Tier 5 Visa: Temporary Worker Guidance

We advise on temporary work visa options for the UK.


What are the Tier 5 visas?

The Tier 5 visa is for certain types of temporary overseas workers wanting to work in the UK on a short-term basis and whose entry to the UK will help to satisfy cultural, charitable, religious or international objectives.

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

The Tier 5 temporary worker route is for those with an offer of employment in the UK from a licensed sponsor and contains the following six sub-tiers:

Tier 5 Creative and Sporting visa: for people coming to the UK to work or perform as sports people, entertainers or creative artists

Tier 5 Charity Worker visa: for people wanting to undertake unpaid voluntary work for a UK-based charity

Tier 5 Religious Worker visa: for people coming to the UK to undertake religious work, such as non-pastoral duties

Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange visa: for people coming to the UK through approved schemes that aim to share knowledge, experience and best practice through work placements, while experiencing the wider social and cultural setting of the UK

Tier 5 International Agreement visa: for people who will be contracted to do work covered by international law while in the UK, such as working as a private servant in a diplomatic household or for a foreign government

Tier 5 Seasonal Worker visa: for those coming to the UK to undertake seasonal work under a short-term pilot scheme, running between March 2019 and December 2020, enabling employers in the edible horticulture sector to access seasonal workers via an approved scheme operator.

Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme: for 18 to 30 year olds to undertake a cultural exchange scheme, offering young migrants from various participating countries and territories opportunities to work temporarily while experiencing life in the UK.

Tier 5 visa requirements

The requirements for the Tier 5 visa can vary depending on the nature of the job and the sub-tier of temporary worker making the application. However, with the exception of those applying under the Youth Mobility Scheme route, to qualify for a Tier 5 visa the following two requirements must be met:

  • The applicant must be assigned a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a UK licensed sponsor
  • The applicant must have sufficient funds to support themself on their arrival in the UK


The CoS requirement

All Tier 5 visa applicants under the temporary worker route will need to be assigned a CoS from a licensed sponsor before they can apply to come to the UK to work. This is a reference number that holds information about the applicant’s personal details and the prospective job on offer. It is not an actual certificate or paper document but rather an electronic record.

The sponsor will be required to give the Tier 5 visa applicant their CoS reference number before that individual submits their application. This number must be used within a period of 3 months from the date of issue.

The type of sponsor required will depend upon the category of Tier 5 visa. For example, if the applicant is applying under the Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange route, their sponsor could be either:

  • An organisation running an approved exchange scheme
  • A higher education institution, where the applicant is a sponsored researcher, visiting academic or examiner, or
  • A government department or agency


The work, training or research to be undertaken by the Tier 5 visa applicant in the UK must also relate to the work of the sponsoring employer or organisation.


The maintenance requirement

Under the maintenance requirement the Tier 5 visa applicant will need to show that they can maintain and accommodate themself on their arrival in the UK. This means providing proof that they have at least £1270 for the applicant, £285 for their partner, £315 for their first child and £200 per each additional child in personal savings. This must have been held for at least a consecutive 90-day period ending no earlier than 31 days prior to the date of their application.

It will not be necessary to show savings if the applicant’s fully approved (A-rated) sponsor has stated on the CoS that they will certify their maintenance and that they will not claim benefits during their stay.

For a Tier 5 visa under the Youth Mobility Scheme, the applicant will be required to show they have at least £2,530 in cash savings held in either a current or savings account for at least 28 days to show that they can support themselves while in the UK. The scheme does not require the offer of a job or a sponsorship certificate, where sponsors are deemed to be the national governments of participating countries and territories.

