If you are a UK employer looking to temporarily hire overseas workers, or an overseas worker looking to come to the UK to undertake a temporary work placement, the following guide provides an overview of the various different types of ‘Temporary Work Visa UK’ and what requirements must be met. There are several options available for overseas recruitment, although much will depend on the specific employment circumstances involved.
Who is eligible for a Temporary Work Visa UK?
The Temporary Worker routes in the UK are specifically designed to recruit overseas workers on a short-term basis in a variety of different roles through various sectors, including:
Creative Workers: overseas nationals who have been offered short-term work within the creative sector in the UK for up to 12 months, who can make a unique contribution to UK culture as either an entertainer or artist, or other type of Creative Worker;
Charity Workers: overseas nationals who want to undertake voluntary work for a recognised charitable organisation in the UK for a period of up to 12 months;
Government Authorised Exchange Workers: overseas nationals who want to come to the UK to take part in an approved internship, training, work experience or research programme for a period of up to 2 years;
International Agreement Workers: overseas nationals who want to provide a service in the UK covered under international law, such as employees of international organisations or private servants in diplomatic households, in most cases, for a period up to 2 years;
Religious Workers: overseas nationals who want to support the activities of a UK religious institution by undertaking religious work, such as working in a religious order or doing non-pastoral work, for a period of up to 2 years;
Seasonal Workers: overseas nationals who want to come to the UK to do seasonal horticulture work with an approved scheme operator for a period of up to 6 months.
On 11 April 2022, a number of new business immigration routes opened under the Global Business Mobility (GBM) umbrella of the UK’s Immigration Rules, to allow overseas businesses to establish a UK presence or transfer staff to the UK. The new GBM routes include:
Senior or Specialist Workers: for senior managers and specialist employees being assigned to a UK business that’s linked to their employer overseas and who wish to undertake a temporary assignment in the UK. This route replaced the Intra-Company Transfer route on 11 April 2022.
Graduate Trainees: overseas nationals transferring to a linked UK business of their overseas employer as part of a graduate training programme for a managerial or specialist role.
UK Expansion Workers: overseas nationals being assigned to the UK to set up a UK branch or subsidiary of an overseas business that has not yet started trading in the UK, where the individual must be currently working as either a senior manager or specialist employee.
Service Suppliers: overseas nationals being assigned to the UK to provide a contractual service for a UK company under a qualifying international trade agreement, as either an employee of an overseas company or a self-employed professional based overseas.
Secondment Workers: overseas nationals being seconded to the UK by their overseas employer to work for a UK sponsor as part of a high-value contract or investment.
The Graduate Trainee route replaces the former Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route, while the UK Expansion Worker replaces the previously unsponsored Sole Representative provisions of the Representative of an Overseas Business route. The Service Supplier route has replaced the provisions for contractual service suppliers and independent professionals on the International Agreement route, while the Secondment Worker route is a brand new route.
Does a Temporary Worker Visa UK require sponsorship?
Any UK business looking to recruit an overseas national under one of the Temporary Worker routes must first have in place a valid licence to sponsor this type of worker. The employer will need to sponsor any overseas national that they wish to employ if they are not a ‘settled worker’ or do not otherwise have appropriate immigration permission to work in the UK.
A Temporary Worker sponsor licence is the permission from the UK Home Office to enable the approved licence-holder to assign Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to overseas nationals under one of a number of temporary immigration routes. The CoS is an electronic certificate with a unique reference number needed by an overseas worker to make a valid visa application. This is because sponsorship is a prerequisite to applying under the Temporary Worker routes. The information contained on that CoS will also confirm that the worker has been offered an eligible job role meeting any relevant route-specific requirements.
An organisation can apply to be a licensed sponsor for Temporary Workers in any one of the Temporary Worker categories. However, to be eligible for a sponsor licence, there are a number of general eligibility and suitability requirements that must be met, together with various route-specific requirements, depending on the category of worker.
What are the requirements for a Temporary Worker sponsor licence?
If the employer-sponsor does not already hold a valid sponsor licence for the route under which they intend to sponsor a Temporary Worker, they will need to apply for a licence before they can assign an CoS and the individual can apply for a ‘Short Term Worker Visa UK’.
There are various requirements that must be met to be granted a Temporary Worker sponsor licence. In broad terms, the applicant organisation must:
- Be a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK: the only exception to this is when looking to sponsor a UK Expansion Worker to set up a UK branch or subsidiary of an overseas business that has not yet started trading in the UK. Here, the applicant will be an overseas business, although it will still need a UK ‘footprint’. This could be evidenced by way of registration with Companies House or proof of premises in the UK.
