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28 June 2024

What is the Immigration Skills Charge?

The Immigration Skills Charge is an important fee that employers of overseas workers must be aware of. Learn more about it in our guide.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Immigration skills charge

When an employer looks into sponsoring and hiring overseas workers for their business, there are different fees involved. Every prospective sponsor will need to pay for a Sponsor Licence, but some visas will have extra fees that employers will need to pay for to hire workers from.

However, Sponsor Licence holders recruiting those on Skilled Worker Visas and Senior or Specialist Worker Visas will have an extra fee to consider when they hire their workers. This fee is known as the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC). It was introduced in 2017 as a way to encourage employers to recruit domestic workers in the UK, instead of looking overseas, as they only have to pay the fee for overseas workers.

Please note that even though these are the only two visas that require you to pay the Immigration Skills Charge, not every occupation code will require you to pay the charge. We will go into more detail about examples where you will not need to pay the fee later on in the guide. 

Keep reading to learn more about the ISC, including how much you will have to pay and when you might be exempt from paying. 

How much is the Immigration Skills Charge?

The fee that a sponsor will have to pay varies depending on how big the organisation is, and also varies based on the time period.

For the first 12 months, a small or charitable sponsor will have to pay £364 for the Immigration Skills Charge, and then £182 for each additional six months.

Meanwhile, medium or large sponsors will need to pay £1,000 for the first 12 months, and then £500 for every additional six months. 

If you are unsure if your company is considered to be a small/charitable organisation, or a medium/large organisation, then there are some ways to find out.

Small and charitable sponsors should have one of the two following applying to them:

  • An annual turnover of £10.2 million or less
  • Total assets worth £5.1 million or less
  • 50 employers or fewer

Charitable sponsors will also have to be one of the following:

  • Ecclesiastical corporation created for charitable purposes
  • Excepted charity (does not have to register or submit annual returns to the Charity Commission)
  • Exempt charity (similar to an excepted charity, but are also not regulated at all by the Charity Commission)
  • Registered charity in England or Wales
  • Registered charity in Northern Ireland (you can also provide proof of your charitable status from HM Revenue and Customs if you are not on the register)
  • Registered charity in Scotland

Immigration Skills Charge exemptions for a Skilled Worker Visa

As we have previously mentioned, there are some roles that employers will not need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge for. 

The role that employers do not need to pay the charge for are:

  • Chemical scientists (2111)
  • Biological scientists (2112)
  • Biochemists and biomedical scientists (2113)
  • Physical scientists (2114)
  • Social and humanities scientists (2115)
  • Natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified (2119)
  • Research and development managers (2161)
  • Other researchers, unspecified discipline (2162)
  • Higher education teaching professionals (2311)

The roles have been ordered based on their occupation code, which are used to group jobs together and assist with identifying certain roles. A
full list of occupation codes can be found on the Government’s website.

Please note that you will also not need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge for any dependants that your worker brings with them. You only need to pay it for the main visa holder, unless they have one of the above roles. 

Other exemptions for the charge

Aside from the list of jobs in the previous section, and dependants, there are others in specific situations for whom employers do not need to pay a charge to hire. 

Exemptions for people switching visas

Additionally, you will not need to pay the charge if you are sponsoring someone who is switching from a Student Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa.

Senior or Specialist Worker Visa

Finally, you will also not need to pay the charge if you are hiring a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa holder if: 

  • They were given a Certificate of Sponsorship after 1 January 2023
  • They usually work for your EU based business in an EU country, but have been temporarily transferred to work at a UK branch
  • The end of the temporary transfer date is no more than 36 months from the start date
  • They are an EU national or hold a Latvian non-citizen passport

Can the charge be passed on to the employee?

Some businesses may consider making their employees pay the fee. However, this is not allowed and any employee who has been asked to pay the fee should be aware of this. 

The fee was expressly introduced for businesses so that they are more likely to consider hiring domestically first. 

Overseas workers themselves should not have to pay any fee at all to work in the UK, aside from the fees required for their Skilled Worker Visa application.

Overseas workers themselves should not have to pay any fee at all to work in the UK, aside from the fees required for their Skilled Worker Visa application.

Other fees you will have to pay

On top of the Immigration Skills Charge, there are two fees you will definitely have to pay. 

We have already mentioned the Sponsor Licence fees, which every employer must pay to be able to hire overseas workers. Currently, the fee for a worker visa licence is £536 for a small or charitable organisation, and £1,476 for a medium or large organisation. 

You can apply for your Sponsor Licence through the Government’s website, though we recommend getting legal guidance first. 

Additionally, you will have to pay a fee for each Certificate of Sponsorship to an employee who will be working in the UK on a worker visa for you. This fee is currently £239 per certificate.

We have a guide to the Certificate of Sponsorship if you would like to learn more.

How we can help

If you are reading this guide about the Immigration Skills Charge, then there is a high chance that you are interested in hiring overseas workers, and may need help with the hiring process.

Our experienced law team can assist you with every step of the Sponsor Licence application, guide you through the process, and answer any questions you have. They can also help you with other matters related to the Sponsor Licence, such as challenging downgrades, and assist you with getting more Certificates of Sponsorship.

Get in touch with us today by phone, email, our chatbot or book a free 10-minute assessment, so we can see how we might be able to help you.

Ready for assistance?

If you have any questions, or want to book an appointment with one of our legal experts, contact Woodcock Law today. Call us on +44 (0)20 7712 1705 or email

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