Sponsoring Tier 5 workers

For an employer or organisation to be able to sponsor a Tier 5 visa applicant and assign a valid CoS, they must have in place a Tier 5 sponsorship licence awarded by the UK Home Office. A sponsorship licence is based on two main principles:

  • Those who benefit most from migration, ie; UK-based employers or organisations sponsoring non-EEA migrant workers, should play their part in ensuring the UK immigration system is not abused
  • Those applying to come to the UK, ie; non-EEA migrant workers, are eligible to undertake either paid or unpaid work and that a reputable employer genuinely wishes to employ them

To be granted a Tier 5 sponsorship licence an application will need to be made on behalf of the company or organisation, meeting various different eligibility and suitability criteria, including:

  • The sponsor must be a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK
  • They can offer the Tier 5 visa applicant a genuine vacancy that meets the relevant criteria
  • They are honest, dependable and reliable
  • They are capable of carrying out their sponsorship duties

The application process for a Tier 5 sponsorship licence can be complex and may even involve the Home Office carrying out a site visit prior to any decision being made. In assessing a Tier 5 sponsorship licence application the Home Office will have regard to the following:

  • Certain verifiable documentary evidence as set out under the Immigration Rules to prove that the company or organisation is both genuine and operating lawfully in the UK
  • Any history of immigration violations or unspent criminal convictions for a relevant offence of anyone involved in the day-to-day running of the company or organisation, as well as the key personnel named on the Tier 5 sponsorship licence application
  • The adequacy of the human resource systems and recruitment practices in place to ensure that the company or organisation will be able to fulfil their duties and obligations as a Tier 5 visa sponsor

A sponsorship licence will be valid for four years, after which it will need to be renewed. The licence will allow the Tier 5 visa sponsor to assign sponsorship certificates to non-EEA migrant workers to enable them to apply for a Tier 5 visa.

How to apply for a Tier 5 visa

An application for the Tier 5 visa must usually be made online by the non-EEA migrant worker from outside the UK, using their unique CoS reference number and by paying the appropriate fee. The applicant will also need to make an appointment at a visa application centre to enrol their biometric information.

Even with suitable sponsorship and a valid COS, this does not necessarily guarantee the grant of a Tier 5 visa. The applicant will still need to score enough points and send supporting evidence where appropriate.

The points available within the Tier 5 temporary worker sub-tiers are as follows:

  • The CoS requirement: 30 points
  • The maintenance requirement: 10 points

With the exception of those seeking entry to the UK under the seasonal worker’s scheme, temporary workers must also satisfy the ‘Genuine Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Migrant Test’. This means they must show that they genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, the role for which the CoS was assigned and that they will not undertake employment in the UK other than that permitted by their entry clearance or leave, should it be granted.

It is also important to note that under all Tier 5 visa categories, whether or not all other relevant requirements have been met, an applicant may still fall foul of the general grounds for refusal, such as having a history of recent or serious criminal convictions or previous immigrations violations.

What supporting documents are needed for the Tier 5 visa?

When applying for the Tier 5 visa the applicant will need to submit various documents in support of their application. These documents will include:

A current passport or other travel document to prove they can travel
Proof of their personal savings, where applicable
Their tuberculosis test results if they are from a listed country.

Additional documents may be required depending on the sub-tier of Tier 5 visa sought, as well as the applicant’s individual circumstances.

Switching from Tier 4 to Tier 5?

It is not possible to switch into most sub-tiers of Tier 5 visa from within the UK. Only if the applicant is already in the UK as a Tier 4 (General) student can they apply to switch to the Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange route, as long as they are sponsored to do so and apply prior to expiry of their existing visa.

To be eligible to switch from Tier 4 to Tier 5 in this way, the applicant must have completed a UK bachelor’s or master’s degree during their last grant of leave, and satisfy the CoS and maintenance requirements as required.

What are the Tier 5 visa costs?

The application fee for the Tier 5 visa is £244, or a reduced fee of £189 for citizens of Macedonia or Turkey. As part of their application, Tier 5 visa applicants will also be liable to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).

The IHS will be calculated on the basis of the length of leave granted and will allow the visa holder to access the NHS for the duration of their stay in the UK.

The sponsoring employer or organisation will be responsible for paying a fee of £25 for every CoS assigned to a Tier 5 migrant worker, although certificates are free for citizens of Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey.

Need assistance with a Tier 5 visa? We can help

At DavidsonMorris we have the experience to advise you on UK immigration routes and compliance to support your organisation’s workforce needs.

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. Contact our specialists today. 

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