Q&A - Will I have to pay an immigration skills charge if I take on overseas trainees?

Q: I am a vet in an expanding practice and am considering taking on a trainee vet from overseas through a volunteer work experience programme. I have heard that the government has now introduced an immigration skills charge for employers. Does this apply to all skilled workers from overseas and under what terms?

A: If you employ someone from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland you may need a sponsor licence. This being the case you will also need to put into place appropriate systems to monitor those employees. There are two types of sponsor licence. Tier 2 is for skilled workers with long term job offers. Tier 5 is for skilled workers who are engaged on a short term temporary basis.

There are different eligibility categories within both Tiers but it sounds as if you may require a Tier 5 licence under the category ‘Government Authorised Exchange - work experience (1 year), research projects or training, for example practical medical or scientific training (2 years) to enable a short-term exchange of knowledge’.

If you are a small business with an annual turnover of £10.2 million or less and employing less than 50 people, the cost of a Tier 5 licence is £536. In addition to this you may be required to pay an additional charge for each foreign worker you employ. This is the Immigration Skills Charge to which you refer and it is applicable if your overseas workers are applying for a visa to work in the UK for six months or more, either under Tier 2 or Tier 5. The Skills Charge is on a sliding scale depending on the length of the visa being applied for by the worker. There are however many ‘variations on a theme’ here, so it would be advisable to take advice from a local employment lawyer.

(Article published 03/07/2017)
Robert Williams

Robert Williams

Partner and Complaints Handler

Partner and Head of the Civil Litigation, Personal Injury and Dispute Resolution team in Wrexham