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Recruiting people from outside the UK

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Recruiting people from outside the UK

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Guidance for employers. You need to have a sponsor licence to hire workers from outside the UK.

Freedom of movement between the UK and EU has ended and the UK has introduced an immigration system that treats all applicants equally, regardless of where they come from.

Anyone you want to recruit from outside the UK, excluding Irish citizens, needs to meet certain requirements and apply for permission first.

The requirements are different for each visa.

You need to have a sponsor licence to hire most workers from outside the UK.

The new system does not apply to EEA or Swiss citizens you already employ in the UK. EEA and Swiss citizens who were living in the UK by 31 December 2020, and their family members, can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. They have until 30 June 2021 to apply.

Skilled workers

Anyone you recruit from outside the UK for the Skilled Worker route needs to demonstrate that:

  • they have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor
  • they speak English at the required level
  • the job offer is at the required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A level)
  • they’ll be paid at least £25,600 or the ‘going rate’ for the job offer, whichever is higher

If the job will pay less than this – but no less than £20,480 – the applicant may still be able to apply by ‘trading’ points on specific characteristics against their salary. For example, if they have a job offer in a shortage occupation or have a PhD relevant to the job.

There are different salary rules for workers in some health or education jobs, and for “new entrants” at the start of their careers.

There is no general route for employers to recruit from outside the UK for jobs offering a salary below £20,480 or jobs at a skill level below RQF3.

If you’re not already a licensed sponsor and you think you’ll want to sponsor migrants through the Skilled Worker route, you should apply now.

Intra-company transfers

If you want to transfer a worker from a part of your business overseas to work for you in the UK, they can apply for the Intra-Company Transfer route. Applicants will need to be existing workers who will undertake roles that meet the skills and salary thresholds.

Workers transferring to the UK need to:

  • be sponsored as an Intra-Company Transfer by a Home Office licensed sponsor
  • have 12 months’ experience working for a business overseas linked by ownership to the UK business they will work for.
  • be undertaking a role at the required skill level of RQF6 or above (graduate level equivalent)
  • be paid at least £41,500 or the ‘going rate’ for the job, whichever is higher

Permission for workers transferred to the UK on the Intra-Company Transfer route is temporary. Workers can be assigned to the UK multiple times, but they cannot stay in the UK for more than five years in any six-year period.

Workers paid over £73,900 do not need to have worked overseas for 12 months and can stay for up to nine years in any ten-year period.

Workers who are transferred to the UK as part of a structured graduate training programme for up to one year can apply for the Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route. The requirements are the same except there are different rules on length of overseas experience and salary.

If you’re not already a licensed sponsor and you think you’ll want to sponsor migrants through the Intra-Company Transfer or Intra-Company Graduate Trainee routes, you should apply now.

Other routes

A full list of worker routes can be read in the points-based system introduction for employers document.

Some immigration routes, such as Global Talent, are ‘unsponsored’. You do not need a licence to hire employees with an unsponsored visa.

The Global Talent route is designed to attract recognised global leaders and promising individuals in science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology.

While the Youth Mobility Scheme will enable around 20,000 young people (aged 18 to 30 years old) to come to the UK to work and travel each year.

You still need to check if new employees have the right to work in the UK.

EEA and Swiss citizens can use their passport or national identity card to prove they can work in the UK until 30 June 2021.

If you’re already a Home Office licensed sponsor

If you were already a licensed Tier 2 or Tier 5 sponsor on 30 November 2020, your licence will have been transferred to the new system from 1 December 2020. For example, if you held a Tier 2 (General) licence, this will have been converted into a Skilled Worker licence.

Apply for a sponsor licence

If you’re not already a licensed sponsor and you think you’ll want to sponsor migrants, you should apply for a sponsor licence now.


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