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27 March 2014

Employing Migrant Workers

The ability for businesses to employ non-EU migrant workers has become increasingly challenging in recent years.  Robert Hickford provides an overview of the process for sponsoring non-EU workers.

Until 2012, the options available included post-study work visas, allowing companies to employ people in the UK after a completing a degree course, but this route closed to new applicants on 5 April 2012.  Employers are now required to register with UK Visas and Immigration (‘UKVI’) and obtain a sponsorship licence before employing any non-EU foreign national under Tier 2 (which covers most skilled workers).

Becoming a sponsor

To obtain a Tier 2 licence, the business sponsor must submit an online application form via the UKVI website  (GOV.uk).  UKVI provides substantial guidance on completion of the form, but it remains a difficult and time-consuming process and requires the sponsor to comply with onerous reporting and record-keeping obligations. Within ten working days of submitting the application, sponsor applicants must provide evidence that they are a legitimate organisation by supplying various documents in compliance with the approved list on the UKVI website, which will require a lot of preparation in advance.

The cost of applying for a licence under Tier 2 is up to £1,545 for larger employers. The sponsorship licence has to be renewed every four years, at which point a further licence fee must be paid.

Named individuals within the business (or acting on its behalf) will be required to take different levels of responsibility for the upkeep of the organisation’s records on any sponsored employees.

If the business is granted a licence and achieves a suitable A-grade rating from UKVI, a Certificate of Sponsorship (‘CoS’) can be issued by the sponsoring employer to a prospective migrant worker, for which a fee of £184 per worker has to be paid.

Issuing a CoS

The issuing of a CoS will require, unless falling within one of the exceptions, the passing of the ‘Resident Labour Market Test’.  This requires the business to demonstrate that there were no suitable candidates for the job who do not require sponsorship by, for example, showing that the role was suitably advertised and that the migrant worker is the best candidate for the job.

From that point on, sponsors are required to comply with rigorous reporting requirements throughout the sponsorship.

Application for visa

Once a CoS has been issued, the employee will then have to apply for their visa, equipped with their CoS number. If this application is successful, the employee is then finally granted permission to work.

If you are considering sponsoring migrant workers to work for your business, or to bring across non-EU employees on an intra-company transfer, contact Robert Hickford in the Steeles Law employment team on 01603 598000 (or rhickford@steeleslaw.co.uk), who will be happy to discuss the next steps in more detail.