VISAS – What you need to know.

VISAS – What you need to know.

04 July 2023 by Justin Rush

Employing staff that possess or require an employment visa can be off-putting. In many cases, it is the perceived complexity, expense and risk involved that causes employers to avoid this source of talent. In this brief article, we seek to outline the most common types of schemes and visas the team at Abacus is seeing in the Northern Ireland marketplace. We also provide our views on the benefits and limitations of each option.

This information can be used as a starting point and an initial basis for factfinding. We suggest you access detailed guidance from the home office, and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation if you require more detailed and specific advice.

EU Settlement Scheme


  • Introduced by the Home Office in 2019 in response to Brexit.
  • The scheme processes the applications of EU citizens (except ROI passport holders due to the Common Travel Area) currently living in the UK to allow them to remain in the UK.
  • Successful applicants will be given either settled or pre-settled status.

Benefits to an employer :

  • Allows employers to retain their EU national staff (this is particularly advantageous in the aftermath of Brexit)

Limitations to an employer

  • The deadline for most people to apply was 30 June 2021 unless the candidate qualifies for ‘reasonable grounds’ for missing the deadline (this type of VISA may not be as common now in terms of applications but is the grounds for why many workers hold the right to work in the UK – therefore it is important to be aware of).

Points-based Immigration System


  • Under this system, applicants coming to the UK for work must meet a specific set of requirements which are scored by points.
  • If someone wants to work in the UK under this status, they must apply for a sponsor licence through the Home Office
  • In order to gain a sponsorship licence, a total of 70 points are needed to be able to apply to work in the UK. The points system is made up of numerous factors such as a genuine job offer, English language skills, salary level and work skills.
  • This system does not apply to Irish citizens.
  • More information is available at Apply for a sponsor licence – GOV.UK (

Benefits to the employer:

  • The points-based system provides you with the ability to access people and talent from around the world – broadening your recruitment pool.
  • It is still a relatively new system with not many employers holding a sponsorship licence to recruit talent from overseas (there are only around 3,200 employers in the UK which hold this type of licence) so it can place employers at a competitive advantage.
  • Once a sponsorship licence has been granted to an employee, it is granted on the basis that they will work for you (this allows you to retain your talent without the fear that when an employee starts that they may move to a competitor organisation).
  • This type of Visa enables employers to recruit from a wider market for ‘shortage’ roles making it easier to fill those ‘harder to fill’ roles.

Limitations for the employer:

  • The process to obtain a sponsorship licence is rigorous and employers must ensure that they have robust HR systems in place to manage the requirements from the Home Office and this must be continually maintained once you have been granted the licence as the Home Office conduct regular compliance checks.
  • The application fee can be quite expensive depending on the type of workers you wish to sponsor and the size of your organisation.

Dependent Visas


  • This visa allows people to apply to live in the UK with their family for more than 6 months.
  • Under this visa, a person can apply to live with their: spouse, fiancé, child, parent, or long-term carer who is a relative.

Benefits to the employer:

  • This costs the employer nothing as it is the person who is applying for the Visa who will endure the process and any associated costs.
  • If an employee has applied for this type of Visa and has been granted it, it can encourage these workers to remain in the UK and work under your employment as their family are residing with them.
  • As these visas allow for more people to enter the UK, it means that the talent pool for your organisation is bigger with more applicants to choose from.

Limitations for the employer

  • Family immigration policy is often complex.
  • Right-to-work verification can be more complex and if an employee is residing in the UK under this Visa you will need to make sure that you have all appropriate right-to-work documents and are not in breach of the employee’s visa restrictions.

Student and Graduate Visas


  • The General student visa allows people to live and study in the UK.
  • Additionally, students can work 20 hours per week during the academic year, and full time during the summer.
  • A graduate visa gives people permission to stay in the UK for at least 2 years after successfully completing a course in the UK.
  • A Graduate visa lasts for 2 years, 3 years if you have a PhD.

Benefits for the employer:

  • It opens employers up to a diverse talent pool which promotes unique innovation and creativity.
  • It allows employers to hire recently qualified people who have just graduated from University – allowing them to utilise their skills and provide them with post education experience

Limitations for the employer:

  • This visa is highly reliant on the sponsor being able to prove they have sufficient funds to live in the UK.
  • There are limitations on the hours that someone can work.
  • On a graduate visa, they only have the right to work for a certain period of time after their graduation which can have a negative impact on the employer when considering long term employment and retention.

Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme


  • The Scheme allows Ukrainian nationals and their families to come to the UK.
  • Eligible applicants must have been residing in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022
  • Applicants under this visa will be able to live, work and study in the UK and access public funds.
  • It is valid for up to 3 years

Benefits for the employer:

  • The sponsorship scheme gives people from Ukraine the opportunity to settle in the UK and also the automatic right to work and study in the UK, meaning that there is a greater of pool of applicants for employers to chose from (many of which are already highly skilled, trained and educated people)
  • There is no cost to the employer.

Limitations for the employer:

  • As the visa is limited to a timeframe of 3 years, it means that their right to work is only valid for this amount of time.


Successfully negotiating the issues pertaining to the employment of staff that require a valid VISA, can initially be time-consuming and require significant effort. Systems and processes can be the biggest barrier to overcome. However, it should be noted that not only are the immediate benefits of securing suitable and often scarce talent gained but the additional benefits of being viewed as an ethical, diverse and inclusive employer are also accrued.

*Special thanks to the team at ThinkPeople HR consultancy for their support in helping draft this blog, in particular to Katie Armstrong, Associate Consultant. If you require specialist advice in the area of VISA systems adherence Katie can be found on [email protected]

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