AI, Working From Everywhere and Where That Leaves UK Immigration banner


AI, Working From Everywhere and Where That Leaves UK Immigration

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Our immigration solicitors could be writing this article from anywhere in the world. Maybe we are not writing this article; perhaps we asked artificial intelligence to write it for us. Our immigration lawyers are in London; writing and working away but acutely conscious of the opportunities and changes remote working and AI will bring to UK immigration and to ‘satellite employees’.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For proactive immigration law advice call 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

The future of global mobility

When the UK was introducing its new global business mobility route, consisting of five sponsored visas, there was a sense that there was a real shift in the way businesses were thinking about future employment needs. Questions were being asked that would have been unthinkable 20, 10, or even 5 years ago.

Nowadays if a company needs to recruit, they won't automatically assume that they need to sponsor a specialist overseas-based worker on a skilled worker visa or scale-up visa. Instead, the company may look at whether the work can be undertaken everywhere and anywhere through remote working, potentially avoiding the need for the recruit to require a UK work visa or business visa.

As immigration solicitors who specialise in business immigration, sponsor licence applications and management, we are starting to get asked questions about whether a UK business can employ a person from overseas without actually needing to sponsor them or even to have the worker physically present in the UK for the majority of the year.

Global mobility, working from everywhere, and the legal implications

For the UK business, there are legal implications of employing an employee from overseas to work remotely from outside the UK. These include:

  • The law and jurisdiction governing the contract of employment and any employment issues that arise during the course of employment
  • How health and safety operates when employing an overseas-based remote worker
  • Tax considerations
  • The ability of the overseas-based remote worker to come to the UK for work-related purposes

 UK immigration and working from everywhere

If your business is recruiting to fill a job and it could be done from anywhere on a remote basis then there needs to be a discussion between would-be employer and employee about their respective preferences. Without an understanding of both business immigration and individual immigration law decisions could be taken without either the employer or employee fully appreciating the upsides and downsides.

If an overseas employee is going to be working in the UK but with some opportunity to work from their home country or from ‘everywhere’ then the recruit will probably require a skilled worker visa or senior or specialist worker visa (if they are transferring from an overseas-based company to work in a subsidiary UK branch of the parent company). The company, as part of its sponsor licence reporting and recording duties, will need to let the Home Office know the employee’s UK address by reporting it on the sponsor management system. The Home Office will also need to know about the hybrid work pattern and arrangements.

From the employee’s perspective working remotely may not be a great idea if the recruit’s long-term goal is to settle in the UK and apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) and then British citizenship. That’s because to qualify for settlement an applicant must meet a residence requirement. For the skilled worker visa, the residence requirement is 5 years. Although a visa holder can leave the UK during the 5-year period the immigration rules limit the amount of time an applicant can spend outside the UK and still meet the eligibility criteria for an ILR application.

Employer considerations when employing an overseas worker to work from everywhere

Employer considerations when employing an overseas worker to work from everywhere, rather than be UK based, include:

  • Can an employee do all the specifications of the job from overseas? If not, can the job role be modified to make ‘working from everywhere’ work? Have the job scope modifications been costed against the cost of the company sponsoring the recruit on a skilled worker visa?
  • Will allowing an overseas-based worker to work remotely from overseas create friction within the existing workforce if they don’t get the same opportunities for working from home?
  • Is the scope of the job likely to change so the employee will need to be UK based at some point in the future? For example, if the recruit is promoted to a more senior or managerial role would they need to be based in the UK? If so, whilst the recruit may qualify for a skilled worker visa now there are no guarantees that they would do so at the date of any future visa application. For example, the government may take the job off the list of government approved jobs with a standard occupational classification code meeting the criteria for a skilled worker visa
  • Is the employee likely to need to come to the UK on an occasional basis if employed from overseas and, if so, will they require a visa to do so? If the worker is going to continue to be based overseas then they will not require a work visa. However, they may need a visitor visa or business visa that allows them to come to the UK. A visitor visa or business visa will only allow an applicant to carry out permissible business activities whilst in the UK. The immigration rules restrict permissible business activities. If an employer and employee go beyond the scope of the rules the employer’s sponsor licence could be placed at risk and the employee’s immigration record could be adversely affected meaning they would struggle to gain UK entry clearance in future
  • Will allowing an employee to be based overseas create HR and personnel headaches that would be reduced by sponsoring the employee to come to the UK on a skilled worker visa? Sometimes an employer thinks sponsoring a recruit on a skilled worker visa will involve hassle but Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that the administrative burdens of sponsorship can be reduced by using a sponsor management service for a fixed monthly retainer
  • Data security considerations – people working from everywhere bring massive data security concerns that take additional time and resources to manage
  • The human element – for now, most sponsor licence holders say there is a human element to choosing to recruit an employee on a skilled worker visa rather than employing them on an overseas contractual or freelance work basis. That’s because the next generation of CEOs need to be in the UK and in the office to hone their skills and in turn to pass those skills onto their staff and graduate trainees. From the client’s perspective, there is still something touchingly reassuring that the person they are speaking to is in the office or warehouse with their finger on the pulse focused on sorting out their problem


The future of UK immigration and working from everywhere

Will technological and digital advances drive down the need for global mobility through the employment of digital nomads or hybrid cross-border workers with work assigned and completed virtually? It is an interesting thought but many of those jobs that UK business owners are desperate to fill simply can't be done remotely or at the touch of a button.

For a job to qualify as eligible for a skilled worker visa, it must be on a list of approved jobs with an allocated standard occupational classification code. A quick look at those jobs shows us that we are many years away from reducing the need for global mobility. After all, doctors, nurses, and care providers all need to see their patients, welders need to be on-site and a restaurant manager is unlikely to be able to manage a busy restaurant and all that entails over a Zoom call.

Therefore, Sponsorship Licence lawyers say it is business as normal for the moment but with an eye to the future when AI may take over the highly paid desk jobs whilst some other jobs may be better rewarded because they cannot be undertaken by artificial intelligence or by a human sitting on the other side of the globe.

For help with navigating your sponsor licence application and managing your sponsor licence the team of Sponsorship Licence lawyers at OTS Solicitors can assist and advise you on all your UK business and individual immigration needs.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For proactive immigration law advice call  0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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