Contractors' Questions: Must my visa sponsor be my direct employer?

Contractor’s Question: Similar to this questioner, I am overseas and new to UK IT contracting, but I need a sponsor to undertake my immigration duties. I have found a sponsor but they are unable to provide me with any contracts; they say I must find these myself.

Can my sponsor be an agency; an umbrella company or only my employer? Secondly, according to UKBA policy guidelines, someone who has been sponsored by a company has to work only for that company. In my case how will I make this requirement work, given that my sponsor wants me to find the contracts/projects myself?

Lastly, assuming I find contracts on my own, will the client who actually takes me on and pays me, sign the contract with my sponsor? Even if they did, would this be legal? Apparently it’s not but I know it happens a lot. Is there a workaround if it’s not permitted?

Expert’s Answer: Firstly, your sponsor will need to be your direct employer. They will need to be listed as an approved UK Visas and Immigration sponsor (holding a valid UK Tier 2 sponsor licence). Once your sponsor employs you, they can then second you to work on their client contracts.

Secondly, your sponsor will need to pay you a minimum salary for the role. For a Tier 2 General visa (new hires without the requisite previous 12 months service from their overseas company), the minimum salary requirement is £21,000 (or the SOC code minimum – whichever is higher).

Unless the role is for £153,500, before offering you the role, your sponsor will need to advertise the role to the UK resident labour market (to ensure there are no suitable settled workers). The role also needs to be at a minimum skill level and your prospective sponsor will need to certify maintenance for you on your Certificate of Sponsorship (electronic work visa). You will also need to prove your ability to speak English (if you are not from a majority speaking English country).

In answer to your final question, there is no way around this under the Tier 2 work visa route, however you may want to explore other UK visa routes.  

The expert was Amy Sarraff, a solicitor at Redfern Legal LLP.

Tuesday 19th Aug 2014