Following the end of the transition period post-Brexit, employers recruiting from outside the UK must ensure the prospective employee holds a valid visa to work in the UK before they start employment. Whilst, in some cases, employees could hold visas based on their personal circumstances, employers should be aware of how to sponsor an individual for a visa if this need arises.

Charlotte Ashton, our senior solicitor, explains more…

In December 2020, vast changes were made to the immigration system, introducing a new skilled worker visa to replace the Tier 2 version. The changes included widening the roles which could be sponsored for a visa. In addition, the introduction of a points system – whereby points could be gained on the basis of qualifications and need to fill roles, rather than the previous rigid system. The resident labour market test requirement, which was a hurdle for many employers, has also been scrapped.

Therefore, employers considering hiring a worker who requires a visa must understand the following stages:

Step 1 – applying for a sponsor licence

This should only be done where the employer is sure that the role is able to be sponsored, and the worker will be paid the appropriate salary, and have the required qualification. Employers should also ensure they understand the obligations placed on them and that they have the necessary systems in place to comply.

Step 2 – applying for or creating and assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)

Once an employer has a sponsor licence, they need to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to the prospective employee. There are two types – Defined and Undefined – and the employer should understand which is appropriate for the circumstances.

Step 3 – the individual uses the CoS details as part of their visa application

Once granted, they will have the right to work for the employer in the specific role for which the CoS has been created.

Practical steps employers can begin to take prior to deciding whether there is a need for a sponsor licence are:

  • Review recruitment trends to see if there are any gaps ordinarily filled by recruiting outside the UK;
  • Consider whether there are any skilled roles which may be difficult to fill in future from within the UK;
  • Where the employer is part of an international group of companies, look at the likelihood of employees being required to move within the group to the UK entity.

Employers may also find it useful to run an audit of their HR practices to ensure they can comply with sponsor obligations, and have appropriate staff members to take responsibility for keeping the sponsor licence – and other details – up to date.


We are the HR and employment law experts from ESPHR.

It’s our mission to advise and develop the employment law capability of HR professionals wherever we can, helping HR teams make a real commercial difference to their organisations. That way, you spend less time solving operational issues and more time actioning projects that drive far-reaching change in your company.

Call 0333 006 2929 or email today to discover exactly how we can help you.


Author: Charlotte Ashton

Senior Solicitor, ESP Law Ltd

Charlotte has over 10 years’ experience in all aspects of employment law. She trained in-house with a large UK company, covering 45,000 employees, and moved to private practice on qualification. Charlotte enjoys helping growing companies understand their legal obligations and has given training and presentations to start up entrepreneurs, and business students, at a local University. Charlotte also specialises in business immigration law for the UK and has helped employers obtain sponsor licences in order to recruit from outside the UK.


Get the latest HR and employment law news, advice, insight, free resources and promotions straight to your inbox