For workers outside of the European Economic Area, sponsorship will often be the only way to get the right to live and work in the UK. An employer must be willing to guarantee that you will not abuse this right, and prove that there is a genuine need for you to fill the post. The entry criteria and application process is complicated, so make sure to take expert advice and ask your employer or potential employer for assistance and explanation where needed.
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Check if you need to be sponsored. Some people, known as Tier 1, can enter without being sponsored. As of June 2013 this covers three categories: those with an exceptional talent in science, arts or engineering (with the backing of a relevant body in the UK), those planning to run a relatively large business in the UK and those planning to invest more than a million pounds into a British business. You can also often enter the UK without sponsorship if you are a domestic worker, a representative of a foreign media organization, or the sole representative of a foreign company.
Check if you meet the requirements for people entering under sponsorship. These include skilled workers performing a role that cannot be filled by a UK citizen; religious ministers, sports players; people being transferred between branches of an international organization; and some people planning to work temporarily. The first four of these are known as Tier 2, while the temporary workers are covered by Tier 5.
Find an employer that has, or is willing to get, a licence to sponsor candidates. The licence may only cover specific branches or franchisees of the employer's business. Applying for the licence involves a lot of paperwork: the majority of applications should be dealt with within four weeks.
Apply for a vacancy with the employer. The selection process will often be tougher than for a job in your own company as it will cost a lot of time and money for the company to sponsor you to work in the UK. In many cases, already working for the employer will be a significant advantage.
Check whether the employer is willing to pay the application fees for your potential immigration. These can run to £500 or more, with additional fees if you want to bring family members with you.
Remember that entry is not guaranteed. The British government uses a complex points system to decide who can enter. In many cases, the number of entrants in a particular tier or category is limited, meaning people who meet the general eligibility guidelines may still be rejected.
Tips and warnings
- If you are a citizen of a country in the European Economic Area or Switzerland, you can normally live or work in the UK without needing a visa. To be allowed to enter the UK with the intention of staying for an extended period, you will either need to be working in the UK, or have the financial resources to support yourself without working. Citizens of Turkey or the Commonwealth may also be able to enter without sponsorship under specific circumstances.
- Never give false information or knowingly withhold relevant information on any documentation relating to the sponsorship and immigration process. Doing so could not only mean you are not allowed to enter the UK, or have to leave the UK, but it could mean your employer is no longer allowed to sponsor other candidates.
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