The UK Skilled Worker Visa – the Recruitment Solution for UK Employers
Is your business struggling to recruit? If so, the UK skilled worker visa and a sponsor licence may be the recruitment solution that your business needs. Our immigration solicitors and Sponsorship Licence lawyers highlight the key points of the UK skilled worker visa and the sponsor licence application process.
UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers
The UK skilled worker visa
The UK skilled worker visa is one of several work visa options for UK employers and for those looking to live and work in the UK but it is the most popular ty[e of work visa.
Alternate work visa options include:
- The health and care worker visa – this is part of the skilled worker visa route
- The graduate visa
- The seasonal worker visa
- The senior or specialist worker visa
- The scale-up visa
- The frontier work permit
Although the skilled worker visa is the most popular type of work visa, if you are a UK employer or a job seeker looking to relocate to the UK it is best to check that the sponsor licence and skilled worker visa best meet your business and immigration needs. If you go down the wrong work visa route it will take longer and be more expensive in the long run so a check is prudent.
Which UK employers can recruit using the skilled worker visa?
Any UK employer can employ an overseas worker on a skilled worker visa if:
- The business secures a sponsor licence to sponsor skilled worker visa applicants
- The business has genuine job vacancies that are of a type that are allocated a standard occupational classification code on a Home Office-produced list of jobs eligible for the skilled worker visa
- The salary on offer for the skilled worker visa applicants meet the minimum salary threshold for a skilled worker visa
- Each recruit meets the eligibility criteria for the skilled worker visa and secures 70 points under the points-based immigration system
Business immigration and Sponsorship Licence lawyers emphasise that skilled worker visas are available across a wide range of industries and sectors, from restaurants and hospitality, the media and arts, construction, and digital and technology.
If your business needs to recruit from overseas as you cannot recruit suitable employees who are British citizens, workers with indefinite leave to remain status or pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, then it is advisable to check and see if the roles are within one of the jobs on the Home Office list with a standard occupational classification code and would meet the skilled worker visa eligibility criteria.
The cost of applying for a sponsor licence
Once you have checked that a sponsor licence will help you meet your recruitment needs the next fundamental question is how much it will cost your business to secure a licence. Business immigration solicitors understand that those costs need to be weighed up against the cost of trying to upskill existing workers or taking on graduates and providing them with the skills (if not the experience) they need to fill the post.
The Home Office sponsor licence fee depends on the size and nature of your business. The fee is:
- £536 if your organisation is classed as a small business or a charity
- £1,476 if your business is classed as medium or large
The Home Office uses the definition of small business in the 2006 Companies Act. That means your company will be treated as a small business if you meet 2 of the following criteria in a financial year:
- Your company turnover is not more than £10.2 million
- Your balance sheet total is not more than £5.1 million
- Your employees do not exceed 50 (this is calculated using the average number of employees across the financial year)
One thing to factor in is that the sponsor licence fee is payable every 4 years as a sponsor licence is only granted for 4 years. The sponsor licence renewal fee is the same as the fee for your first sponsor licence application.
On top of the standard sponsor licence application or renewal application fee, your business can decide to pay the Home Office for a priority or premium service to get a faster sponsor licence decision or more support during the operation of your sponsor licence. The fees for the premium services can be eyewatering for firms struggling in the current economic climate. The premium service fee is £25,000 per year for a medium or a large business and £8,000 for a small business. Business immigration solicitors recommend that you discuss with them whether the premium service will add value or your other options to achieve a quick sponsor licence grant and efficient sponsor licence management.
Sponsor licence fees do not end there. There are also some fees payable by the UK employer when your business sponsors a skilled worker visa applicant. These fees cannot be passed onto the visa applicant to pay, meaning your company cannot deduct these fees from the sponsored employee’s salary.
The fees are:
- Certificate of sponsorship – a certificate must be issued by the sponsor licence holder to the skilled worker visa applicant to enable the recruit to apply for a skilled worker visa. The cost of each certificate of sponsorship is £199
- Immigration Skills Charge – the amount of the immigration skills charge depends on whether your business is classed as a small or medium to large business. If you are classed as a small business or a charity, the immigration skills charge is £364 for each year of the worker’s visa (or if the visa period is not a tidy round number of years, the fee is £182 for each additional 6 months). The cost of sponsoring an employee on a skilled worker visa of 5 years duration is £1,820 for a small business. For a medium or large sponsor, the immigration skills charge is £1,000 for the first year and £500 for every additional 6 months. The cost of sponsoring an employee on a 5-year visa is £5,000 for a medium or large employer. The money must be found upfront and cannot be paid annually or every 6 months. However, if the employee leaves your sponsored employment the Home Office will provide a refund of a proportion of the immigration skills charge
In addition to the fees that must be paid by the sponsoring employer, the skilled worker visa applicant must pay:
- The skilled worker visa application fee – the fee depends on whether the job is on the government-produced shortage occupation list or not and the length of the visa. The cheapest 3-year visa is £479 but the cost can rise to over £1,200
- The immigration health surcharge – the fee is £624 per year for each year of the visa. For a 5-year visa, the immigration health surcharge adds up to £3,120
These fees are payable by the work visa applicant but some employers will offer to pay these fees in industries and sectors where there are high levels of skill shortages and limited numbers of skilled worker visa applicants.
In addition to these Home Office fees, there will also be dependant visa fees if the worker is intending to be accompanied by family members who meet the eligibility criteria for a dependant visa.
Whilst sponsor licence Home Office fees can mount up, business immigration solicitors advise that the cost of training schemes to develop in-house talent are as rigorously costed so that the full extent of each overhead can be compared. For some employers, the cost-effective solution is to apply for a sponsor licence to become a sponsoring employer whilst at the same time investing in staff training so that over time you can reduce the number of overseas skilled workers as your training has resulted in skilled and experienced employees reducing the need to rely on overseas staff.
Which overseas skilled workers can a UK company recruit?
The eligibility criteria for a skilled worker visa applicant are:
- They have a job offer and certificate of sponsorship
- The job is an eligible occupation with a standard occupational classification code
- The job pays the minimum salary threshold – the threshold depends on the nature of the job and the circumstances of the employee. For example, a worker who qualifies as a new entrant or who has a job on the shortage occupation list can be paid a lower salary than other skilled worker visa holders
- The applicant meets the English language requirement by either sitting an English language test or proving that they are exempt from sitting the test because of their qualifications or nationality
- The applicant can produce a TB certificate if they are from a country where the Home Office requires a visa applicant to provide evidence of their TB status
- The applicant meets the general eligibility criteria – in essence, this means that the applicant does not have a criminal record or a poor immigration history
If your business is considering applying for a sponsor licence the Sponsorship Licence lawyers at OTS Solicitors can talk you through the application process and advise you on the preparatory work needed to best secure your sponsor licence.
If you have a sponsor licence our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help with:
- Sponsor licence renewals
- Sponsor licence problems – downgrades, suspension, or revocation
- Sponsor licence audits and training
- Sponsor licence management services to help you ensure compliance with sponsor licence reporting and recording duties
- Help with the sponsor licence recruitment process, such as the standard occupational classification code or certificate of sponsorship allocation
- Advice on the conduct of right-to-work checks
- Applying for skilled worker visas on behalf of job applicants
UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers