Developing a Corporate Immigration Policy

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An effective corporate immigration policy can help employers optimise their international recruitment, ensure legal compliance and provide a consistent and positive experience for their migrant workers.

With an organisation-wide policy in place, you can help ensure all aspects of corporate immigration risks and responsibilities are assessed, implemented and managed in a way that is both legally compliant and supportive of your organisation’s commercial objectives.

In this guide for employers, we outline the role of the corporate immigration policy, including key considerations when developing a corporate immigration policy for your organisation.


What is a corporate immigration policy?

A corporate immigration policy is a document that sets out the company’s processes and ethos for recruiting and hiring migrant workers.  It should provide the framework in areas such as sponsorship and compliance, to help reduce legal risk and ensure consistency across the organisation.

For organisations relying on international talent, establishing a formalised immigration policy can help streamline the talent acquisition process, ensuring a smooth transition that delivers a positive employee experience throughout the lifecycle of employment. A policy that clearly showcases the importance of immigration sponsorship to the organisation, promoting high standards of ethical practice in the recruitment and employment of migrant workers, can also provide a powerful incentive to prospective candidates.

Today’s immigration climate is complex, both on a domestic and international scale. It has never been more critical to develop and maintain an effective immigration programme that supports your organisation’s overall business objectives, whilst being able to accommodate the constantly evolving rules and regulations when sponsoring migrant workers.

The recent overhaul of the UK’s Immigration Rules following its departure from the EU, together with the unexpected global travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, are prime examples of why having a policy with clearly defined procedures is vital to react to important changes in the political and socio-economic climate.


The role of the corporate immigration policy 

Employers looking to fill highly skilled roles within their organisation will often turn to the global marketplace for access to a wider talent-rich applicant pool. Following the end of EU free movement from 1 January 2021, and the introduction of the UK’s new points-based immigration system, UK employers must now hold a valid sponsor licence to hire non-UK resident workers. However, sponsoring migrant workers comes with a wide range of duties and responsibilities, and an array of immigration-related issues, many of which can be challenging to manage, resulting in business risk.

It is therefore important to establish a solid framework within which to manage your overseas recruitment practices in a consistent and compliant way. By implementing a well-established immigration infrastructure, this can help you to navigate even the most impactful immigration changes with confidence.

For multinational employers, the immigration policy may also work alongside the global mobility policy to provide a holistic approach to personnel migration. Global mobility refers to the process of transferring existing employees to different countries. This will require a global mobility policy to cover the legal and practical issues of moving employees across borders, although often this will create an overlap with any corporate immigration policy dealing with the deployment or recruitment of foreign workers to the UK.

Given the recent changes to the UK’s Immigration Rules, it’s more important than ever for multinational organisations headquartered in the UK to clearly set out or signpost within any such policy the new routes available to existing overseas employees.


Developing a corporate immigration policy

The corporate immigration policy should be developed in line with the specific – and unique – needs of the organisation. The following factors could be considered:

Sponsorship ethos

State the organisation’s commitment and responsibility towards immigration sponsorship and express the guiding principles that underpin this approach. This could include, for example, a statement that the organisation is committed to a diverse workforce and welcomes applications from all sectors of the community, including people from abroad.

It could also include a statement that it is company policy to recruit the most suitable person for each vacancy, regardless of sex, race, nationality, religion or belief, age, sexual orientation or disability.


Sponsorship authorisation

Is there a framework to determine if and when sponsorship will be authorised within the organisation? Is a business case needed, or are there set criteria to be met? Does the organisation operate with a centralised or decentralised model for international recruitment matters? Do you have immigration advisers internally or externally and how will this shape or influence immigration processes?

Which visa categories of worker is the organisation approved to sponsor under, for example, sponsorship under the Intra-Company Transfer or Skilled Worker routes? The Skilled Worker route allows you to hire someone from outside the UK, subject to them having a valid job offer at the required skill and salary level. The Intra-Company Transfer route allows multinational organisations to facilitate temporary moves to the UK for existing personnel, subject to ICT sponsorship requirements being met.

What about non-sponsorship visa routes? These could include, for example, the unsponsored Global Talent or Graduate routes. The Global Talent route is designed to attract recognised global leaders and promising individuals in science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology. The Graduate route enables international students who have completed a degree (or PhD) in the UK from summer 2021 to work at any skill level for two (or three) years after they have completed their studies.


Sponsorship costs 

To what extent will the organisation fund or contribute to the cost of the visa and/or sponsorship, where permitted by law? Will the worker have to contribute or pay for anything relating to their immigration application? An employer is legally required to pay for the cost of its sponsor licence and the immigration skills charge when issuing a certificate of sponsorship, whilst the employee may be asked to pay for the visa processing fees and any associated costs, plus the immigration health surcharge to allow them to access the NHS. Your policy should also address the cost of extending work visas should a migrant worker’s contract of employment be renewed.


