Hiring Skilled Workers

Skilled worker route

The Skilled Worker route allows foreign nationals to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with an approved employer. This visa has replaced the Tier 2 (General) visa. UK businesses who hold a valid sponsor licence can use this route to recruit skilled workers from anywhere in the world.

Employers can sponsor Skilled Workers for a period of up to five years, after which time the visa holder may be eligible to apply for settlement.

Global Business Mobility route

From 11 April 2022, businesses looking to transfer their employees to the UK for temporary assignments can make use of the new Global Business Mobility route.

This ‘umbrella category’ is for overseas businesses seeking to establish a presence in, or transfer staff to, the UK for specific business purposes. The route consists of five visa categories designed to accommodate different assignment types.

The new Global Business Mobility routes replace several previous categories including the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT), Graduate ICT and Sole Representative visas.

What you need to know

A Sponsor Licence is a permission given by the Home Office to an organisation to sponsor non-resident workers within its business.

Securing sponsor approval is the best way to ensure your business is prepared to hire talent from anywhere in the world under the Skilled Worker route. Smith Stone Walters can offer expert advice and assistance with your Sponsor Licence application and maintenance.

Graduate opportunities

The Graduate route, which opened in July 2021, allows international students to stay in the UK and work or look for work at any skill level, for two to three years after successfully completing their studies. This route now makes it easier for employers to hire the best international graduates in skilled roles. Graduates can also apply in-country to switch to a Skilled Worker visa if they meet the requirements.


What is the cost of a Sponsor Licence?

Currently, the application fee for a Sponsor Licence is £536 for small sponsors, and £1,476 for large sponsors.

What other costs should businesses be aware of?

As well as paying the initial application fee, sponsors will need to pay a fee when they apply to renew or add another category to their licence, and a fee of £239 applies for each Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) assigned.

Sponsors are also required to pay the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) for each CoS they assign, unless an exemption applies. The amount charged depends on the size of the organisation and the length of employment stated on the CoS. Currently, the fee for small sponsors is £364 for the first year of employment, plus £182 for each subsequent six month period. Large sponsors are required to pay the higher fee of £1,000 for the first year, plus £500 for each additional six month period.

The immigration system is expensive, can I pass the costs on to the visa holder?

It is an employer’s responsibility to pay all relevant sponsorship fees such as the Sponsor Licence application fee, the CoS assignment fee and the Immigration Skills Charge. These fees cannot be passed onto the migrant worker.

Other costs such as the visa application fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge are usually covered by the migrant worker, although some employers opt to contribute towards these costs.

Will the Home Office wish to visit my business before or after applying for a Sponsor Licence?

As part of the Sponsorship Pre-Licence process, the Home Office may wish to visit your business premises before making a decision on your application for a Sponsor Licence. Visits may be pre-arranged or unannounced, and can happen at any time throughout the lifetime of your Sponsor Licence. For this reason, Smith Stone Walters strongly recommends sponsors carry out regular mock audits to ensure ongoing compliance.

Is it true that employers do not need to advertise before hiring a Skilled Worker?

Under the Skilled Worker route, employers do not need to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) and advertise roles for 28 days as was previously required under the Tier 2 (General) route.

Is it possible to switch into the Skilled Worker visa from another visa category?

Yes, providing you meet the requirements. The points-based system provides migrants with the flexibility to switch in-country to a Skilled Worker visa from another visa type.

Can EU citizens still apply to the EU Settlement Scheme?

The deadline for most people to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme was 30 June 2021. However, you may still be able apply if you or a family member were living in the UK by 31 December 2020 and you have ‘reasonable grounds’ for not applying by the deadline.

You can also apply if you already have pre-settled status, and you’re applying for settled status. You may be able to stay in the UK without applying – for example, if you’re an Irish citizen, or you already have indefinite leave to enter or remain.

Do European citizens arriving in the UK need a visa?

Yes. EU nationals arriving in the UK to work must apply for permission beforehand, and will need to be sponsored by a UK employer or apply for a visa in their own right. The rules do not apply to Irish citizens and EU citizens with settled or pre-settled status, who can live, work and study in the UK without a visa.

Can businesses transfer staff to the UK from overseas?

From 11 April 2022, businesses looking to establish a presence in, or transfer staff to the UK for temporary assignments can use the new Global Business Mobility routes which have been specifically designed for this purpose. The five routes are:

  • Senior or Specialist Worker – For senior managers or specialist employees who are being assigned to a UK business linked to their employer overseas. This route replaces the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) route.
  • Graduate Trainee – For workers on a graduate training course leading to a senior management or specialist position and who are required to do a work placement in the UK. This route replaces the Intra-Company Transfer Graduate Trainee route.
  • UK Expansion Worker – For senior managers or specialist employees who are being assigned to the UK to undertake work related to a business’s expansion to the UK. This route replaces the Sole Representative provisions in the Representative of an Overseas Business route.
  • Service Supplier – For contractual service suppliers employed by an overseas service provider and self-employed independent professionals based overseas, that need to undertake an assignment in the UK to provide services covered by one of the UK’s international trade commitments. This route replaces the contractual service supplier and independent professional provisions in the Temporary Work – International Agreement route.
  • Secondment Worker – For workers being seconded to the UK as part of a high value contract or investment by their employer overseas. This is a new route in the Immigration Rules.
Where can I find the latest immigration fees?

Employers looking to hire skilled workers from overseas should be aware of the various costs involved. To find up to date immigration fees, please check the gov.uk website or consult a SSW advisor.

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