The UK has long been an attractive destination for skilled foreign workers seeking new job opportunities. However, before foreign workers can start work in the UK, they must go through the visa sponsorship process, which can be complex and time-consuming.
In this blog post, we will provide a comprehensive overview of what to expect during the visa sponsorship process for foreign workers in the UK.
First, we will explore the need for skilled foreign workers in the UK and the current state of the job market. We will then provide an overview of the visa sponsorship process, including the types of visa sponsorship available and the importance of visa sponsorship for foreign workers and UK employers.
The scope of the blog post will include eligibility criteria for visa sponsorship, the application process, processing times and fees, challenges faced by foreign workers, and recommendations for navigating the process.
Understanding the Visa Sponsorship Process
The types of visa sponsorship available in UK include:
1. Tier 2 (General) Visa:
This visa is the most common route for skilled workers to come to the UK. To be eligible for this visa, the worker must have a job offer from a UK employer who holds a valid Sponsorship License.
The job must be at a certain skill level, and the worker must meet the minimum salary requirement for their specific job type. The employer must also show that they have tried to recruit from within the UK before offering the job to a foreign worker.
2. Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Visa:
This visa is for employees of multinational companies who are being transferred to a UK branch. The worker must have worked for the company for at least 12 months before being eligible for this visa. There are two categories of this visa:
- Long-term Staff and Graduate Trainee: Long-term Staff must be paid a minimum salary and have worked for the company for at least 12 months.
- Graduate Trainees: must be recent graduates and have been with the company for at least 3 months.
3. Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Visa:
This visa is for temporary workers in certain sectors, such as creative or sports industries. There are several categories under this visa, including Creative and Sporting, Charity Worker, and Religious Worker. The worker must have a job offer and a sponsor to be eligible for this visa. The length of stay depends on the category and the specific circumstances of the worker.
Eligibility criteria for visa sponsorship:
To sponsor a foreign worker, the employer must hold a valid Sponsorship License. This involves submitting an application to the Home Office and meeting certain requirements, such as having appropriate HR systems in place and not having any history of non-compliance. Once the employer has a Sponsorship License, they can then issue Certificates of Sponsorship to foreign workers.
To be sponsored, the employee must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship from a licensed sponsor. They must also meet the eligibility requirements for the specific visa they are applying for, such as minimum salary requirements or English language proficiency. The employee must also pass a criminal record check and a tuberculosis test.
Role of the sponsor in the process:
Responsibilities of the sponsor
The sponsor is responsible for providing the employee with a Certificate of Sponsorship and ensuring that the employee meets the eligibility criteria for the visa they are applying for. They must also keep records of the employee’s immigration status and report any changes to the employee’s circumstances to the Home Office. The sponsor must also comply with the sponsor duties set out by the Home Office, which includes keeping accurate records and reporting any changes to the employee’s circumstances.
Obligations of the sponsor
The sponsor is obliged to follow certain rules and regulations, including not discriminating against UK workers and not providing false or misleading information to the Home Office. They must also comply with the sponsor duties set out by the Home Office, which includes keeping accurate records and reporting any changes to the employee’s circumstances. If the sponsor breaches any of these obligations, they may face penalties or have their Sponsorship License revoked.
Employer sponsorship licence application: Before an employer can sponsor a foreign worker, they must apply for a Sponsorship License.
This involves submitting an online application to the Home Office and providing certain information, such as the nature of the business, HR systems in place, and details of key personnel. The Home Office will assess the application and may carry out checks to ensure that the employer meets the necessary requirements.
- Certificate of sponsorship application: Once the employer has a Sponsorship License, they can issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to the employee. This involves submitting an online application and providing information about the job offer, the employee’s qualifications, and their eligibility for the specific visa category.
- Visa application: The employee can then apply for their visa using the Certificate of Sponsorship. This involves submitting an online application, paying the relevant fee, and attending a biometric appointment to provide fingerprints and a photograph. The application will be assessed by the Home Office and the employee may be required to attend an interview or provide additional information.
Documents Required for the Application:
- Employer documents: To apply for a Sponsorship License, the employer will need to provide certain documents, such as evidence of the business’s registration, details of key personnel, and evidence of HR systems in place. To issue a Certificate of Sponsorship, the employer will need to provide details of the job offer, the employee’s qualifications, and evidence that the worker meets the eligibility requirements for the specific visa category.
