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Recruiting skilled workers from outside the UK in 2021 – a guide for employers


From January 1 2021, the UK will introduce a new points-based immigration system. For employers, this means some changes to the way you recruit and transfer employees from overseas. The requirements are different for each type of visa, and you may need to apply for a sponsorship licence, even where you have not required one before. In this post, we look at both sponsor and visa requirements to help you understand what comes next.

Will the changes to the immigration system affect my current employees from overseas?

The new immigration rules will not apply to any EEA or Swiss citizens who are already employed in your business. The cut-off date for employment is December 31 2020. Family members of such employees may also apply to the EU Settlement Scheme up until June 30 2021.

Employing skilled workers

After the new rules have come into force, anyone you plan to recruit from a country outside of the UK under the Skilled Worker visa route must be able to prove that:

They have an offer of employment from a sponsor licensed by the Home Office.

They speak the required level of English.

The offer of employment they have is at the skill level of RQF3 or higher.

They will be paid at least £25,600 per year, or what is considered the ‘going rate’ for the role, whichever is greater.

There are some exceptions and workarounds to these rules, and our solicitors can advise you on your specific circumstances. If you plan to recruit employees from overseas, you should apply for a sponsor license as soon as possible to ensure there are no delays. We can help you with the process.

Obtaining a sponsor licence from the Home Office for the first time

If you are looking to recruit skilled workers from outside of the UK, including the EEA or Switzerland after January 1 2021, you will need to apply for a sponsor licence. However, sponsoring an employee does not guarantee that they will be allowed to remain in the UK if they do not meet other requirements.

How do I get a sponsor licence?

Firstly, you must check that your business is eligible to apply for a sponsorship licence.

Secondly, you must choose the type of licence you wish to apply for. This will be dependent on the type of overseas worker you want to sponsor.

You must also choose someone to manage sponsorship within your business.

You can then make an application and pay the relevant fee.

After you make your application UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may make a visit to your business premises to check that is is suitable to employ workers from outside the UK.

What happens after I have made a sponsorship licence application?

After you have made a sponsorship licence application, if you are successful, you will be given a licence rating. Where you have many jobs in your business that are suitable for sponsorship, you will be able to offer certificates of sponsorship. Your sponsorship licence will remain valid for four years. However, where you do not meet your obligations as a sponsor, you may have your licence revoked.

Skilled worker visas and sponsorship licence lawyers

If you are an employer and need advice or assistance concerning sponsor licence applications or skilled worker visas, our specialist immigration lawyers can help. We have many years of experience in providing our clients with high-quality legal services. Call us today on [xxx-xxx] or complete our online enquiry form, and we will get back to you right away.

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