- Be trustworthy: the Home Office will look at the history and background of the applicant organisation, induing those involved in the day-to-day running of the business, together with the key personnel named on the licence application. This will include any evidence of criminality or previous non-compliance with the Immigration Rules, or any other evidence that the organisation, or its people, are not honest, dependable and reliable.
- Be capable of carrying out its sponsor duties: the applicant organisation will need appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored workers, with key personnel to manage sponsorship within the business. The Home Office will often conduct a pre-licence site visit to ensure that the prospective sponsor will be capable of carrying out its duties, with a specific focus on the applicant’s recruitment practices and HR systems.
- Be able to meet the requirements of the relevant route: under the GBM routes, for example, the applicant must be able to offer genuine employment meeting minimum skill and any salary requirements, and show a qualifying overseas business link.
An application for a sponsor licence must be supported by a number of specific mandatory documents, together with other detailed documentation to satisfy each of the requirements.
If the application for a Temporary Worker sponsor licence is approved by the Home Office, the licence-holder will be able to issue CoS, provided it still has jobs that are suitable for sponsorship under the route in question. The licence will last for an initial period of 4 years, unless revoked prior to its expiry. The licence will need to be renewed before the end of the 4 year period if the organisation wishes to continue sponsoring Temporary Workers.
How to apply for a Temporary Work Visa
To apply for a ‘Temporary Work Visa UK’, the applicant must first be assigned a valid CoS from their licensed sponsor. This means that, before assigning an CoS, the sponsor must:
- Check the role in question is eligible for sponsorship under the relevant route: for example, if sponsoring an overseas national on one of the GBM routes, the job must meet the skill-level requirement for the route in question. For some routes, additional steps will also need to be taken before sponsoring a worker, for example, before sponsoring a Service Supplier or Secondment Worker, the relevant contract on which the sponsored individual will be working must be registered via the sponsorship management system (SMS).
- Ensure that they will be paying the worker appropriately: for example, where a worker is being sponsored on the Graduate Trainee or UK Expansion Worker routes, they must be paid at least the minimum salary specified for that route, known as the ‘general threshold’, or the applicable going rate for their occupation, whichever is the highest. For other routes, the worker must be paid in accordance with National Minimum Wage legislation.
- Check that the worker is eligible for sponsorship under the relevant Temporary Worker route: this will mean ensuring that the prospective worker will be able to make a successful immigration application and, if granted, will comply with their conditions of stay.
- Meet any other route-specific requirements.
Once the sponsored worker has been assigned a valid CoS, and the sponsor has paid the fee to assign this certificate, the worker can submit an online application for a visa. There will be an additional £259 fee for this. In most cases, the applicant must also pay an Immigration Health Surcharge set at £624 per year, calculated on how long leave is granted.
When applying for a Temporary Worker Visa, the applicant will need to prove their identity, and provide any required biometric information, by either attending a biometric appointment at an overseas visa application centre or, if eligible, using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app. They will need to submit a number of documents in support of their application, including a valid passport or other travel document to verify their identity and nationality. They will also need to submit any documents in accordance with the route-specific guidance.
What does a Temporary Work Visa allow?
If an application for a Temporary Work Visa is granted, the visa-holder will be permitted to come to the UK to work in the job role for which sponsorship and leave has been granted. They will also be able to travel in and out of the UK for the period of validity of their visa.
A Temporary Worker visa-holder will not have access to public funds, and there will be restrictions on employment and study. They will also be required to leave the UK when their job ends or when their visa expires, whichever is earlier, unless they are eligible to extend their stay under their existing visa or switch into a different immigration route.
The Temporary Worker routes do not lead directly to indefinite leave to remain in the UK, where permission to stay will only be granted up to the maximum overall period permitted on the relevant route. However, in some cases, individuals may be able to switch to a visa that will provide them with a path to permanent settlement, such as the Skilled Worker visa.
DavidsonMorris are UK business immigration specialists. We advise employers and their workforce on visa options to work temporarily in the UK. For expert advice, contact us.
Temporary work visa FAQs
How do I get a Temporary Work Visa for the UK?
To be granted a ‘Temporary Work Visa UK’, an overseas national will need to be assigned a valid Certificate of Sponsorship by an approved sponsor and then apply online for a visa under the relevant route in question.
Can I work in the UK for 6 months?
Depending on your nationality, you may be able to come to the UK without a visa for up to 6 months for the purposes of business, but you will not usually be able to undertake paid employment.
How can I get work permit in UK without job offer?
There are various immigration routes which will allow an overseas national to apply for permission to work in the UK without a job offer, for example, on the Graduate or High Potential Individual routes.
Last updated: 19 March 2023