How to Apply for a UK Work Visa as an International Employee?

Work visas for international employees in the UK

In order to travel to the UK as an international employee, you must have a job offer from an employer who has been granted a sponsor licence. Then, an employer can assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to an international employee when they have a role to offer them.


Once a sponsor employer has assigned a CoS to an international worker, the worker will need to apply for a UK visa within 90 days.

This is important to keep in mind because if the worker doesn’t apply for a visa within 90 days, they will need to be issued with a new CoS.

Another key thing to note is that a worker should only apply for a visa when the start date for their job is within three months.

So, what’s the next step once an employee has been assigned a CoS?

In this blog post, we will take you through UK work visas, visa conditions and examine some common scenarios that a sponsored employee may find themselves in when working in the UK.

UK Tier Visas

The UK Tier Visa system is a points-based visa category system. Applicants are required to score a minimum number of points on an assessment test in order to be eligible for a visa.

The test takes into consideration factors such as age, fluency in the English language, and other factors dependent on the specific tier under which you apply. There are five different tiers:

  • Tier 1 – this tier is for high-value migrants, like investors and entrepreneurs.
  • Tier 2 – this tier is for skilled workers
  • Tier 3 – this tier is for unskilled workers
  • Tier 4 – this tier is for students (aged 16 or older)
  • Tier 5 – this tier is for temporary workers

The two most commonly used tiers are Tier 2 and Tier 5. We will explain these tiers in further detail below.

Tier 2

As mentioned above, this tier is for skilled workers. So, it’s aimed at workers going to the UK for long-term employment.

Tier 2 visas:

  • Skilled Worker
  • Intra-Company
  • Health & Care
  • Minister of Religion
  • Sportsperson

When on a Tier 2 visa, you have the opportunity to settle in the UK and stay there permanently.

Need A UK Skilled Worker Visa (Tier 2)?

Tier 5

As mentioned above, this tier is for temporary workers. It’s aimed at workers going to the UK on a short-term contract.

Tier 5 visas:

  • Charity Worker
  • Creative and Sporting
  • Government Authorised Exchange
  • International Agreement Worker
  • Religious Worker
  • Seasonal Worker
  • Youth Mobility Scheme

When on a Tier 5 visa, you cannot settle in the UK.

However, depending on the type of Tier 5 visa you are on, you may be able to switch to another visa status which will allow you to settle in the UK. You must meet the settlement requirements to do this.

When to apply for a UK work visa

Travelling to the United Kingdom

Once an employer assigns a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), an employee can apply for entry clearance or permission to stay. They will need the reference number included on their CoS to do this.

The employee must:

  • Apply for their relevant visa through an online application form
  • Pay the application fee
  • Pay the immigration health charge
  • Provide their biometric information at a visa application centre
  • If applicable, they will need to have a tuberculosis test

If the employee is already in the UK, they will need to have a long stay status and must meet all requirements in order to switch to a worker visa type.

UK worker and temporary worker visa conditions

Every employee on a worker or temporary worker visa is subject to the following conditions:

  • They have no access to public funds and they cannot claim state benefits, tax credits or housing assistance
  • If they are a national of a specific country and meet certain conditions, they must register with the police within 7 days of their arrival into the UK
  • Workers can only work for their sponsor, and in the occupation specified on their CoS

Sponsored workers, depending on the visa they have been granted, may be allowed to:

  • Work out a contractual notice period if they are making a ‘change of employment’ application
  • Undertake supplementary employment in addition to the job specified on their CoS, if they meet certain conditions. This is not applicable for the Charity Worker, Seasonal Worker or International Agreement Worker visa types
  • Have a second CoS assigned to them so they can undertake a second job. Once the second employer assigns a new CoS, the worker must make an application for permission to stay, allowing them to undertake the secondary employment, in addition to their primary employment
  • Be temporarily employed as a sportsperson or a sports broadcaster
  • Take part in voluntary work
  • Enrol in a course they wish to study, provided their study doesn’t affect their ability to carry out the job they have been sponsored to do

Let’s take a look at some case studies

When a sponsored employee starts working in the UK they might find that they want to stay for longer, change their job or even settle in the UK permanently. So, we are here to guide a sponsored employee through the process that should be taken in these situations.