- Employee documents: To apply for a visa, the employee will need to provide certain documents, such as their passport, a tuberculosis test certificate (if applicable), evidence of their qualifications, and evidence of their finances. They may also need to provide a criminal record check from any country they have lived in for more than 12 months in the past 10 years. The employee will also need to pay the relevant visa fee and the healthcare surcharge.
Processing Times and Fees
The processing times for each stage of the visa sponsorship process can vary, depending on a number of factors, such as the volume of applications being processed and the complexity of the case.
However, the Home Office provides estimated processing times on their website. As of September 2021, the estimated processing times are:
- Employer sponsorship licence application: 8 weeks
- Certificate of sponsorship application: 5-8 working days
- Visa application: 3 weeks for priority service and 6-12 weeks for standard service.
Fees for each stage of the application:
- Employer sponsorship licence fee: The fee for a Sponsorship License depends on the size of the business and the length of the license required. As of September 2021, the fee is £536 for a small business applying for a license lasting up to 4 years, and £1,476 for a large business applying for a license lasting up to 4 years.
- Certificate of sponsorship fee: There is no fee for applying for a Certificate of Sponsorship, but employers are required to pay the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) when issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship. The ISC is a levy on employers who sponsor foreign workers and is based on the length of the visa and the size of the employer. As of September 2021, the ISC is £364 per year for small businesses and £1,000 per year for large businesses.
- Visa application fee: The fee for a visa application depends on the visa category and the length of the visa. As of September 2021, the fees for the most common visa categories are as follows:
- Tier 2 (General) Visa: £610 for a 3-year visa and £1,220 for a 5-year visa
- Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Visa: £610 for a 3-year visa and £1,220 for a 5-year visa
- Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Visa: £244 for a 12-month visa
Additional fees may apply for priority service or other optional services.
Challenges Faced by Foreign Workers in UK Visa Sponsorship Process
Despite the availability of visa sponsorship programs in the UK, foreign workers still face several challenges in navigating the process. Some of these challenges include: language barriers, cultural differences, a lack of understanding of the process, and discrimination.
Language barriers can pose a significant challenge for foreign workers who are not fluent in English. They may struggle to communicate with their sponsor, understand the application requirements, or provide the necessary documentation. This can make it difficult for them to successfully navigate the visa sponsorship process.
Cultural differences can also be a challenge for foreign workers in the UK. They may not be familiar with the country’s legal and administrative systems or have different expectations of the employer-employee relationship. This can make it difficult for them to understand the requirements of the visa sponsorship process or to feel comfortable in their new workplace.
Even for those who are fluent in English and familiar with the UK’s culture and legal system, the visa sponsorship process can be complex and confusing. There are multiple stages involved in the process, each with its own requirements and deadlines. Foreign workers may struggle to understand what is required of them at each stage, or they may not know where to turn for help.
Discrimination is another significant challenge faced by foreign workers in the UK visa sponsorship process. Some employers may be reluctant to sponsor foreign workers due to their nationality, race, or ethnicity. This can make it difficult for qualified workers to find employment in the UK, or it can make the visa sponsorship process more difficult and stressful than it needs to be.
In summary, while the visa sponsorship process provides a valuable opportunity for foreign workers to work in the UK, it can also be challenging due to language barriers, cultural differences, a lack of understanding of the process, and discrimination. It’s important for both employers and foreign workers to be aware of these challenges and to work together to overcome them.
In conclusion, the UK visa sponsorship process can be a valuable opportunity for foreign workers to work in the country. However, it can also be a complex and challenging process. We’ve discussed the different types of visa sponsorship available in the UK, the eligibility criteria, the role of the sponsor, the application process, processing times and fees, as well as the challenges that foreign workers face during the process.
It’s important to seek legal advice when navigating the visa sponsorship process in the UK. A qualified immigration lawyer can help you understand your options, guide you through the process, and help you overcome any challenges you may face.
Overall, the visa sponsorship process in the UK can be a great opportunity for foreign workers to work and live in the country. It’s important to be aware of the challenges and requirements of the process, and to work with a qualified professional to ensure the process goes smoothly. With the right support and guidance, foreign workers can successfully navigate the visa sponsorship process and enjoy all that the UK has to offer.