Have questions? Ask us!

Immigration & Work Permits

Work Permits

Foreign workers are required to have the proper visas and work permits in the UK, as established by immigration laws.  Work permits must be secured for non-European Union employees, and sponsored by a locally licensed and incorporated entity, with a Certificate of Sponsorship from the UK government.  Employees who are from EU member countries do not need a work permit in the UK.

Your Options

Have your own Company

To secure a work permit for employees, the employer must have a fully incorporated company in place in the UK.  The most common work permit is the General work visa or Tier 2 visa.

Steps Required to Obtain a Tier 2 Visa

For the Employer

Step 1: ‘Resident Labour Market Test’

The employer carries out a ‘resident labour market test’. This is to ensure that the foreign employee’s position cannot be filled by a local employee in the UK. The employer advertises the job for at least 28 days (either continuously or in 2 stages where each stage is 7 days or more). The test is satisfied if the employer can show that they were unable to find a suitable local employee.

Step 2: Sponsorship License Application

The employer applies for a sponsorship licence online through UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). The documents required for this application process depend on the type of company and the type of Tier 2 visa e.g. General, Minister of Religion etc.

If the employer is applying for a licence to sponsor employees in the Tier 2 (General) category, they are required to provide the following information:

  • Certified supporting documents that provide evidence of the existence of the business e.g. VAT registration, bank statements, etc.
  • Why they are applying for a sponsorship licence
  • What sector they operate in
  • What their operating hours are during the week
  • Hierarchy chart of the owner, director, and board members (or the names and titles of all staff if the business has 50 employees or fewer)
  • What job or jobs they intend to assign a certificate of sponsorship (COS) for including the job title, duties, salary, required skills etc.

A more comprehensive list of the required documents, for each organisation-type and visa-type, can be found here.

Most applications take up to 8 weeks to be approved. Please contact us for a quote.

Step 3: Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) Applications

The employer applies for a COS for each employee. The COS is an electronic record in the form of a reference number assigned to each employee.

There is a monthly limit on certificates issued. COS applications may take up to a month to process.

The employer uses the sponsorship management system to create a COS for the employee. The system generates a unique reference number (URN), which the employee can quote on their visa application.

For the Employee

Step 4: Prepare Documents

The employee prepares the following documents for the application process:

  • Certificate of Sponsorship reference number
  • Proof of knowledge of English (unless they are a national of a specified country
  • A bank or building society statement or letter showing that the employee has sufficient personal savings (£945 over last 90 days) unless the certificate of sponsorship shows the sponsor can provide support
  • Current passport or travel document (with a blank page)
  • Expired passports or travel documents (to show travel history)
  • Tuberculosis test results (if from a listed country
  • Criminal record certificate (if working in education, healthcare, therapy or social services)

All documents in languages either than English or Welsh must be translated.

Step 5: Lodge Application

The employee applies for a Tier 2 (General) visa online. They may apply for a visa up to 3 months before the day they are due to start work in the UK. This date is listed on their certificate of sponsorship.

The application takes up to 15 days with a fee depending on the occupation. Please contact us for a quote.

Step 6: Attend Visa Application Centre

The employee makes an appointment at a visa application centre (during the online application) to provide their biometric information (fingerprints and photograph). Some visa application centres may need to hold on the employee’s passport and documents while processing the application.

Step 7: Receive Application Outcome

If the application is successful, the employee receives a sticker (called a vignette) for their passport. This shows the type of visa that the employee has been granted, the dates for which the visa is valid and the visa conditions.

If the visa application centre has kept the employee’s passport, they will post it to the employee with the vignette inside.

Step 8: Collect Biometric Residence Permit

If the employee is coming to the UK for more than 6 months, they are required to collect a biometric residence permit (BRP) when they arrive. This must be done before the later of, the expiry date of the sticker or within 10 days of arriving in the UK.

Use the Shield GEO Employer of Record Solution

Given changes in regulations, third party organisations, including GEOs can no longer sponsor work permits in the UK.


