Tier 5 Sponsorship (Employer Guide)


Tier 5 of the points-based system is one of the primary immigration routes for non-EEA nationals wanting to work temporarily in the UK. To apply under the route, one of the eligibility requirements is that you have Tier 5 Sponsorship.

However, an individual must have a sponsor before they can apply for a Tier 5 visa to enable them to travel to the UK. Tier 5 sponsorship is the permission granted to a visa applicant to accept employment from a suitably licensed sponsor in the UK on a short-term basis.

However, first and foremost, the UK sponsor that grants the Tier 5 sponsorship must meet various eligibility and suitability criteria, not least that they are a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK and that they can offer the Tier 5 applicant a genuine vacancy. The UK sponsor must also be honest, dependable and reliable, and capable of carrying out their sponsorship duties.

The sponsorship system is designed to ensure that the immigration rules in the UK are not abused. As such, Tier 5 sponsors are subject to various duties to carry out right to work checks and monitor any migrants that they may employ.


Who is eligible?

There are two main categories of applicants under the Tier 5 sponsorship route: temporary workers and workers on the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme. 

There are six sub-categories of temporary worker based on cultural, charitable, religious or international objectives, including volunteering and job shadowing, and for meeting seasonal employment needs in the UK in the edible horticultural sector. These sub-categories are as follows:

  • Creative and sporting – for people coming to the UK to work or perform as sportspeople, entertainers or creative artists.
  • Charity workers – for people coming to the UK to do voluntary work and not paid work for a charity.
  • Religious workers – for people coming to the UK to work as religious workers, such as non-pastoral duties.
  • Government authorised exchange – for people coming to the UK through approved schemes that aim to share knowledge, experience and best practice.
  • International agreement – for people coming to the UK under contract to provide a service that is covered under international law.
  • Seasonal Workers – for people coming to the UK to undertake seasonal work. This is a short-term pilot scheme beginning in Spring 2019, enabling employers in the edible horticulture sector to access seasonal workers via an approved scheme operator.
  • The Youth Mobility Scheme is especially for 18 to 30-year-olds to undertake a cultural exchange scheme, offering young migrants from participating countries opportunities to work temporarily while experiencing life in the UK.


How do you find a Tier 5 sponsor?

Prior to submitting an application for a Tier 5 visa, you will first need a genuine job offer, together with a valid certificate of sponsorship issued by a suitably licensed sponsor in the UK.

You can find a full and up-to-date list of sponsors on the “Register of Sponsors Licensed Under the Points-Based System” issued by the Home Office. The sponsor list is a published record of organisations licensed to sponsor non-EEA migrant workers under Tiers 2 & 5 of the points-based system and currently shows over 30,000 registered sponsors.


How do you apply?

Having identified a Tier 5 sponsor in the UK, and having been offered a job, your sponsor will issue you with a certificate of sponsorship. Only once you have the unique reference number found on this certificate can you submit your application for a Tier 5 visa with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), the division of the Home Office responsible for the visa system in the United Kingdom.

You will need to pay the appropriate application fee, submit the necessary documentation in support, and schedule an interview.

A successful application will require you to score 40 points, namely 30 points for a certificate of sponsorship, and a further 10 points for maintenance, i.e.; the ability to support yourself while in the UK.

You can satisfy the maintenance requirement either by having your Tier 5 sponsor provide a written undertaking that, should it become necessary, it will maintain and accommodate you for a month. Alternatively, you must demonstrate that you have at least £945 of personal savings that must have been held for at least a consecutive 90-day period ending no earlier than 31 days before the date of application.

When assessing your application, UKVI will also carry out what’s referred to as the “Genuine Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Migrant Test”. In other words, they must be satisfied that you genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, the role for which the certificate of sponsorship was assigned. That said, this test doesn’t apply to those who are seeking entrance under the seasonal worker’s scheme.


What are the limitations of Tier 5 sponsorship?

The grant of Tier 5 sponsorship does not necessarily guarantee the grant of leave to work in the UK. This is entirely a matter for UKVI based on the nature of your application and the general grounds for refusal, for example, any previous immigration violations.

Further, having been granted leave to come to the UK to undertake the employment in question, you will also be under a continuing obligation to comply with the UK immigration rules. Moreover, your right to continue to work in the UK under Tier 5 sponsorship is not only dependent upon your own conduct and compliance, but also that of your UK sponsor.

As previously indicated, the sponsorship system is designed to ensure that the immigration rules in the UK are not abused. As such, Tier 5 sponsors are subject to various duties and responsibilities, whereby UKVI may carry out intermittent site visits to assess whether or not a licence holder poses any threat to immigration control.

In the unfortunate event that your UK sponsor has failed to comply with its’ duties, this puts them at risk of their Tier 5 sponsorship licence being revoked and, in turn, you losing your leave to remain in the UK.


How does Tier 5 sponsorship differ from Tier 2 sponsorship?

Tier 5 sponsorship is the primary immigration route for temporary workers, while Tier 2 sponsorship is more for long-term skilled employment. There are four categories under the Tier 2 sponsorship route: 

  • Tier 2 (General) – to enable non-EEA nationals to accept an offer of a job that cannot be filled by a suitably qualified or skilled settled worker. This includes workers coming to the UK to fill shortage occupations, i.e., there are not enough workers in the domestic labour market to meet demand.
  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson): to enable elite athletes and coaches who are internationally established to be based in the UK.
  • Tier 2 (Minister of Religion): to enable religious workers to undertake employment within a faith community in the UK.

You will, therefore, need to assess which route to apply for, and which type of sponsorship you will need to seek from a UK employer.


Do you need help with a Tier 5 visa?

At DavidsonMorris we have the experience to advise you on the most appropriate category of visa for your circumstances and have the insight into each to help make the process as smooth as possible.

As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, we have an established reputation for effective and efficient processing of visa applications, and for providing expert visa-related advice. We also understand the stresses involved with making a visa application and take great pride in playing a supportive role to ease the pressure. For advice and support with your UK application, contact us.


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 500 and 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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