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Employing a non-UK National: A UK Sponsor Licence


We live in an unique economic climate. On one hand, we are facing a possible recession but on the other hand, the reduced qualified/skilled available workforce is leading employers to look overseas. This article hopes to dispel some of the myths surrounding sponsoring non-UK nationals.

What do I need to think about, when employing a non-UK national?

Firstly, where is your prospective employee?  If they are in the UK, how are they in the UK?

There are a number of immigration categories where an non-UK national is able to work for you in the UK without you needing to sponsor them. For instance:

  • Holders of Ancestry visas
  • Holders of dependant status: where their partner is in the UK under one of the work categories
  • Holders of spouse visas

If none of the above apply, then are you an UK trading entity?  Then you can sponsor a non-UK national if you obtain/hold a sponsor licence.

Isn’t it very expensive to sponsor a worker?

The total cost of sponsoring a non-UK employee depends on the following:

  1. Whether you are considered a small/medium or large company.
  2. The duration of the permission: less or more than 3 years
  3. The job type: is it considered a shortage occupation or is it a PhD occupation
  4. How old is your candidate

If the above apply, there are discounts to the overall costs.

Secondly, you need to consider what you, as an employer must pay for and what’s the employee pays for. Any immediate costs for assigning the certificate of sponsorship – the certificate charge of £199 and the Immigration Skills Charge – is the responsibility of the employer. The other costs – Immigration Health Surcharge, priority processing and visa fees – are the responsibility of the employee and if paid by the employer then is considered to be a “benefit in kind”.

Is it difficult to obtain a sponsor licence?

The main complexity with the sponsor licence application is that, if an application is refused, you are unable to reapply for 6 months. The rules surrounding which entities can apply, the evidence  required to be submitted and whether a licence is required for each related entity in the UK is the challenge. Although information is available on the UK Government portal, it is not always clear which sections apply.

I have heard that remaining compliant with the sponsorship obligations is time-consuming.

Is the process complicated and burdensome for the employer? Well that depends on whether you are already running a compliant business. Contrary to popular belief, the sponsor licence obligations complement the compliance required for employment law, tax, health & safety along with other areas of UK law. It is only complicated/burdensome, if you don’t have a effective infrastructure in  place.

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The data contained within this document is for general information only. No responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies. Readers are also advised that the law and practice may change from time to time. This document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute accounting, legal or tax advice. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.

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