November 14th, 2022

Sponsorship, Secondment & Visas: Transferring Foreign Talent to the UK

If you’re thinking about bringing talent to the UK from overseas, you might hear about sponsoring them, seconding them, or applying for other VISAS. Fundamentally, unless they already have the right to work in the UK via another means, a non-UK national will need to obtain this before they look to start their new job role. Immigration can be complex, so we’ve summarised some of the different scenarios clients use to bring people from abroad, to the UK.


Do you need a Sponsorship Licence When Establishing in the UK?

When establishing in the UK, a subsidiary will be able to recruit UK national talent with relative ease and without the need of a Sponsorship Licence. The situation becomes far more difficult when you are looking to hire this talent from abroad as it is imperative that they have the right to work in the UK. Unless they already have a valid settled status, a UK passport or access to a valid visa via another route, a business may need to obtain this right to work status- for their foreign talent- by way of sponsorship.

Furthermore, since the British exit from the European Union, the UK immigration system has changed as the free movement of -EU nationals has ceased, and entrance to UK for work has become far more difficult. As such, many more employers are learning that you’ll usually need a sponsorship licence to employ someone to work for you from outside the UK.  So what is this? A sponsorship licence is the permission granted to you as a UK employer to sponsor foreign workers wanting to work for your organisation and enable them to apply for the relevant visa, sponsored by you.

Notably, there are a limited range of visas and circumstances that will not require a sponsorship licence, however it is likely that you’ll need them for the majority of situations when looking to recruit non-UK nationals. In turn, the most common visa types that employers tend to use – for their foreign recruits – are the Skilled Worker visa and Senior or Specialist worker routes. As aforementioned, this has become particularly pertinent post-Brexit.


How Does Sponsorship Work in the UK?

The UK has now moved to a points-based visa system, where you may be able to sponsor a worker if the job they are offered has a suitable rate of pay and skill level, or meets the other criteria needed for their visa (which depending on visa category can also include being able to prove their English language skills at a set level). There is a set list of jobs (which varies depending on Visa type) which the Home Office deem to be approved roles which qualify for sponsorship. You can generally sponsor an employee depending on whether you become a licenced sponsor (and they meet the criteria) for up to 5 years.


How Much Does a Sponsorship Licence Cost?

The size of the company determines the costs that will be incurred when applying for a sponsorship license. Currently, medium or large companies are charged a sponsor fee of £1,476 per licence category, whereas a charity or small entity will be charged a sponsor fee of £536 per licence category. A company will be determined as small if there fewer than fifty employees, the annual turnover is equal to or less than £10.2 million and the total of the balance sheet is equal to or less than £5.1 million.


Eligibility for a Sponsorship Licence:

To be eligible for the most common  Sponsorship Licence types (Skilled Worker and Senior/Specialist Worker), you must:

  • Have certain Key Personnel in place, who are resident in the UK, to take the roles of Authorising Officer and Level 1 User.
  • have a FCA/PRA approved UK Bank account in place before you apply for your licence.

In order to get a sponsor licence as an employer, you (and your Key Personnel) cannot have:

To successfully sponsor your foreign workers under your approved sponsor licence and to retain your licence you must:

  • check that your foreign workers have the necessary skills, qualifications or professional accreditations to do their jobs, and keep copies of documents showing this
  • only assign certificates of sponsorship to workers when the job is suitable for sponsorship
  • tell UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) if your sponsored workers are not complying with the conditions of their visa

You’ll need appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored employees and people to manage sponsorship in your business. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will review your application form and supporting documents. They may visit your business to make sure you’re trustworthy and capable of carrying out your duties. It is then your responsibility as an employer, and sponsor, to uphold sponsor responsibilities.


Please note, if you do not adhere to the regulations, and uphold the sponsor responsibilities, you run the risk of having your license downgraded or, in serious cases, revoked. As such it is advisable that you ensure you engage with companies such as Goodwille who can assist you with the compliance of your licence and sponsor responsibilities.


What is a Secondment?

Following on from Sponsorship Licences, many subsidiaries that are looking to establish in the UK would like to employ members of staff from their parent company situated outside of the UK.  You may want some employees from the Head Office locally to aid in the setup and opening of the business. Even once you are established as an entity in the UK, you may want to redeploy employees from the Head Office for a temporary period of time. One of the most common options that is explored for this is secondment (which still requires the right to work status). A secondment in this context is where an employee is assigned on a temporary basis to work for another part of their employer’s organisation, the UK entity or branch. When the secondment term expires, the seconded employee will return to their original employer.


How Long Does a Secondment Last?

The emphasis on a secondment visa is on its temporary nature. So if you are a business looking to give some of your employees short term exposure to a UK work environment then this may be the route for you. You are able to second your employees to the UK for a maximum of 24 months so that they can benefit from Temporary Workplace Relief.


Benefits of a Secondment When Setting Up in the UK:

As alluded to previously, secondments can be great for an employee’s career development, providing an opportunity for the secondee to gain new skills and life experiences, often in other countries. For the business it can:

  • Maintain Company Culture
  • Enhance Cultural Diversity
  • Reward Staff with Exciting Short Term Projects
  • Give greater access to experienced employees with product and system knowledge
  • Bridge the ‘cross-border’ divide and help people feel part of a larger team

What’s more, the Employee can benefit from Temporary Workplace Relief while paying tax in the UK on their temporary cost of living expenses, including rent, utilities, even food! Provided an A1 form is granted by the Home country government, they can remain in the Social Security system there and be exempt from paying National Insurance in the UK. They can benefit from tax free relocation expenses (if the Company wish to pay this) of up to £8,000.


How Goodwille Can Help with the Secondment and Sponsorship of Employees:

In short, Goodwille can help you with secondments and sponsorship licences. We are able to assist in registering for a sponsorship licence and also, apply for the certificate of sponsorship on behalf of the individual requiring one.

In relation to secondments, Goodwille will work with you to identify if this is the best route for you. We engage with our partner tax agency to assess your employee tax residency status, compile a secondment agreement and ensure that the correct tax and social security/national insurance arrangements are being made.

It’s important to note that secondments don’t always need a Visa, as long as they have the ‘Right to Work in the UK’ via another valid route then that is fine. The Secondee may have a valid settled status, a UK passport or access to a valid visa via another route (e.g. dependent visa).


If you are looking to second an employee to a UK subsidiary then it is essential to explore all options you have open to you. Goodwille can help to navigate these options with you. If you would like any further support or advice on how best to branch into the UK market, then please feel free to explore our website further or contact  Marketing Manager, James Service.