approved your company/organisation as a sponsor.
  • The trainee has worked for your organisation immediately before application.
  • You have a certificate of sponsorship that you can show as proof with information about the intended role.
  • The job you are advertising is on the list of approved occupations.
  • The trainee is paid at least £23,100 per annum. 
  • You have made your application from outside the UK.

If granted, your employee’s Visa will be valid for one year. Please note that this Visa cannot be extended within the UK, but your employee can apply for a new Graduate Visa from outside the UK in the future. 

The UK Expansion Worker Visa

This is the appropriate route if you are planning to expand your business to the UK and require the presence of certain employees to help you achieve this aim. The following criteria apply:

  • You need to provide the employee with a valid certificate of sponsorship.
  • The employee has worked for you outside of the UK for over 12 months.
  • They will do a job for you in the UK, which is on the list of eligible occupations.
  • Upon arrivial in the UK, they will be paid a minimum eligible salary required for the job or at least £42,400 – whichever is higher.
  • Workers can stay for up to 12 months in the UK with this Visa and can extend for an additional 12 months.

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Secondment Worker Visa

This Visa will allow you to bring workers to the UK who are connected to high-value investments or contracts being pursued by your organisation. The following criteria apply to secondment workers:

  • They must be an existing employee of your overseas organisation for over 12 months, and the high-value contract or investment has been approved by the Home Office.
  • They must receive a certificate of sponsorship with details on the intended role.
  • Take on a job which is on the list of eligible occupations from the Home Office. 
  • Stay no longer than 12 months in the UK with the option of extending a further 12 months.

Service Supplier Visa

This Visa can be applied to allow an employee or self-employed professional to enter the UK to complete a specific contractual service or project. The criteria are as follows:

  • The candidate must be an employee of a business that is not in the UK or a self-employed service provider outside of the UK. 
  • The candidate is providing a service under a contract that is referred to by a valid international trade agreement.
  • The candidate must be carrying out a service to a business approved by the Home Office, one that has a legal sponsor license. 
  • doing a service to a UK business that has been approved by a sponsor license issued by the Home Office.
  • The candidate must be going for an eligible job – or prove they suitably qualified.
  • The candidate has a relevant ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from a UK sponsor that outlines the correct employment information. 
  • The candidate has been employed by their employer for at least 12 months outside the UK. If not, they must show that they have at least 12 months of professional experience if they are a self-employed service provider.
  • The candidate has relevant experience – i.e. 12 months experience for either the current employer outside the UK or self-employed in the same sector immediately before the application is made. 

How Can Gulbenkian Solicitors Help

Our highly reputed and experienced immigration lawyers London can advise you on the best Visa routes if you are considering employing foreign workers in the UK. We will take care of all your company’s immigration paperwork so you can concentrate on what you do best and run your business efficiently.  We can also help audit and ensure your company and foreign workers comply with Home Office legislation, keeping your business safe from any legal discrepancies.

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At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.

Call us on +44 (0) 207 269 9590 or fill out the form below. We usually reply within a few hours.

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