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What to Know Before Transferring Foreign Workers to the UK

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Currently, the UK is subject to free movement of people which allows British citizens, EEA citizens, and Swiss nationals to live and work in the UK without needing a visa or a work permit. However, in some situations, some EEA countries may need special permission.

Although the groups that were mentioned above do not need a visa or work permit, if you are a UK employer looking to employ a foreign worker, then you will need to check that the person you are hiring is eligible to work in the UK. There are specific requirements that you will need to meet depending on the employee’s nationality, their skill set, and their length of the contract.

Here are a few things to know about employing a foreign worker in the UK.


Foreign Workers & Tiers in the Visa System

For most EEA citizens, they are able to freely move throughout Europe and find work, however, for non-European citizens, the situation is somewhat different. Foreign workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), must apply for a suitable visa that enables them to work in the UK.

Before you employ a foreign worker to the UK, as a UK employer, you will need to check if you are employing someone on a Tier 2 General Worker Visa or a Tier 5 Temporary Worker Visa. If they are on these tiers, then you must hold a Sponsorship License and you must also be registered to sponsor employees in order to employ a worker to the UK from overseas.

Here are the different Visa tiers.


Tier 1 – Highly Skilled Migrants

The Tier 1 visa category is for ‘high-value migrants’ that are from outside of the EEA. This tier is for entrepreneurs, investors, and people that come under the ‘exceptional talent’ visa. People that have a Tier 1 visa do not need to be sponsored by an employer.

There are different sub-categories that come under the Tier 1 visa, including Exceptional Talent, Entrepreneur, Graduate Entrepreneur, and Investor.

  • Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas are for people that have been recognised by the Home Office as individuals that are leaders or emerging leaders in the field. There are five hundred of these visas offered every two years.
  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas are for people that want to set up their own business in the UK. They must also have at least £200,000 (or £50,000, if you are in the UK in a recognised PBS visa) in investment funds to be eligible to apply for this visa.
  • Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visas are for graduates that have been officially endorsed and have a credible and genuine business idea. They must, however, also meet other specific criteria to be eligible.
  • Tier 1 Investor visas are for people that have at least £2 million to invest. There are also specific criteria that need to be met in order to be eligible for this visa.


Tier 2 – Skilled Migrants

The Tier 2 visa category is for ‘skilled workers’ that are outside of the EEA and have a job offer in the UK. This includes skilled workers that have been transferred to the UK by an international company, skilled workers for proven shortages in the UK, sportspeople, and ministers of religion. People that are on a Tier 2 visa, will need to be sponsored by a firm with a sponsorship license.

There are five different types of Tier 2 visas, including Intra-Company Transfer, Graduate Trainee, Ministers or Religion, and Sportsperson.

  • Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visas are for foreign workers that are being transferred from an overseas office to work in the UK branch of the organisation. This person will need to have been working for the firm in their home country for at least 12 months unless the firm will pay them £73,900 (at the time of writing) or more per year to work in the UK.
  • Tier 2 Graduate Trainee visas are for transfers into graduate trainee programmes for specialist roles. These people will need to have been employed in their home country for at least three months.
  • Tier 2 Minister of Religion visa is for people that are outside of the EEA and have been offered a job within a faith community. They will also need to meet other eligibility criteria.
  • Tier 2 Sportsperson visas are for qualified coaches or elite sportspersons that have been recognised by their sport’s governing body.
  • The Tier 2 General Work visa is the visa that is likely to be the most relevant for firms. Workers will be eligible to apply for a General Work visa if they have been offered a skilled job in the UK. However, there is a minimum salary that must be offered to the potential foreign worker and the minimum amount may fluctuate depending on the government threshold for that month. It’s important to know that this visa can only be used for occupations that are listed on the Tier 2 Occupation list or occupations that appear on the Tier 2 Shortage list.


Tier 3 – Unskilled Migrants (Suspended)

The Tier 3 category was designed for ‘low-skilled’ workers that are being temporarily employed for labour shortages. However, the government has never allocated any visas under this scheme and so it was eventually discontinued in 2013.


Tier 4 – Students

The Tier 4 visa category is for students over the age of 16 and are located outside of the EEA that would like to study in the UK. This visa is used for students to attend UK universities and colleges. Students must be offered a place on a course from a registered UK establishment in order to be eligible to apply.


Tier 5 – Temporary Workers

The Tier 5 visa contains six different sub-categories of types of temporary visas. These scenarios include, creative and sporting, charity workers, religious workers, government authorised exchange, international agreement, and the youth mobility scheme. People that are sponsored under Tier 5 will have a limited time which they can work in the UK. The length of time can vary from three months up to two years.


Visa Sponsorship License Application

Now that you are aware of the different tiers of visas, if you are looking to employ a worker outside of the EEA in the UK, you will need to check if the potential worker is on a Tier 2 visa or a Tier 5 temporary visa. If the worker is on one of the two tiers, then you will need to register with the Home Office and obtain a sponsorship license.

Applying for a sponsorship license can be a difficult process that requires a great deal of research and preparation. The slightest bit of incorrect or incomplete information may result in your application being denied. Therefore, it’s crucial that you need to be sure that you meet the eligibility criteria before applying. You will need to have several processes in place for various operations, such as monitoring the sponsored employee if a license has been granted and having reliable HR management in place. There are also other criteria that you need to meet in order to be eligible. The current system that is in place can be difficult to manage and there is no guarantee that your application for a sponsorship license will be approved.

Here at J M Wilson Solicitors, we have years of experience and expertise in helping businesses to employ workers from outside of the EEA or transferring workers from companies abroad. We provide a full range of services for businesses and individuals. See how our services can help you.


Contact Us for European Applications & Immigration Services

If you’re located in the West Midlands or the surrounding areas and you would like advice or help from our expert immigration solicitors, then please get in touch with us. We can provide professional immigration services and discuss your situation and needs.

Call us on 0121 356 4556 or you can email us at enquires@jmwilsonsolicitors.com. We’re always happy to help.


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