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Business Immigration Solutions and the International Agreement Route

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According to the Office of National Statistics there has been a rise in job vacancies in the UK. Some industries are reporting that companies are having to offer higher wages or even reduce their business hours of operation as they do not have the required staff to open safely on a full-time basis. UK businesses, recruiters and immigration solicitors are all looking for business immigration solutions and one potential option is the international agreement route for overseas workers.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For advice on any aspect of immigration law call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

What is the international agreement route for business immigration?

The international agreement route to secure UK entry clearance is a temporary or short-term work visa . Many UK employers are not aware of this visa route as the focus is always on the seasonal worker temporary visa when immigration solicitors talk about temporary work visa options.

For UK employers, the first essential point that Sponsorship Licence lawyers make is that to use the skills of an overseas worker on an international agreement temporary visa you will require a Home Office issued sponsor licence. Applying for a sponsor licence is not always as onerous or as demanding as some UK companies think. If your business already holds a sponsor licence then it can be extended to cover the Tier 5 temporary visa route if the employment of a worker under the international agreement category is something that the company wants to pursue.

An ‘international agreement worker’ sounds like someone who is a government worker or someone who is working in a diplomatic household but the Tier 5 category is wider than that and includes someone who is providing a service under contract as a contractual service supplier or who is an independent professional.

How is the international agreement route different to the skilled worker visa?

The international agreement route is very different to the skilled worker visa because:

  • An international agreement visa is a temporary short-term visa. It does not lead to settlement in the UK and time spent in the UK on the international agreement visa does not count towards the five-year residence requirement for an indefinite leave to remain
  • A worker who is in the UK on an international agreement visa is not employed by the UK employer unlike with a skilled worker visa where the UK company is employing the skilled migrant workers. The international agreement worker does however need a sponsor so, just like the skilled worker visa and the intra company transfer visa, the UK business owner needs a Home Office issued sponsor licence. An international agreement worker is typically a self-employed consultant or freelance professional who is under short term contract with the UK company to provide services.
  • There has to be an international agreement for the international agreement worker to provide contracted services or be a self-employed consultant to the UK firm. UK firms historically relied on the World Trade Organisation General Agreement on Trade in Services as the international agreement but the scope of the route and its use can be widened through UK businesses working with EU businesses under the scope of The UK-European Union Trade and Cooperation Agreement. 
  • With the international agreement worker there is no minimum salary threshold that the worker has to be paid to qualify for a temporary visa . This is to be contrasted with the complex minimum salary threshold immigration rules for the skilled worker visa and the intra company transfer visa.

How long does an international agreement visa last ?

Entry to the UK on the international agreement route is temporary as the route is part of the temporary visa immigration options. The visa length is usually twelve months but, in some cases, only six months are allowed in a twelve-month period. This may be sufficient if your business needs to use the services of an expert in a particular field on a consultancy basis.

Given the length of the international agreement temporary visa, some UK businesses question how it is different to someone coming to the UK without a visa or entering the UK on a visitor visa and carrying out ‘permissible business activities’. Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that the work an international agreement worker can do is far wider than the permissible business activities allowed under a visitor visa. If a worker were to come to the UK on a visitor visa and conduct work that was beyond the list of permissible activities this would affect the prospects of them securing a work or family visa in the future and could also impact on the Home Office renewal of the sponsor licence of the UK company or could result in  the company receiving a civil penalty.

What are the eligibility criteria for the international agreement route?

An applicant for entry clearance under the international agreement route must be:

  • Age eighteen or over.
  • Meet the financial requirement – so have sufficient funds to support themselves in accordance with the immigration rules.
  • Have a certificate of sponsorship from a UK business with a Home Office issued sponsor licence.
  • Doing work in the UK that is covered under an international agreement. For example, The General Agreement on Trade in Services. Alternatively, the work needs to be for an overseas government or in one of a limited number of specific roles such as a private servant in a diplomatic household.

What can an international agreement worker do whilst working in the UK?

An international agreement worker can carry out the work specified in the certificate of sponsorship issued to them by the UK company that has engaged their services. In addition, the worker can:

  • Study in the UK provided that the study and contracted work are not mutually exclusive. For example, the course hours and contracted hours of work cannot conflict.
  • Work in a second job provided that the job is on the shortage occupation list for up to twenty hours per week – there are limitations on who can take on part time work so it is best to check before doing so to avoid breaching immigration rules.

Alternative business immigration routes

It is a case of ‘needs must’ so many UK employers are looking to Sponsorship Licence lawyers to come up with business immigration solutions to their recruitment needs. Those solutions can include both sponsored and non-sponsored routes and include:

  • The frontier work permit.
  • The graduate visa.
  • The global talent visa.
  • The visitor visa – and permissible business activities.

There are other options such as the employment of international students provided that the hours of work do not conflict with the conditions imposed on the student visa. To look at business immigration solutions tailored to your business and recruitment needs call the Sponsorship Licence lawyers.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For advice on any aspect of immigration law call the immigration team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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