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UK work permit for a non-EU national

As a UK-based company, you can sponsor a non-EU national as an employee. Once you have met the requisite criteria as an employer, you will be able to sponsor an employee for a Tier 2 visa.

Get the employees you need

The process to be followed by the UK-based employer is as follows:

  • Obtaining a sponsorship licence
  • Issuing a certificate of sponsorship (COS)

Obtaining a sponsorship licence

A UK-based company wishing to sponsor a migrant must hold a sponsorship licence. Once this is obtained, a certificate of sponsorship can then be assigned to that migrant.

To get a sponsorship licence, the company must:

  • Prove to the Home Office that they are a genuine company operating and trading lawfully in the UK
  • Meet the suitability criteria
  • Give the Home Office no reason to believe that you represent a threat to immigration control
  • Agree to comply with the duties of sponsorship

Issuing the certificate of sponsorship

Once an employer has a sponsorship licence, they can issue Tier 2 certificates of sponsorship. These are divided into two different types: Restricted and unrestricted.

Unrestricted category

If the candidate falls into the unrestricted category, an employer will not need to seek permission from the Home Office to issue a certificate of sponsorship.

The unrestricted category is for an employee:

  • With a salary of £153,500 or above
  • Seeking to extend their employment with their existing employer
  • With an existing certificate of sponsorship with other employers
  • Already in the UK with a current visa type which allows switching to a Tier 2 from within the UK (including the Tier 1 post study work visa or the Tier 4 student visa)
  • Being transferred from an overseas branch of the UK sponsoring company

Restricted category

This category is generally for candidates who are unable to switch to a Tier 2 visa from within the UK. These candidates need to apply for their visa from overseas ( e.g. Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa) or for those who are already overseas.

If you require a restricted certificate, you should note that there is a cap on the number of potential employees permitted through this scheme. This is currently set at 20,700 for the year and only those who pass a new points-based system will qualify.

Points are to be gained from the salary amount, whether the job is on the current shortage list and whether the position is at PhD level. You must also conduct the resident labour market test. This test is to protect the resident work force and means you must advertise the post to give resident workers the opportunity to apply.

The Home Office has categorised, rated and coded every occupation and specified a minimum salary requirement for each code. Whatever type of certificate is required, you will need to decide upon the appropriate code and offer at least the minimum salary stated. Apart from a few occupations in the creative sector, jobs will need to be classed at degree level (NQF Level 6) as a minimum.


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