Extension of permission to stay

If a worker’s entry clearance or permission to stay is about to expire, and the employer wishes to continue employing them, the worker must make an ‘extension of permission to stay’ application.

When assigning a CoS for an extension of permission to stay application, the start date on the CoS should be set to the day after their current CoS expires. The worker should only apply for the extension permission within 3 months of the expiry of their current CoS.

The worker can continue to work in the role listed on their current CoS while their application for extension is under consideration.

An employer can only continue to sponsor a worker for a new role if the following conditions are met:

  • The employer issued the last CoS the employee was assigned
  • The new role is in the same occupation code that was included on the employee’s last CoS
  • The new role is listed as an eligible skilled occupation
  • If the employee is being sponsored on a Skilled Worker or IntraCompany visa, the new role should meet the salary requirements of the relevant visa
  • If the employee is being sponsored on a Skilled Worker visa on the basis of a job within an occupation shortage, the new role should also be listed on the shortage occupation list

If the change of role happens during the employee’s current sponsorship period, and before they can apply for an extension of permission, the employer does not need to assign a new CoS.

However, the employer is required to inform the UKVI of the change through the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

Change of employment

If an employee wishes to change jobs, they will need to submit a change of employment application. This must be approved before they can start work in their new job.

An employee must obtain a new CoS and apply for new permission to stay if:

  • Their sponsor employer wants to sponsor them to do a job in a different occupation code;
  • The employee was previously sponsored for a job in the Shortage Occupation List and is moving to a job that isn’t listed in that list;
  • The employee wants to work for a different sponsor or employer, and none of the exceptions listed below apply.


A change of employment application is not required if any of the following apply:

  • If the worker continues to work for the same employer in the same occupation code, but the sponsor changes;
  • If there is a change of employer or sponsor, but it’s covered by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (‘TUPE arrangements’) and the employee is still working in the same occupation code assigned on their CoS;
  • If the employee is sponsored for a graduate training program that includes multiple role changes throughout their employment or if they are permanently assigned a role at the end of the program;
  • If the worker is a T2 Sportsperson or T5 Sporting Worker sponsored by a sports club but is moving to another sports club on loan and the sports governing body permits the loan;
  • If the worker is being sponsored as a Government Authorised Exchange Worker or Seasonal Worker and the change of employment is authorised by the sponsor, subject to permissions under that visa type.

In all of these scenarios, the sponsor must inform the Home Office of the change through their SMS.

If the employee’s permission is near its expiry date, they must apply for an extension of permission to stay.


Employees who are on a Skilled Worker, Minister of Religion or Sportsperson visa type or are a private servant in a diplomatic household can apply for settlement in the UK. They must have continuously and lawfully resided in the UK for 5 years.

For the employee to be eligible, their employer must certify that they are still working for them and will be required for the foreseeable future.

If an employer’s sponsor licence is suspended when the employee applied for settlement, the UKVI will wait for the suspension to be resolved until they process the application. In addition to this, if the employer’s licence is revoked, the employee’s settlement application will be refused.

Employers can employ workers without sponsoring them if they have been granted a settlement.

However, if the employer was sponsoring them previously, they must notify the Home Office to make them aware that settlement has been granted and they are no longer sponsoring the employee. They can do this through their SMS account.

Why Visa First?

Visa First provides visa processing and immigration services. We provide an easy and convenient service for you.

Our global visa specialists take the tricky application forms and documents associated with arranging travel visas and permits out of your hands.

Please stay tuned as we release new blog posts with more information about the Tier 2 (Skilled Worker) and Tier 5 (Seasonal Worker) visa types that will be available for the employees wishing to work in the UK post-Brexit.

Ready to apply for a Skilled Worker or Seasonal Worker visa? We can help you out!


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