Employees are the backbone of every company. Yet, at times, this requires you to hire foreign workers in UK to fill the skills gap within your workplace.

However, the challenge associated with hiring foreign nationals in UK stems from the end of the EU freedom of movement and the implementation of a new immigration system.

These modifications have significantly impacted the recruitment strategies of local companies.

In this article for employers, we outline the rules and regulations governing the employment of foreign workers in UK and provide guidelines on how to comply with the post-Brexit immigration system.


How to Hire Foreign Workers in UK: A 5-Step Guide


Following Brexit, migrant workers coming to the UK will generally need to obtain a UK work visa.

The majority of work visas for UK require sponsorship by a local employer.

Additionally, employers need to apply at the Home Office for a sponsor license and ensure they renew it for validity.

If you find yourself at the initial stages of the sponsorship application process, there are multiple steps that must be taken to ensure you successfully recruit and hire foreign workers.


Step 1: Determine if You Are Eligible for a Sponsor License


As we mentioned before, most UK companies require a sponsor license to employ someone from outside the UK.

Formerly known as Tier 2 sponsor license, this credential grants you the ability to hire foreign workers who are based overseas or within the UK.

This also includes citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020.

Companies applying for a sponsor license must be bona fide businesses legally operating in the UK. For instance, limited companies must be officially registered with Companies House.

To obtain a sponsor license, you must not have unspent convictions related to immigration violations or other criminal offenses.

Additionally, you must not have undergone a sponsor license revocation within the previous 12 months.

If you meet these criteria, there is nothing to stop you from applying for a sponsor license.

However, there are certain individuals for which you won’t need a sponsor license. These individuals include:

  • Irish citizens



  • People holding indefinite leave to remain in the UK


  • British Overseas Territories citizens (excluding those from the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus)


Step 2: Check the Type of License You Need to Apply For


There are two types of sponsor licenses you can apply for, depending on whether you are offering long-term or temporary employment:

  • Worker license


  • Temporary worker license


Each of these licenses is further divided into various categories as outlined below.


Worker license



  • Senior or Specialist worker visa (formerly known as the intra-company transfer visa) – For corporations that require the relocation of existing employees to the UK.


  • International Sportsperson – For elite athletes and coaches coming to work in the UK.


  • Minister of Religion – Available for individuals working within a religious institution.


Temporary worker license


  • Scale-up worker – For individuals joining a rapidly expanding local business.


  • Creative worker – This visa type is for employment in the creative sector (e.g., fashion, design, entertainment, etc.). This visa is valid for up to 2 years.


  • Seasonal Worker – This visa is further divided into two categories:


    • Horticulture seasonal worker visa – Available for individuals coming to the UK to carry out horticultural activities for up to 6 months. These activities may include fruit picking and harvesting, greenhouse management, etc.
    • Poultry seasonal worker visa – For individuals engaged in poultry-related work. Under this visa type, foreigners can work in the UK from 2 October to 31 December (in the same year).


  • Government-authorized exchange – For individuals coming to the UK for training, research projects, or knowledge exchange. Depending on the purpose of the work, this visa can be valid for 12 or 24 months.


  • Charity worker – Available for unpaid workers at charitable organizations. This visa type is valid for up to 1 year.


  • International agreement – Available for employees of foreign governments or private servants in diplomatic households.


  • Religious worker – Applicable for individuals working for a religious institution for a period of up to 2 years.


  • Service Supplier – For employees of a foreign business or self-employed professionals providing services for a local company for a period of 6 or 12 months.


  • UK Expansion Worker – Intended for workers coming to the UK to establish a new branch or subsidiary of a foreign company.


  • Secondment Worker – For employees of a foreign organization sent to the UK to work for a different company. To qualify for this visa, workers must hold a high-value contract.


  • Graduate Trainee – Suitable for individuals working for the UK branch of a foreign employee as part of a graduate training program.


Step 3: Apply for a Sponsor License


Under the UK’s new immigration system, it is no longer mandatory for companies to complete a Labor Market Test to prove that no UK citizens are available to fill the position.

However, you might still need to show sufficient evidence of your legitimate requirement for employing foreign workers.

The required documents for a sponsor license vary depending on the company’s size, industry, and the type of license you are applying for. In most cases, businesses need to submit a minimum of 4 documents.

For example, if you are completing a sponsor license application for a seasonal worker visa, you will need to include a document showing evidence of the endorsement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

To check the complete list of supporting documents for a sponsor license application, please refer to this link.

You need to apply online for a sponsor license on the website of the Home Office.

For small companies, the sponsor license application fee is £536 for both worker and temporary worker licenses. On the other hand, medium and large companies will pay £536 for the temporary worker license and £1,476 for the worker license.

The application takes around 30 minutes to complete, and in most cases, you will have to wait less than 8 weeks to be processed.


