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24 April 2024

A guide to employing foreign workers in the UK

Employing foreign workers is a way for businesses to fill roles they urgently need filling. Learn more about how to do this in our guide.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Construction site image to represent employing foreign workers.

Skilled Worker Visas are the most popular worker visa, and one of the most popular routes into the UK. This shows that there is a demand amongst businesses, as many are employing foreign workers in the UK. There are also other worker visas for many different purposes. 

If you own a business and are struggling to find people with the required skills and knowledge within the UK, then maybe you should consider looking elsewhere to fill the roles that you cannot find the workers for. 

However, there are certain rules that you must follow to be able to both recruit, and continue to employ overseas workers. 

Anyone interested in this should read on to learn about employing foreign workers in the UK.

Why you should consider employing foreign workers in the UK

Whilst we have already mentioned that overseas workers can be used to fill roles that you cannot find domestic workers to fill, there are other benefits. 

Skilled job shortages

Related to the above is if you are hiring for a role that is on the Immigration Salary List (formerly known as the Shortage Occupation List). This is a list of roles in which there are shortages in the UK, and so are given a 20% salary discount, so employers can spend less money on filling crucial roles. 

Specific skills

Some workers will have specific skills that cannot normally be found in the UK, such as fluency in another language. For example, if you need someone for a translator role, then you may be best looking abroad. 

Transfer employees to do specific jobs

In specific circumstances for businesses with premises both overseas and the UK, you can sponsor employees to get a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa. Under this visa, employees can be transferred from overseas to work in the UK. This is useful if your UK branch requires their skills for whatever reason, whether it be management purposes, technical knowledge, or something else.

Seasonal work

Low-skilled seasonal roles can also be filled by employing foreign workers in the UK. The Seasonal Worker Visa allows sponsored workers to do jobs such as pick fruit. Whilst a simple job, it is crucial as they help with the process of getting food on shop shelves. This route is even more important during times of labour shortages. 

Sponsor Licence

To employ overseas workers, the biggest requirement you will need to fulfil is that you hold a valid Sponsor Licence. This applies even if you run a charity, and are interested in hiring unpaid volunteers who want to come to the UK on a Charity Worker Visa

Throughout our website, we have several different resources dedicated to different aspects of the Sponsor Licence. In our visa library, we have a Sponsor Licence section and several subsections. Two such sections are on the topics of how to apply and what your responsibilities will be

We also have a guide to Sponsor Licence checks, which UK Visas and Immigration carry out now and then to see if you are carrying out your responsibilities correctly. 

However, we shall provide a short overview of the Sponsor Licence for employing foreign workers in the UK here. 

To apply, your business will need to be registered with Companies House in the UK. You can apply for a Sponsor Licence on the Government’s website, but if you are worried or struggling with the process, then we can assist you. 

Depending on if you run a small business or charity, or a medium to large business, your application fees will vary. 

Once you have your licence, you can issue the overseas workers you want to hire with a Certificate of Sponsorship, which you can learn more about in our linked guide. 

So as not to lose your licence or have it downgraded, you will need to ensure that you maintain your responsibilities. For example, you must always monitor their attendance and report any unauthorised absences. 

Visas you can sponsor workers for

A few visas have been mentioned throughout this guide, all of which you can sponsor workers for.

A full list of the visas that require sponsorship are:

Educational institutions can also sponsor people for
Student Visas

Depending on the visa, you will have to issue a different type of Certificate of Sponsorship. The Skilled Worker Visa requires a Defined Certificate of Sponsorship, whilst other visas will need an Undefined Certificate of Sponsorship.

Avoiding hiring illegal workers

Whether knowingly or unknowingly, if you hire someone who does not have the correct permissions to work in the UK or if they are in the UK illegally, then you will be fined. 

As of February 2024, the fines are currently set at £45,000 per worker, with repeat offenders being fined £60,000. 

Make sure you carry out plenty of checks to ensure that when you are employing foreign workers in the UK, that they fit all of the criteria. 

The Government has a tool on their website that allows you to check a potential employee’s right to work in the UK using their share code. In addition to this, they also have a tool that allows you to check if a document allows someone to work in the UK; this is generally done if you cannot get their share code. 

Who does not need a Certificate of Sponsorship?

There are a few situations where if you are employing foreign workers in the UK, you will not need to issue them with a Certificate of Sponsorship. 

In the case of EEA and Swiss citizens, they will not need to be given a Certificate of Sponsorship if they came to the UK before 1 January 2021 and applied to stay in the UK on the EU Settlement Scheme. You can hire them in the same way as a UK citizen.

People settled in the UK on Indefinite Leave to Remain will also not need to be given a Certificate of Sponsorship.

Finally, Irish citizens will not need a certificate either. This is because they do not need to get a visa to enter the UK as a result of the Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland.

How we can help

We have helped many businesses with applying for their Sponsor Licence to employ overseas workers, as well with licence renewals, and challenging downgrades. 

You can book a free 10-minute assessment with one of our experienced team members to see if we can help you. After this, if we decide we can help you, then you can book a longer paid consultation that lasts either 30 minutes, or an hour. 

The team member who manages your case will be there to answer any questions that you may have, and ease your concerns. They will check your paperwork for your application, and make sure everything is in order to maximise your chances of a successful Sponsor Licence application. 

Get in touch with us today if you need our assistance with employing foreign workers in the UK. 

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