Q: I have a highly skilled friend from Canada I want to employ. How would I go about it? Would he need a working visa from the UK? Are there any easy alternatives to employing him?
A: Employers may often find that their perfect employees are located abroad. For EU workers the procedure is relatively straightforward, but for non-EU workers employers are often put off employing them because of the higher administrative burden in place to recruit these workers. However, where the advantages of employing this person are high, or recruitment is necessary to fulfil a skilled role, employers should not be put off recruiting and sponsoring the foreign worker under the current points-based system.
Employers can sponsor skilled overseas workers through the Tier 2 (general) visa. For the worker to be eligible for a visa within any of the tiers, they have to pass a points-based assessment generally covering ability, experience and age. The employer needs to be approved by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and granted a Sponsorship Licence so they can issue Certificates of Sponsorship to overseas workers. There are certain requirements the company must meet in order to sponsor workers, and these include having a designated person who is an authorising officer for the sponsorship management system and having HR infrastructure in place to deal with immigration control.
Alongside this, the company will have to comply with illegal working requirements. This means that the foreign worker has to provide documentation that proves their right to work in the UK before they are employed by the company and the employer has to keep a copy of this information. A failure to do this will result in penalty notices against the employer.
If the worker is employed without the company having an employer sponsorship licence, then the worker will be considered illegal and the maximum penalty of £20,000 per employee and imprisonment could apply.
An easier way than going down the employment route may be to hire the friend as an independent contractor or as an employee who remains based in Canada. However, there are various tax, National Insurance, payroll, contractual and jurisdictional implications to these alternatives, which may mean, in the long run, that these routes are no easier than directly hiring the worker to work in the UK.