If you want to sponsor foreign workers, you will first need to apply to become a sponsor with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). An estimate of how many Certificates of Sponsorship you will need (one for each position that is open to foreign workers) would need to be confirmed.

We work with businesses across the UK to help them find the international talent they require.

As part of the process, UKVI will conduct checks on your company to ensure that you aren’t likely to contravene UK immigration law, and that you are a suitable sponsor based on past conduct. Your company is then given a score rating which defines how many people you can sponsor, and how easily you can do so.

Employing Foreign Nationals and Your Obligations as an Employer

If you are thinking about employing foreign nationals, there are pros and cons that you should consider to make sure that you get the best out of your new employees and that you make the right decision for your business. It is also vital that you keep up to date with current legislation, as it is a criminal offence to employ someone who is not entitled to work in the UK. Therefore, you need to know how to check the legal status of your current employees if you are unsure about them, and ensure you check the status of any new employees during the recruitment process.

Our guide will help you through your decision making process and will help you make the right choices for your team and your company.

Pros and cons

What are the advantages of employing foreign nationals? They may give you access to skill sets that aren’t available in your area. By hiring foreign nationals, you could find the right people for your business’s needs, plus they may also help the UK speed up its rise out of recession. For example, UK digital technology is a booming industry, attracting investment and continually creating new jobs. It needs to attract the best international talent in order to grow the digital technology industry and the UK economy.

However, there may be downsides to employing those from abroad. If English is the employee’s second language, there may be a language barrier, and they may not grasp business jargon easily or have trouble with understanding British slang. Foreign nationals need to be able to communicate with both the written and spoken word; sometimes they are not able to pass written assessments which can delay or prevent them getting permanent opportunities. You also have to ensure you are complying with the laws that govern employing foreign nationals; both fines and jail sentences can be given should you employ someone not entitled to work in the UK.


Always ensure you check all applicants are entitled to work in the UK when recruiting. It is an offence to employ someone aged 16 or over who does not have the right to work in the UK or the right to do the type of work you are offering under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. We can assist you by encuring that you are complying with the UK Immigration Law.

During recruitment it is very important to avoid race discrimination. Employers must not discriminate against foreign national applicants or dismiss their application on account of their race, as they may well be entitled to work in the UK. If foreign nationals have been turned down for a job role in the UK, they are entitled to bring a discrimination claim in the same way that UK citizens are able to. Avoid this by following the same recruitment procedures you follow for foreign nationals as you would for UK applicants; it is possible to request the information you require to prove their immigration status early in the process.

Should your successful applicant be a foreign national without permission to work in the UK, it could be possible to sponsor a prospective employee as an alternative to help them getting the necessary permission to work in the UK.

Put policies in place

Your company policy should include checks to ensure you check the immigration status of any prospective employees, regardless of where they are from. All potential employees should be asked for original documents that prove they are entitled to work in the UK, and you should check that details are correct, photographs match the employees’ appearance and that no dates have expired. Take a copy for your records and file them carefully.The contract of employment should include a clause that states that the employee must keep the employer updated with information that may affect their immigration status. It should also allow the employer to terminate a foreign national’s employment immediately if there is a change in their status (usually without notice or any sort of compensation due to the breach of contract).

Know the penalties

The law gives employers a statutory defence against conviction for employing an illegal worker if they can prove they asked for and copied the necessary documents from the employee. However, if you knowingly hire illegal workers and you are in breach of the law, you may be liable to pay a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per worker (this increased from £10,000 on 6th April 2014) – this includes students with expired visas and those who are only on a visitor’s visa. You may also receive a jail sentence of up to two years.

European nationals

Foreign nationals from the European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland (and, since January 2014, Bulgaria and Romania) are able to live and work in the UK without any restrictions.

Regular checks

Checks should be made on all prospective employees to check their right to work in the UK, not just on those who appear to be of non-British descent; failing to do this may attract discrimination claims. If a foreign national’s permission has expired, or is about to expire and can’t be extended, an employer may have to dismiss them to avoid breaking the law. However, if they have made an application to extend it and the decision is pending, it is inadvisable to dismiss them as the employee may still have the right to work in the UK.

The information provided in this article is of a general nature and we would always recommend that, if in doubt, you seek advice from our legal team by contacting us on the form below.