Getting overseas employees over immigration hurdles


Through our links with an international tax adviser, we were asked to advise an established overseas company on how it could import its knowledge into its fledgling UK business. It wished to bring over key employees from the parent company as a starting point to gain a foothold in the UK market and had identified a key overseas employee needed for an additional role.

The list of matters to be dealt with included:

  1. We would need to apply for a sponsorship licence – often a challenge with a start-up business that, whilst being established overseas, had not been trading long in the UK. As most employers will probably know, the UK’s immigration rules are constantly being changed and updated to protect the UK’s borders, at the same time as encouraging foreign investment – a hot topic for the UK.
  2. What would be the appropriate visas for the employees into the UK?
  3. Can the Company demonstrate that there was nobody in the UK capable of carrying out one of the roles?
  4. Can the Company show that it can comply with its sponsorship duties?

The key words for this process are: forward planning, organisation and – above all – patience!  The sponsorship licence application is a heavily administrative and prescriptive process – ensuring everything is in place is something that takes far longer than you might think.

As regards the individual workers, we had to explore with those already employed by the parent company what their short-term and long-term plans were. Might they want to settle in the UK? Were they bringing their families with them? Were there going to be issues with their travel history? Aside from the sponsorship route, were there other options such as ancestry visas?

For the Company to be able to employ the key resource, our work included advising on the need for a resident market labour test – which is the need to advertise the role in a very specific way – to ensure that there was nobody in the UK who was able to do that job. This needed a careful and detailed exploration of the role that was actually needed, highlighting particular areas of expertise which were critical to the business.


Without forward planning, this is one area that is frustrating to employers as the test needs to be completed before the visa application is made – and it takes time.

Once the workers are in the UK, the Company needs to be able to demonstrate that it is complying with its sponsorship duties, which is all about having systems in place to track and monitor migrant workers. The Home Office can drop in unannounced to check that all is well, so it is essential that employers are compliant. Compliance failures will lead to the sponsorship licence being revoked, meaning that any migrant workers can no longer be employed.

We’re here to help

If you’re exploring a business immigration issue, have a chat with Adrienne Hardy (free of charge), to find out how we can help you.

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