UK Business Immigration
When hiring employees from overseas, it is essential to understand the UK’s strict business immigration laws and visa application processes, and make sure you are in full compliance. Getting this wrong can result in a significant fine, your overseas employees being forced to leave the country and very negative PR for your business.
Chattertons provides specialist business immigration advice and support to businesses, schools, universities and colleges. We help organisations hire workers from within and outside the EU. A large part of this is ensuring that clients’ recruitment processes are compliant with business immigration law, and that their record keeping meets the strict Home Office requirements.
Business immigration is a highly specialised area of commercial law, calling for an understanding of the strict rules and processes, as well as the potential consequences of getting wrong any aspect of dealing with an overseas job applicant, employee, or student. The stakes are high – organisations that hire illegal workers face a potential fine of £20,000 per worker.
Our business immigration team provides hands-on support to businesses large and small in all sectors, as well as various other types of organisations. We work with industries including engineering, construction, care, performing arts, sport, further education, food, and retail.
With our expert business immigration law help, you can bring the overseas talent you need into your organisation while staying within the law.
OUR UK BUSINESS IMMIGRATION LAW SERVICES
Our UK business immigration solicitors’ work covers the full range of business, human rights and EU immigration law. We regularly advise a wide range of clients on business immigration issues including:
- Sponsor licences
- Skills shortages
- International recruitment
- UK Business visit visas
- Study visas
- Tier 1 Investor visas and Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas (or UK Innovator visas)
- Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas
- Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visas (or UK Start Up visas)
- Tier 2 General Work visas
- Standard Visitor visas
- Representative of an Overseas Business visa
- Tier 4 General Student visas
- Right to Work checks
- Compliance and Enforcement
TIER 1 VISAS
The following business immigration visas are ranked Tier 1, which covers the most coveted business migrants:
- Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa (now UK Innovator visa) – allows individuals to set up or run businesses in the UK so long as you have at least £200,000 investment funds, the necessary skills and business acumen, and good English skills.
- Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa – allows individuals who are ‘exceptionally talented’ in areas such as science, engineering, the arts, or humanities to come to the UK to work either as self-employed for any type of employer.
- Tier 1 Investor visa – allow individuals to invest at least £2 million into share capital, loan capital, UK Government bonds, and UK registered companies as well as live, work, or study in the UK.
- Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa (now UK Start up visa) – allows international students to remain in the UK after they graduate to set up business for up to one year
TIER 2 VISAS
Under Tier 2, licenced employers are able to sponsor skilled workers to come and work for them in the UK to make up for a skills shortage. Individuals may be eligible for a Tier 2 General Work visa if they:
- Have an offer of employment from a UK employer with a Tier 2 licence
- Have a Certificate of Sponsorship
- Demonstrate their ability to do the role
- Are to be paid an ‘appropriate’ salary
- Speak English to the required standards
- Have sufficient funds to provide for themselves and any dependents
STANDARD VISITOR VISAS
Individuals can apply for a Standard Visitor visa if they can demonstrate they need to come to the UK for business-related purposes. Standard Visitor visas last up to 6 months per visit but the holder can leave and re-enter the UK during this period.
REPRESENTATIVE OF AN OVERSEAS BUSINESS VISAS
A Representative of an Overseas Business visa allows a representative of an overseas company to form a subsidiary or branch in the UK. To be eligible for this type of visa, the representative must:
- Be able to support themselves whilst in the UK
- Speak the required level of English
- Be employed by a business which is based outside the UK
- Have the necessary knowledge and experience of the relevant industry
- Be establishing their company’s first presence in the UK
- Have a senior position within the company and have the authority to make decisions on its behalf (but cannot be a major shareholder)
Clients often ask us……
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY EMPLOYEE HAS THE RIGHT TO WORK IN THE UK?
The short answer is that this depends on their nationality and their status in the UK. Your employee has the right to work in the UK if:
- They are a British citizen
- They are a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA)
- They are a Swiss national
The law currently sets out a series of penalties that an employer can face for hiring individuals with no legal right to work in the UK. An employee’s right to work in the UK can be demonstrated by a number of different documents. There are also Home Office checks that you could carry out. For non-European workers, a valid visa document will be essential.
Clients often ask our business immigration lawyers to carry out the necessary checks because that provides the reassurance that the proper steps have been taken. Remember that an organisation that employs an illegal worker faces a significant fine, even where this is the result of a genuine misunderstanding over the law or the intricacies of the processes you must go through.
HOW SHOULD I RECRUIT PEOPLE FROM OVERSEAS?
If you are looking to recruit European workers, this is usually very straightforward (although the process may change after the UK leaves the EU). European workers have the right of free movement within the EU and so they are able to come and work for you as they would if they were of UK origin. That being said, with Brexit on the horizon, employers may want their employees to have documented evidence of their right to work in the form of a residence card.
