When operating on an international scale businesses will likely require staff to move between offices to work on specific projects, provide training or participate in negotiations and meetings. Unfortunately UK immigration law is not always straightforward and it is important that the company identifies the correct visa for their applicant.
In most cases it is possible to fit someone's transfer to the UK into one of the following categories, however the individual's circumstances will decide which category is the most appropriate and it may be that other routes are open to them.
A business visit allows someone to come to the UK for up to 6 months. Someone who comes to the UK on this visa has a number of restrictions on what they can do while there are in the UK and cannot work while they are here. However this type of visa can be used for people coming to the UK to attend meetings with their UK company, take part in negotiations or meet contacts.
Businesses seeking to rely on business visit visas should be very careful to ensure that their staff only carry out the activities permitted by the Home Office. If the business is found to be employing some in the UK when they hold a business visit they could be fined up to £20,000.
Tier 2 visas
For companies wishing to bring their skilled staff to the UK to work then the most common route is to apply for a visa under Tier 2 of the Points Based System.
Tier 2 visas can be used for a range of options but before a company can consider using these they will need to obtain a sponsor licence. Two types of licences exist: Tier 2 (General) licences for permanent staff and Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) licences for staff transferring to the UK on a temporary basis. A company can apply for one or both of these licences from the Home Office.
Once a company has a licence they can look to issue a certificate of sponsorship which allow them to sponsor their worker to come to the UK under one of the following categories:
|Tier 2 (General)||This category is for skilled staff coming to work in the UK permanently. Visas can be issued for up to 5 years and after 5 years the worker may be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. This visa is suited for recruiting a skilled member of staff to fill a permanent role in the UK.|
Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer - long Term staff)
|This category is for workers transferring from a linked company abroad to a UK company on a temporary basis. Visas can be issued for up to 5 years but the worker cannot remain in the UK permanently. This visa is suited for transferring staff to work on long term projects where there is no intention that they would move to the UK permanently.|
|Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer - Graduate Trainees)||This category allows recent graduate employees to come to the UK for up to 12 months as part of graduate training programme with the aim of progressing to a managerial or specialist role. The role does not lead to a permanent stay in the UK.|
Each of these categories has different rules and it is important that employers not only check their workers meet the required rules but also consider their long term plans for the employee. In some cases switching between visas is not possible unless the worker has been outside of the UK for 12 months and therefore this can cause problems if a company wishes to make a temporary assignment permanent.
Van Der Elst visas
This is a rarely used, but potentially useful, immigration route for companies based in continental Europe who need to provide services in the UK.
This visa allows non EEA national employees of EEA companies to come to the UK temporarily to provide services. The route is the result of EU law and is not formally included within the immigration rules and there is very little Home Office guidance available for companies considering this route.
The route is most likely to be useful where an EEA company needs to provide temporary services in the UK and may not be suitable for UK companies looking to bring staff from their European offices to work for the UK company.
How we can help
Our specialist immigration team can help employers and relocation companies identify the best route to meet their requirements. We can advise on licence applications and gaining certificates of sponsorship and we can help with visa applications to ensure the process of bringing your staff to the UK goes smoothly.