If you'd like to know more about employing workers in UK, please get in touch.

Types of visas in United Kingdom

Category Description of Visa
Business Visas (Standard Visitor)

The business visa (Standard Visitor visa), is typically granted for visitors who are outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, and are traveling to the UK for the purposes of business up to 6 months. The business visa restricts the activities an individual may engage in during their stay, prohibiting any work activities and receiving a salary, but may engage in meetings, conferences, research or negotiating contracts with UK companies.

This visa is recommended for short business visits that do not involve extended work as it only requires a passport, biometric information and a passport photo, which can be lodged by the employee at the local visa application centre.

Visa nationals must still acquire an entry clearance before traveling to the UK. The duration of the Visit visa may be extended beyond 6 months based on the needs of the individual to a long-term visit visa, but supporting documents and a letter stating intent of stay is required to justify the period extension.

Time: 15 days up to 3 weeks

Please contact us for a quote.

Tier 2 (General) Visa

The Tier 2 (General) Visa is an employer-sponsored visa for employees who have been offered a skilled job in the UK, and are from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.

With a Tier 2 Visa, the employee can stay for the shorter of, a maximum of 5 years and 14 days, or the time on stated on the certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month.

The employee is permitted to work for their sponsor in the job described on the certificate of sponsorship, take up a second job under certain circumstances, do voluntary work, study as long as it does not interfere with the job the employee is sponsored for, travel abroad and return to the UK and bring family members.

The employee may not own more than 10% of their sponsor’s shares (unless they earn more than £159,600 a year), receive public funds, or apply for a second job until they have started working for their sponsor.

See above for the process involved in applying for a Tier 2 (General) visa.

Time: Up to 3 weeks

Please contact us for a quote.

Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Visa

This visa is for employees who have been offered a role in a UK branch of their organisation.

The 2 types of Intra-Company Transfer Visas are:

Long-term Staff – For employees who have worked with the company for at least 12 months, and are transferring to the UK branch where UK workers are unable to fill the position. The duration is granted for up to 3 years, which may be extended for another 2 years. Any extensions beyond 5 years must incur a 1 year “cooling off” period where employees may not return to the UK under a Tier 2 (ICT) visa, unless they are highly compensated.

Graduate Trainee – For employees who have been working with the company for at least 3 months, and intend on working via graduate training programmes for no longer than 12 months. Only 5 of these visas may be issued per sponsor each year, and the employee must be training towards a managerial or specialist role.

The employee may stay for up to 9 years on a Long-term Staff ICT visa (if they earn more than £120,000 a year), up to 5 years and 1 month on a Long-term Staff ICT visa (if they earn less than £120,000 a year), and up to 12 months on a Graduate Trainee ICT visa.

Time: Up to 3 weeks

Please contact us for a quote.

Freelance / Entrepreneur Permit (Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa)

The Entrepreneur Permit, or a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, applies to individuals who have access to investment funds and intend to invest or run a business in the UK. This permit allows foreign migrants to set up or take over a UK business under self-employment. The applicant must provide evidence they have at least £50,000 in investment funds in a regulated financial institution to apply to demonstrate their investment capacity, or that they have access to £200,000 or have invested £200,000 in a UK business.

Applicants must provide specific documentation, such as an official statement of investment funds available for investment in the UK from a financial institution, a business plan, and a criminal record certificate in addition to passport, passport photo, proof of English proficiency (except in a handful of English-speaking countries), bank statement of savings, medical test results and biometric information.

The duration for the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa is at maximum 3 years and 4 months, which can be extended for 2 years if already in Tier 1, or 3 years if from another category. The individual may apply for an “indefinite leave to remain” once they have been in the UK for 5 years, where they may stay indefinitely. Dependants may accompany the employee but require a visa and similar documentation. A sufficient level of savings must also be proved to demonstrate the dependants can be supported during the stay in the UK.

Time: Up to 3 weeks

Please contact us for a quote.

United Kingdom


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Join 9000+ employers managing overseas employees

Subscribe for tips on hiring and managing international workers!