However, if the worker is non-British, is not an EEA national, and is not currently settled in the UK, their recruitment will be more of a challenge – but still possible. You would need to get a sponsor licence, which would allow you to tap into the international workforce. Once a sponsor licence is in place, you can issue sponsor certificates to eligible international workers who can then apply for a business visa.
Our business immigration lawyers can advise your business on the right approach for you, including which of the many different types of sponsor licences are appropriate for your needs. We can help you apply for a sponsor licence as well as advising you on the steps you need to take to retain it. Types of sponsor licence include:
- Tier 2 sponsor license – to provide long-term job offers to skilled employees
- Tier 5 sponsor license – for temporary skilled workers
- Tier 4 sponsor license – for students coming to study in the UK
Sponsors have strict compliance obligations when it comes to issues such as recruitment procedures (advertising is a common pitfall), record keeping and employee monitoring. We can guide you through all these challenges and more, ensuring you can employ the people you need while complying with all relevant UK laws.
Our business immigration solicitors can also be appointed as registered users of clients’ sponsor licence programmes. This enables us to run the recruitment process, including issuing the certificates of sponsorship to the successful job applicants.
WE ARE A UNIVERSITY THAT WANTS TO ENROL INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS. HOW SHOULD WE DO THIS?
As with a business, the correct approach would be to obtain a sponsor licence. You should check to see it you already have Tier 4 licences in place; most universities do. If not, we will be able to advise you on this, and help you complete the necessary paperwork.
Once your institution has obtained Tier 4 licences, you may sponsor international students to come to the UK to study under a Tier 4 General Student visa.
IF WE HOLD A SPONSOR LICENCE, DOES THAT MEAN WE CAN RECRUIT ANYONE FROM ANYWHERE AT ANY TIME?
No. There must be a genuine vacancy, attracting a minimum salary threshold. Also, you must usually have tried to recruit within the UK first. You need to be able to show that there is no British or settled worker here in the UK who is up to scratch and able to do the role. Certain occupations, categorised by the Home Office as ‘shortage occupations’, carry less onerous recruitment requirements.
The other point to bear in mind about sponsor licences is that they are intended to help employers recruit ‘highly skilled’ workers. There is no precise definition of this in the business immigration context, so there is room for debate about whether a person’s expertise is sufficiently notable. In broad terms, a highly skilled worker will usually be someone who holds certain qualifications and/or has practical experience in a particular field, whether that is sport, technology, academia, performing arts or any other industry.
I AM WORRIED THAT OUR PROCEDURES MAY NOT BE COMPLIANT. COULD YOU HELP?
Yes. We work very closely with clients’ HR teams and, in the case of educational institutions, with their student admissions teams, to check the procedures that are in place. This is often part of an on-going arrangement, but it can be a one-off exercise.
This involves us spending time in your organisation, reading your paperwork, and speaking with the relevant people about the processes you use to ensure that the workers you hire, or the students you bring over to the UK, are legally entitled to be here and to be doing what they are doing.
Our aim is twofold. Firstly, to ensure that you are Home Office compliant. Secondly, to assess your exposure to immigration law-related liability and, where risks exists, to reduce or eliminate them.
In some cases, clients ask us to carry out a ‘stress test’. This is an announced or unannounced visit to check how compliant their systems, processes and procedures are, just as the Home Office might spring a visit on you. This acts as an important trial run where any flaws will be highlighted. We can then work with you to put things right, reducing the risk of any issues if the Home Office decide to inspect you.
WHAT WILL THE HOME OFFICE DO IF IT FINDS OUR SYSTEMS TO BE DEFECTIVE?
Your sponsor licence could be withdrawn, meaning that any existing international workers or students might have to leave, and you would not easily be able to hire international workers in the future.
In addition, a £20,000 fine can be imposed on an organisation that is found to have hired illegal workers. That is not only a hefty financial penalty, it can also be a PR disaster. The public naming and shaming of those that have fallen foul of business immigration laws should act as an additional incentive to ensure that your house is in order.
IS THERE ANY DEFENCE TO A BUSINESS IMMIGRATION LAW FINE OR OTHER PENALTY?
Yes, defences can apply. The best advice we can give is to seek advice from a business immigration law specialist at your very earliest opportunity. As lawyers, we see every day the advantages for clients who speak to us before their matter has escalated. Early legal advice enables a proper strategy to be formulated - whether that strategy is to defend action on certain grounds, or to concede on the most favourable terms possible.
CONTACT OUR BUSINESS IMMIGRATION LAWYERS
For information on our fees for business immigration, please visit our immigration pricing page.