Sanwar Ali: Do you need a job for immigration and a work visa?

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By Sanwar Ali:

Frequently you need a job to obtain a long term residence visa. This can be very difficult to do. Many employers say that they will not employ you unless you already have some type of visa that allows you to work. However, much of the time the only way that you can work for the employer is if they sponsor you for a work visa!

In reality in many cases, it may be too expensive and difficult to obtain some sort of visa to work in the destination country. The immigration system in many countries seems to be designed to make it so difficult to sponsor someone that most employers do not do so due to the cost and inconvenience of applying.


UK Sponsor Licence and Immigration System

Since 1 December 2020 just before the end of the Brexit transition period immigration to the UK has become easier. There are many people who are at the lower-skilled level RQF level 3 who can now be sponsored by an employer with a sponsor licence and obtain a skilled worker visa. The catch is that you need an employer to come under the Skilled Worker visa scheme, and it is likely to be very expensive. These are some of the work visa fee expenses that will need to be paid:


  • Visa Fees: £464 to £1,220. Cheaper for Health and Care visa applicants and shorter-term visas.
  • Immigration Skills Charge: £364 or £1,000 (larger businesses) per annum. Payable in advance for the duration of the visa. Students switching to a Skilled Worker visa will likely be exempt from this fee.
  • Health Surcharge: £624 per annum paid in advance. Unfortunately, almost everyone needs to pay this fee including dependents. The exception is Health and Care visa applicants.

Therefore the total cost for a small business for just one Skilled Worker with no family members is about £4,000. In practice, people with a job offer paying the appropriate salary, having an occupation on the Skilled Worker occupation list and who meets the English language requirements should be able to gain entry to The UK.

Other visa categories such as the Global Talent visa for top people, and the Start-Up visa and Innovator visa for businesspeople are difficult to come under. You need to be accepted by an endorsing body.


US L1 visa, H1B visa, E2 Visa and other visas

The US visa system like the UK visa system requires that for an employment based visa, most of the time, that you have an employer that obtains some type of temporary work visa to employ you.  This is assuming that it is actually possible for you to come under one of the work visa schemes. In reality, the US visa system is more restrictive than the UK system. Even if you have a high-level, well-paid job offer in the US does not mean that you will be able to obtain a work visa.

The H1B visa is a popular non-immigrant visa option.  However, the H1B visa quota system, applicable to most employers, means that employers may have difficulty coming under this visa category. Even if the employer comes under the H1B visa quota system, the employee can only start work from October that year. It is frequently easier to transfer an overseas employee who has worked for you outside the US for at least one year under the L1 visa, which has no quota. Therefore international businesses transferring staff to the US may find it easier than US businesses with no overseas office.

The E2 visa may be worth considering if you are a national of an E2 treaty country, and the US business is at least fifty per cent owned and controlled by those of the same nationality as the overseas employee or investor. Some of the time people find it so difficult to obtain a visa for the US based on employment, that they apply under the E2 visa scheme as investors into the US. There is also the O1 extraordinary ability visa scheme that is available for a limited number of top people. Permanent employment-based immigrant visas typically also require sponsoring employers and may take some years in processing time.


Australia and Canada Skilled Immigration

There are skilled immigration schemes still available for immigration to Canada and Australia. Under the Canadian express entry system you need to submit a profile online first, and if selected can then progress the application further. Under the Australian Skilled Independent visa scheme you need to submit an expression of interest online first and if selected can then proceed further with an immigration application. Similar to the Canadian system. There are also various other visa categories based on work and investment for entry to these countries. can help with UK Sponsor Licences and US L1 and E2 visas

If you need help with employing Skilled Workers and help to apply for a Sponsor Licence under the UK visa system, including complying with your Sponsor Licence obligations, can help.  We also help with US L1 and E2 visas.

For more information and advice on Sponsor licences, please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at sends e-mail)