Event report

Talent and immigration: understanding the different visa routes


UK companies are still keen to seek out international talent – so what are their options post-Brexit?

During this webinar with Nilmini Roelens, founding partner at Roelens Solicitors, our members got a clearer idea of how the new visa routes work, who is eligible, and which ones are best for each situation. Missed the event? You can find the video recording at the bottom of this page or read our summary below.


Recruiting high-skilled workers

The Skilled Worker visa is by far the most important category for employers looking to recruit international talent. Before hiring, employers must first secure a sponsor licence, then assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) to the individual, who can then apply for the visa.

A sponsor licence must be prepared for well in advance. There are heavy penalties for not complying with the rules, so it is vital for HR teams to be adequately trained in these.

Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange

This visa route is specifically designed for interns and graduate trainees. The job role must be sponsorable and the visa allows individuals to come to the UK for one to two years.


Recruiting low-skilled workers

Since Brexit, recruiting low-skilled workers has been more difficult. There are solutions, however, including the Shortage Occupation list (SOL).

The SOL is compiled by the Home Office based on recommendations by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). A company in need of a large number of low-skilled workers can approach the MAC, which often puts out calls for evidence.


The Global Business Mobility routes

In April, the government introduced the new Global Business Mobility visas, designed for companies wanting to expand to the UK. It is subdivided into five categories, none of which offer routes to settlement:

  • The Senior or Specialist Worker visa, replacing the former Intra-Company Transfer route
  • The Graduate Trainee visa, allowing workers to come to the UK to work for a UK branch of their company
  • The UK Expansion Worker visa, allowing workers to set up a UK branch of a business that has not yet begun trading
  • The Service Supplier visa, designed for workers undertaking temporary assignment in the UK to provide services covered by one of the UK’s international trade agreements
  • The Secondment Worker visa, whereby overseas employers can transfer workers to the UK to do an eligible job for another organisation (which must have a ‘high-value contract’ with the overseas company)


Other options open to individuals

Frontier Work Permit

This is designed for individuals whose main home is outside the UK but who come to the UK to work. To qualify, workers must spend less than 180 days total in the UK over the course of any 12-month period.

Permits are valid for five years and can be continuously renewed with no Home Office fee.

Global Talent visa

This visa is designed for ‘leaders or potential leaders’ in the fields of academia or research, arts and culture, or digital technology. Individuals must first gain an endorsement from a relevant body.

Start-up visa

This category is aimed at people wanting to set up an ‘innovative business’ in the UK. They must be endorsed by either a British higher educational institution or an organisation supporting entrepreneurs.

High Potential Individual visa

At the end of May, the government announced a new High Potential Individual (HPI) visa, giving individuals with qualifications from an eligible university the right to stay in the UK for at least two years. There are 37 universities on the list in total, with just one of them in France (Paris Sciences et Lettres).

Standard Visa

This allows visitors to carry out business activities, including negotiating contracts and attending trade fairs, but does not allow them to conduct any actual paid work.

Scale-Up visa: a new development

In August, the government will announce a new Scale-Up visa. It is expected to give companies experiencing rapid growth the ability to hire global talent more easily.

Besides all these options, employers can draw upon other pools of talent, including settled EU citizens and the dependents of UK citizens.

Despite the challenges of Brexit, the UK remains one of the EU’s most important business partners.

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