FAQs on the Immigration Skills Charge
In this article, our UK Immigration Solicitors answer your frequently asked questions on the immigration skills charge.
UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors
What is the immigration skills charge?
The immigration skills charge is a levy payable by UK employers who sponsor the employment of skilled migrant workers under the skilled worker visa or the senior or specialist worker visa.
Who has to pay the immigration skills charge?
The immigration skills charge is payable by the UK employer sponsoring the work visa applicant. It is not a fee that the Home Office asks the visa applicant to pay.
Can an employer ask an employee to pay the immigration skills charge?
An employer is not allowed to ask a skilled worker visa applicant or a senior or specialist worker visa applicant to pay the immigration skills charge or to reimburse them with a one-off payment or through deductions from their salary.
What happens if an employer asks an employee to pay the immigration skills charge?
If an employer asks a job applicant to pay the immigration skills charge, then the employer could place their sponsor licence at risk. That’s because what the employer is asking the employee to do is against the rules.
If a sponsor licence is suspended a UK business can't recruit any additional overseas workers who require sponsored employment under a skilled worker visa or senior or specialist worker visa.
If the Home Office discover that an employer has asked sponsored employees to repay the immigration skills charge then UK Immigration Solicitors say that the Home Office could decide to conduct a compliance visit and look into this issue as well as the employer’s commitment to meeting its sponsor licence reporting and recording duties. The investigation could lead to the revocation of the licence.
Revoking a sponsor licence has big implications for a sponsoring employer and their sponsored employees. A business will not be able to continue to employ its sponsored workforce, even if it had not asked those individuals to reimburse the immigration skills charge. For employees on skilled worker visas or senior or specialist worker visas the consequences of their employer losing their sponsor licence are potentially devastating as their visas will be curtailed or ended early. The employee gets 60 days to leave the UK or to switch to a new sponsoring employer with a sponsor licence or switch to a visa where a sponsoring employer is not required.
How much is the immigration skills charge?
If a sponsoring employer is classed as a small business the immigration skills charge for each sponsored employee is £364 for a year and £182 for 6 months. If a sponsoring employer is deemed to be a large employer, then the immigration skills charge is £1,000 for a year and £500 for 6 months. An employer can't apportion the immigration skills charge to a monthly or daily rate. For example, if the visa applicant wants a senior or specialist worker visa for 14 months the immigration skills charge will be the 18-month charge of £1,500 for a large employer.
The immigration skills charge has to be paid upfront before an employer can allocate a certificate of sponsorship to a job applicant seeking either a skilled worker visa or a senior or specialist worker visa.
UK Immigration Solicitors say the rules are simple; if an employer doesn’t pay up the Home Office won't allocate the certificate of sponsorship to the job applicant so the recruit can't apply for their work visa. This method certainly avoids bad debt to the Home Office as employers are effectively forced to pay up if the employer wants to recruit an overseas worker who needs a skilled worker visa or senior or specialist worker visa.
What can make it tough for entrepreneurs, SMEs or those businesses struggling with overheads, is that the immigration skills charge for the full length of the visa has to be paid before the sponsored employee even starts their employment. For a business classed as large under the immigration rules that means a £5,000 overhead for every sponsored employee on a 5-year work visa.
EU nationals and immigration skills charge exemptions
Brexit and the end of free movement for EU nationals introduced equal immigration treatment for EU and non-EEA nationals as the work visa rules under the points-based immigration system are the same whether or not a job applicant is from the EU or a non-EEA country.
In what some UK Immigration Solicitors see as almost a step back, the Home Office has now introduced a massive difference in the treatment of EU nationals and non-EEA nationals applying for senior or specialist worker visas. It will inevitably affect businesses when presented with 2 overseas workers of equal calibre looking to relocate to the UK but 1 is from the EU and the other from a non-EEA country.
In January 2023, the Home Office introduced a new immigration skills charge exemption for overseas-based companies transferring EU employees to the UK to work at the UK branch of their business on a senior or specialist worker visa.
An employer does not have to pay the immigration skills charge for EU nationals applying for a senior or specialist worker visa to transfer from an EU-based business to the UK for up to 36 months provided the worker’s certificate of sponsorship was issued after 1 January 2023. The exemption applies to EU nationals (or Latvian non-citizens) where the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement exemption applies to the worker. The exemption does not include EEA, Swiss nationals or workers from Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland or any non-EEA country. If a French company with its head of operations in Paris employs a German citizen and a Nigerian citizen at its head office then on purely economic grounds it is cheaper to transfer the German worker to the UK on a senior or specialist worker visa.
Thankfully it isn’t the job of UK Immigration Solicitors to figure out the politics, the fairness or even the maths and financial benefits of using this immigration skills charge exemption but just to point out the immigration rules.
Questions on the immigration skills charge
Do you have questions on the immigration skills charge or on applying for and managing your sponsor licence?
Our business immigration solicitors can help guide you through the immigration rules and the exemptions.