Applying for a Sponsor License: Requirements


Additionally, as part of the application for a UK sponsor license, you must fulfill certain obligations associated with being a sponsor.

These obligations include:

  • Establish appropriate HR systems that enable you to keep up-to-date records and meet your sponsor-related responsibilities


  • Be prepared for potential visits by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to assess compliance


  • Implement procedures to guarantee that only eligible candidates are granted a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) which is an electronic document that your prospective employee must use to apply for a UK work visa


If Your Sponsor License Application Gets Approved


If the Home Office approves your sponsor license application, you will receive an A-rated license.

This means that the competent authorities have listed your company in the Register of Sponsors.

You will then be able to assign Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to your foreign employees.

However, there’s a possibility of losing this license if you don’t fulfill certain obligations.

These obligations include:

  • Only sponsor workers who are qualified for the role


  • Maintain records of the workers’ supporting documents


  • Monitor your foreign workers and keep their contact details up to date


  • Inform UKVI if your foreign employees are not adhering to the work conditions of their visa


  • Report any changes related to your business (e.g., becoming insolvent, moving to a new address, merging with another business, etc.). You must register these changes using the Sponsorship Management System.


Step 4: Apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)


Each of the workers you sponsor must hold a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) in order to apply for a visa.

A CoS is valid for 3 months. Within this timeframe, your prospective employee must use it to apply for a work visa.

You can request a CoS through the Online Sponsorship Management System (SMS) which you will gain access to upon approval of your sponsor license.

In the application, you must include detailed information regarding your workers’ duties and their expected salary.

In most cases, the competent authorities will approve your CoS application in as little as one working day.

The cost of a CoS for a worker hired under the worker license (except for International Sportsperson visa) is £199. On the other hand, the cost of a CoS for a worker hired under the temporary worker license is £21.

For the International Sportsperson visa, the fees are as follows: £199 for a visa valid for more than 12 months and £21 for a visa valid for 12 months or less.

Important note: Before applying for a CoS, some workers may need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate.

An ATAS certificate is issued to non-EU students who apply for their postgraduate education in certain sensitive subjects.

To check if you need an ATAS certificate, please refer to https://www.academic-technology-approval.service.gov.uk/.

To learn more about the ATAS certificate requirements and application, see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/guidance-on-how-to-apply-for-an-atas-certificate.


Step 5: Your Future Employee Applies for a UK Work Visa


After getting a CoS, your future employee can apply for a UK work visa.

The application can be submitted online through gov.uk – UK’s public sector information website.

However, applicants will need to have their fingerprints and photograph taken at the competent UK Visa Application Center.

This is a mandatory requirement in order to obtain a biometric residence permit.

Throughout the online application process, your prospective employee will receive detailed information as to the next steps that must be taken.

The required documents for a UK work visa depend on the type of visa requested as well as the applicant’s citizenship and personal circumstances.

For instance, when applying for a skilled worker visa, the applicant could be asked to provide some or all of these documents:

  • Valid passport


  • Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)


  • Proof of English proficiency


  • Job title, annual salary, and occupation code


  • Proof of sufficient means of subsistence (e.g., bank statements or CoS highlighting the employer’s ability to support the worker)


  • Criminal record certificate


  • Valid ATAS certificate



  • UK PhD certificate or Ecctis reference number (if the qualification of the applicant is from outside the UK, they must apply through Ecctis to have their qualification recognized).


All documents that are not in English or Welsh must be translated by a certified translator.

The fee for a work visa in the UK depends on a number of factors, such as visa type, visa length, and applicant’s personal situation.

For example, the cost of a skilled worker visa ranges between £625 and  £1,423. On the other hand, the cost of a seasonal work visa is £259.

In most cases, the competent authorities process overseas applications for a UK work visa in approximately 3 weeks.


Hiring Foreign Workers in UK: Final Considerations


There are many ways your business can benefit from hiring foreign workers in UK.

As in, employing migrants helps you solve your labor shortage while also diversifying your workplace with people from different countries.

Furthermore, workers from abroad can bring valuable insights and expertise to the continually expanding talent pool of your organization.

Nevertheless, it’s important to comply with UK immigration law to avoid penalties or even criminal charges.

To do so, you must have a sponsorship license in place and make sure you choose the right candidates with the required legal documentation and skills check.

Though you shouldn’t consider this article as legal counsel, you now have a roadmap to hire the talent you need beyond the UK borders.

And, once you’re sure to meet all the legal requirements, you can post your job ad on VideoWorkers – the best recruitment platform in the world that connects employers like you, who need to fill their labor shortages, with top-tier candidates from all over the world.

With the largest available database of skilled and unskilled workers, you can rest assured that you will attract the finest talent your team needs for success!

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