Under the UK’s Immigration Rules, there are several temporary work visa options available when it comes to hiring someone from overseas, or when looking for a temporary job as a migrant worker.
In this guide, we outline the main visa options for foreign national workers, with insight into the eligibility and application requirements.
UK Temporary Worker visas
The Temporary Worker routes in the UK are designed for specific types of roles within specific sectors:
- Temporary Work – Creative Worker route: for foreign nationals with the offer of short-term work within the creative industry in the UK for up to 12 months, where they can make a unique contribution to the UK’s cultural life as either an entertainer, artist or other type of creative worker, with the option to extend to up to 24 months.
- Temporary Work – Charity Worker route: for foreign nationals with the offer to do voluntary work for a recognised charitable organisation in the UK for up to 12 months.
- Temporary Work – Religious Worker route: for foreign nationals with the opportunity to support the activities of a UK religious institution, either by working in a religious order or doing non-pastoral work, for up to 2 years.
- Temporary Work – International Agreement route: for foreign nationals providing a service in the UK covered under international law, such as employees of international organisations or private servants in diplomatic households, typically for up to 2 years.
- Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange route: for foreign nationals taking part in an approved exchange scheme for the purposes of training, research or work experience, for up to either 12 months or 24 months.
- Temporary Work – Seasonal Worker route: for foreign nationals with the offer of horticulture work in the UK for up to 6 months, or within the poultry production sector from 2 October to 31 December of the same year, with an approved scheme operator.
Does a Temporary Worker visa require sponsorship by an employer?
For UK-based businesses looking to recruit foreign nationals under any one of the Temporary Worker routes, they must first be licensed by the Home Office to sponsor any individual who is not a settled worker or does not otherwise have permission to work in the UK. This means that the employer must have in place a Temporary Worker licence and have been approved to sponsor the specific category of workers in question.
A Temporary Worker licence is the permission needed from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to assign Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to migrant workers, where UKVI is the division of the Home Office responsible for both licensing and issuing visas. The CoS is an electronic record containing a unique reference number that each new recruit will need to apply for a Temporary Worker visa, where the information contained on each CoS will confirm the details of the job for which the migrant worker will be sponsored.
Temporary Worker sponsor licence requirements
An organisation in the UK can apply to be a licensed sponsor for migrant workers in any one of the Temporary Worker categories. However, to be eligible for a sponsor licence, there are a number of general requirements that must be met, as well as various route-specific requirements, depending on the category of worker that the employer is looking to recruit.
To be eligible for a Temporary Worker sponsor licence, the applicant organisation must be able to show, with reference to a number of supporting documents, that it is:
- genuine and operating lawfully in the UK
- trustworthy and capable of carrying out its sponsor duties
- able to meet the requirements of the relevant route.
In assessing whether these requirements have been met, UKVI will look at the history and background of the applicant organisation, induing those involved in the day-to-day running of the business, as well as the key personnel named on the licence application. This will include any evidence of criminality and previous immigration violations, or any other evidence that the organisation or its people are not honest, dependable and reliable.
UKVI will also assess whether the organisation has suitable HR systems and recruitment practices in place to monitor sponsored workers and manage the sponsorship process. In many cases, UKVI will carry out a pre-licence site visit to ensure that the applicant has the capability to discharge its duties as a sponsor under the rules, including its reporting and record-keeping obligations, and will not otherwise pose a threat to immigration control.
In addition to any route-specific requirements for sponsorship, the applicant organisation must have jobs that are suitable for sponsorship on the route in question, and comply with either the National Minimum Wage Regulations or Working Time Regulations.
How do you apply for a Temporary Worker sponsor licence?
As part of the application process, they will need to submit a number of documents in support, including those specified in Appendix A of the sponsor guidance and for the specific route in question. In most cases, at least 4 documents or 4 combinations of documents must be submitted to meet the general requirements for a Temporary Worker sponsor licence, including any documents described as mandatory. As part of the licence application process, a number of individuals must also be nominated to fill the key personnel roles, including an Authorising Offer (AO), Key Contact (KC) and Level 1 user.
The AO must be the most senior person within the applicant organisation responsible for recruiting migrant workers and ensuring that all sponsor duties are met. They will also be responsible for managing the sponsor licence application, and signing and dating the submission sheet. The submission sheet, together with all documentation, must be sent to UKVI within no more than 5 working days of submitting the application.
