Visa Options for Employers to hire Foreign Workers

Employing a non-EU migrant in the UK can seem difficult because of patchwork of applications and forms, numerous waiting periods and additional paperwork.

Sponsoring migrant workers requires a sponsorship licence-

Our mission at Migreat is to make it easy to navigate the immigration system. In the past, we made a list of visas for foreign workers wanting to come work in the UK for a small company, as well as how to choose the right visa. This time, we offer a simple list of all UK visas options a UK employer can choose from to hire a non-EU worker. From the least complicated and costly , to the most demanding in terms of paperwork but probably most rewarding for the employer as well as the employee.

1. Tier 5 Internship called GAE

This visa is offered to graduates that would like to come or stay in the UK to do a full-time internship for maximum 12 months. Any graduate can apply. It is not restricted to UK recent graduates. It does not require the employer to apply for a sponsorship license.The most important requirement is for the placement offered to the worker to be supernumerary*

* i.e should be outside of the regular staffing requirements of the employer and must not fit into a Tier 2 (General) occupation category; thereby not affecting the UK Resident Labour Market.

The process of applying to the visa can be as quick as a week. If you would like to explore this route, read what makes a graduate eligible to the UK Internship visa from our experts.

2. Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme

The Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa is eligible only for nationals of Australia, Canada, Hong-Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Monaco, South Korea and Taiwan. Again, employers do not need to apply for a sponsorship licence. Workers employed under this scheme are sponsored by the Government and are allowed to stay for two years maximum.

3. Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT)

The Tier 2  (ICT) visa is relevant to multinational companies with a UK based branch, that would like to bring foreign workers that already worked for one of their branch overseas. For this visa, the employer will have to sponsor the worker, so apply for a sponsorship licence. Depending on the reason why you are transferring an employee to your UK branch (skill transfer, Graduate Trainee, Short term staff or long term staff) the employee will have to prove that it has worked with you in the past from none to 12 months already, and will be allowed from 6 months to 5 years and 14 days.

Work visa for Foreigners by

4. Tier 2 General 

The Tier 2 General visa is relevant to any company, whatever the size (startup, SME or multinationals), that want to hire a non-EU national. For this visa, the employer has to sponsor the worker. The process to get this sponsorship licence is bureaucratic but doable: here is a Migreat Blog guide on how to get the sponsorship with tips for SMEs and startups.

The position offered to the employee will have to be at minimum of managerial level and pay at least £22K a year, with a need for the employer to run a labour market test probably (but check if the position you are recruiting for is not on the list of job in shortage prior). This visa allows teh employee to stay with you at maximum 5 years in the UK, and those years spent on this visa qualify for citizenship application.

If you are interested in becoming a tier 2 general sponsor, read more on the pro and cons of being a sponsor.

5. Tier 1 Exceptional Talent, Graduate Entrepreneur Visa or Entrepreneur Visa

These visas are out of the hand of the employer as they require the foreign worker to apply for it, and to prove that they qualify for it. If an Exceptional Talent, the individual will have to prove to the relevant UK institution that it does bring an exceptional skill that has been awarded and recognised worldwide. If a graduate entrepreneur or entrepreneur, the individual will have to prove their entrepreneurial venture plans and credits, with a minimum threshold of investment obtained and kept in the UK.

The tier 1 category is restricted to highly-skilled workers and the entrepreneur category allows employment on the side, but does not make employment the sole primary reason of coming and staying in the UK. As such, one should be careful looking at these options to be employed, and genuinely apply if exceptional, or starting a business.


I did not include in the list the Student Visa on which a student is allowed to work at 20 hours a week maximum, the Business Visitor Visa which does not allow employment and permits only the holder to attend business meetings, represent a business, do translations or carry a delivery (for the full list of activities allowed under this visa click this link) as well as any family visas that allows employment but which purpose is not directly employment.

If you are considering any of the option above to employ a migrant and have questions, we have experts ready to answer them for free and more guidance to read regarding obtaining sponsorship  on

4 thoughts on “Visa Options for Employers to hire Foreign Workers”

  1. Hi Josephine,

    I’m the owner of a small design start-up comprising of just me and my partner (we’re both British citizens). We’re hoping to expand into Japan and the Southeast Asian region within the next five years, and are looking to employ a graduate-level foreigner with knowledge and experience in the region. Do we need to have specific candidates in mind already while applying for a sponsorship license? Thank you!


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