Other costs 

To what extent – if any – will the organisation cover the costs of relocation, travel and any immigration costs for dependants or family members? If migrant workers are being deployed or recruited overseas on a long-term assignment, the costs can be significant. Very often, they will also want their spouse and any dependants to accompany them. The extent to which they will be required to fund their own costs, together with the visa, travel and accommodation costs of any family members, can often determine the success or failure of recruiting a promising candidate.


Deduction clauses 

To what extent will employee be responsible for repaying the cost of their sponsorship or visa if they leave your organisation prematurely? This could commonly include a sliding-scale, reducing as the employee number of years’ service increases. include, for example, a cut-off date prior to which the employee will be contractually obliged to repay any costs associated with their sponsorship and that of any family members, where permitted by law. Such deduction clauses should be included as a term within the employee’s the contract of employment and be understood by the employee to be enforceable.


Eligibility to work 

What is the requirement and procedure relating to right to work checks? All employers must check that a prospective employee is allowed to work in the UK before they employ them, regardless of where they are from. Any failure to do so could result in a significant civil or even criminal penalty. This requirement will typically form part of an organisation’s standard recruitment or onboarding procedure, so you may need to include a statement that the immigration policy must be read in conjunction with the recruitment policy.

You should also state that no applicant can commence employment until the right to work has been proved, and that the organisation reserves the right to withdraw a job offer where such proof cannot be provided.


Commitment to rights 

The policy should make it clear the organisation is fully committed to the fair treatment of migrant workers and for the protection from exploitation of vulnerable workers under the prevention of illegal working regime in the UK. This should include, for example, a clear explanation that migrant workers will not be treated less favourably than other workers carrying out the same or similar work, but will be given the same employment rights and conditions, and will be protected from all forms of workplace discrimination.

It can be helpful to signpost the sources of rights of migrant workers in the context of UK employment and equality legislation.


Key contacts

State clearly who in the organisation migrant workers should contact in the event of any kind of immigration issue, from application-specific queries to wider issues and urgent matters? What is the process to notify and level of support can be expected?

As part of your duties as a licensed sponsor you should already have in place certain key personnel designated to deal with overseeing the sponsorship process and using the sponsorship management system. You may also want to appoint additional personnel to act as a point of contact with whom prospective or existing overseas employees can liaise if they have any queries or concerns, and who are directly responsible for monitoring your overseas population. These points of contact are not only critical for consistency in how your immigration programme operates, but for quickly mobilising efforts and facilitating fast response times to any important or unexpected changes in the immigration landscape.


Employee experience 

How will the organisation ensure a positive and consistent experience for its migrant workforce? Consider the use of a proactive, ongoing communications programme, and early stage briefings, orientations and buddy systems to support onboarding.


Data collation & analysis 

Regardless of whether recruitment and immigration are managed through headquarters or on a local or branch basis, it is advisable to capture and analyse immigration-related data centrally on areas such as migrant worker numbers, visa types and immigration costs. This should be managed in the context of meeting employer record keeping duties as well as allowing for effective auditing and action, for example in response to legislative or organisational changes.


Settlement application support 

Will the organisation support migrant workers with UK settlement applications? What will the ‘support’ look like, for example, ensuring the SMS has been updated and all changes reported?  What documentation will the employer provide and what timescales should the employer work to?


Need assistance?

A robust and comprehensive policy is the cornerstone of an effective immigration programme. However, clearly defining your corporate immigration policy is only the first step towards effective foreign talent acquisition.

It is crucial that your policy is clearly communicated across your organisation, not only for the benefit of prospective and existing foreign employees, and in a language that they can fully comprehend, but for any personnel responsible for the recruitment or management of such employees whilst in the UK.

DavidsonMorris’ corporate immigration team advise employers on all aspects of immigration management, compliance and optimising processes to reduce risk and meet commercial objectives. For specialist advice for your organisation, contact us.


Corporate immigration policy FAQs

What is corporate immigration law?

Corporate immigration law in the UK covers a number of legal issues relating to the recruitment of foreign nationals, from visa and sponsor licence requirements to immigration compliance and prevention of illegal working.

What does immigration policy mean?

An immigration policy refers to the rules and procedures relating to sponsoring a migrant worker, including the immigration routes under which they can be sponsored, and the employment rights and responsibilities of these workers.

Can a business sponsor an immigrant?

If someone has permanently settled in the UK, with indefinite leave to remain, they can work without restriction. However, it’s possible to sponsor a migrant worker looking to live and work in the UK on a temporary basis.


Last updated: 3 May 2021


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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