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Individuals frequently need or wish to visit the UK for work or study. If an employer wants to employ a migrant worker, or an educational institution wishes to enroll a student who is not an EU national, the organisation is required to be his or her sponsor. To be a sponsor, you must apply for a sponsor licence. Sponsorship is central to the points-based system used by the UK Border Agency to manage migration for individuals wishing to work or study in the UK. An immigration lawyer from Meyner and Landis LLP who is an expert in the law and procedures involved in immigration law can help you with your questions.

Key Features

Under current immigration control, business visitors are permitted to stay in the UK for up to six months or, in the case of academic visitors, 12 months. It is possible to apply for a long-term visa if you wish to stay longer than six months, but give this serious consideration, as you must be able to fully support your application with sufficient evidence that a long-term visa is necessary.

Applicants wishing to come to the UK on business must show on arrival that they will be carrying out certain qualifying activities such as attending business meetings, interviews, conferences or site visits; checking out goods; undertaking promotional activities; arranging business deals; conducting negotiations and so on. Visa national applicants must also apply for entry clearance as well as demonstrate they will be carrying out qualifying activities.

The Points-Based System

The points-based system used to assess immigration applicants has five tiers:

Tier 1 — Highly skilled workers who can contribute to growth and productivity, including the self-employed, innovators, contractors, entrepreneurs, investors and post-study workers

Tier 2 — Skilled or professional workers

Tier 3 — Low-skilled workers for filling temporary labour shortages (this tier currently suspended)

Tier 4 — Students, including both adults and children

Tier 5 — Temporary workers and young people covered by the Youth Mobility Scheme, plus creative artists, sportspeople, charity and religious workers, and individuals within government-authorised exchange programmes

Each tier has its own conditions, entitlements and entry-clearance checks. Points are awarded to applicants according to objective criteria that could include age, qualifications, experience and prospective salary. The UK Border Agency looks at an applicant's cumulative points to reach its decision on an application.

Sponsorship Duties

The employer or educational institution must apply for a sponsorship licence and is obliged to comply with various sponsorship duties during the sponsorship of a migrant. With the exception of a Tier 1 applicant, an applicant wishing to come to the UK must send a certificate of sponsorship from a licensed sponsor when he or she applies.

A sponsor must notify the Border Agency if the migrant worker breaches immigration conditions, for example, by failing to arrive for work. There are both criminal and civil sanctions that could be imposed when breaches take place. For example, a sponsor knowingly harbouring an individual who is overstaying in the UK or a sponsor who has reasonable suspicion that the individual is overstaying will be committing a criminal offence.


It is crucial that employers take into account their legal duties and responsibilities in hiring workers from overseas to ensure they do not breach immigration rules. The rules also differ depending on whether the employee or student is a visa national or nonvisa national. An immigration lawyer from Meyner and Landis LLP who is an expert in the law and procedures involved in commercial immigration law can help you with your questions.

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