The KC will act as the main point of contact with UKVI, whilst the Level 1 user will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the sponsor licence using the sponsorship management system (SMS). The AO can act as both the KC and Level 1 user named in the application. Alternatively, different people can be appointed to these roles. Additionally, if the application for a Temporary Worker licence is approved by UKVI, additional Level 1 users can subsequently be added, together with Level 2 users. A Level 2 user is someone authorised to use the SMS, but with more restricted system access than a Level 1 user.
Once the application for a Temporary worker sponsor licence has been completed, the fee paid and supporting documentation submitted, a decision will usually be made by UKVI within a period of 8 weeks. However, it can take longer for UKVI to reach a decision if a pre-licence site visit is needed or additional documentation is requested.
Temporary Worker visa requirements
If the application for a Temporary Worker licence is approved by UKVI, and once the migrant worker has been assigned a valid CoS, that worker can apply for their visa. In addition to the sponsorship requirement, there are various other requirements that must be met for someone to be eligible for a Temporary Worker visa, including:
- a genuineness requirement: with the exception of Seasonal Workers, UKVI must be satisfied that the applicant genuinely intends to undertake the role described on their CoS, is capable of undertaking that role and does not intend to undertake employment in the UK other than in the role for which they are being sponsored.
- a tuberculosis (TB) certificate requirement: again with the exception of Seasonal Workers, applicants must have a TB test certificate, if from a listed country.
- a financial requirement: in most cases, when applying for entry clearance from overseas, the applicant must have funds of at least £1,270 and have held these funds for a period of 28 days or, alternatively, have their sponsor certify maintenance on their CoS.
Each route also has specific requirements which must be met in addition to the general requirements.
How to apply for a Temporary Worker visa
To apply for a Temporary Worker Visa, the applicant will need to complete an online application at GOV.UK and pay the relevant fee. As part of the application process, they will also need to prove their identity and enrol any required biometric information.
Depending on the applicant’s nationality and the type of passport they hold, they may be eligible to use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app. In other cases, they may be asked to schedule an appointment at an overseas visa application centre. In either case, 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.
Once the application for a Temporary Worker visa has been completed, the fee paid, documents submitted and any biometrics enrolled, a decision will usually be made within 3 weeks. Applicants cannot normally switch into Temporary Worker routes from another route while in the UK and therefore must apply from overseas. The only exceptions are those who hold, or were last granted, permission as a Student, where they may be eligible to switch into the Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange route. In these cases, an application made from in the UK will typically take up to 8 weeks.
How much is a UK Temporary Worker visas?
The cost to apply for a Temporary Worker visa is £259 from 4 October 2023. In most cases, the applicant will also be liable to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge for each year of leave they are granted.
Other costs associated with the Temporary Worker visa include the cost of assigning the sponsorship certificate – £25 from 4 October 2023. Where the employer does not yet 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. The cost to apply for a Temporary Worker licence is £536, both for small and large sponsors.
What do the different types of Temporary Worker visa allow?
If an application for a Temporary Worker visa is successful, the visa-holder will be allowed to come to the UK to work in the job role for which they are being sponsored.
In some cases, supplementary employment may be allowed, depending on the visa route. However, a Temporary Worker visa-holder will not have access to public funds during their stay in the UK, even if they are not permitted to take a second job under the rules.
In all cases, the visa-holder will be able to undertake a course of study in the UK, subject to the ATAS condition. This means that an Academic Technology Approval Scheme certificate may be required where studying certain sensitive subjects at postgraduate level. Visa-holders will also be allowed to travel in and out of the UK during the validity of their visa.
When a Temporary Worker visa is due to expire — unless the visa-holder is eligible to extend their stay on the same immigration route, where they have not exceeded the maximum grant of permission allowed — they must either leave the UK or apply to switch to another type of visa, provided this is permissible under the route-specific rules.
UK temporary work visa FAQs
How do I get a temporary work visa for the UK?
To obtain a Temporary Worker visa for the UK, before applying for your visa to UK Visas and Immigration, you must have the offer of a suitable job from a UK sponsor and be assigned a valid Certificate of Sponsorship.
How long is a temporary work visa in UK?
The length of a UK Temporary Worker visa will depend on the category of visa. For example, Creative Worker visas can run for up to 24 months, while Seasonal Worker visas will be for no more than 6 months.
What is temporary work permit visa?
A temporary work permit visa refers to a visa under one of the Temporary Worker routes. These allow foreign nationals to work in the UK for short periods, typically between 6 months to 2 years depending on the visa category.
Is Tier 2 a temporary visa?
The Tier 2 visa, now replaced by the Skilled Worker visa, will initially be granted on a temporary basis, but also provides a path to settlement. In contrast, Temporary Worker visas do not lead to indefinite leave to remain.
Last updated: 14 August 2023