Immigration Skills Charge - A Guide for Employers
As a Sponsor, you may be required to pay the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) each time you sponsor a migrant in the Skilled Worker or Global Business Mobility – Senior or Specialist Worker category.
You will need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge if the worker you are sponsoring on either of the above routes is applying for a visa to work in the UK for 6 months or more or is applying from within the UK for any length of time, unless an exception applies.
What Is the Immigration Skills Charge?
The Immigration Skills Charge is a charge for each foreign worker that you employ.
The amount you are required to pay is specified in the Schedule to the Immigration Skills Charge Regulations 2017. The ISC was introduced on 06 April 2017. The ISC must be paid each time you assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to a migrant.
The information on money received from Immigration Skills Charge payments is found in the Home Office Trust Statement 2017 to 2018 published on 08 January 2019. The ISC is said to help maintain the Department of Education’s existing skills budget and existing level of investment in skills in England. The purpose is to address the skills gap in the workplace.
Who Is Required to Pay the Immigration Skills Charge?
Many sponsors enquire about whether they can ask the worker to pay the Immigration Skills Charge at the outset or through deductions of their salary. The Immigration Skills Charge must be paid by the sponsor and cannot be passed to the worker through any means. The consequence of passing on the Immigration Skills Charge to the worker include the revocation of your sponsor licence.
How Much Is the Immigration Skills Charge?
The amount you are required to pay is dependent on the size and type of your organisation and the length of employment stated on the CoS. The Immigration Skills Charge Calculator can be used to determine if you need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge for a Skilled Worker or Tier 2 migrant worker.
Smaller businesses or charitable organisations will be required to pay £364 for any period of employment up to 12 months, followed by £182 for each subsequent 6 month period stated on the CoS. This is known as the ‘small charge’. A small or charitable sponsor is defined in Regulation 2 of the Immigration Skills Charge Regulations as:
- a company subject to the small companies regime under section 381 of the Companies Act 2006(4);
- a charity within the meaning of section 1 of the Charities Act 2011(5), or section 1 of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008(6), or a body entered in the Scottish Charity Register (7); or
- a person who employs no more than 50 employees.
All other sponsors who do not fit into the definition of a small business or charitable organisations will be required to pay £1000 for any period of employment up to 12 months, followed by £500 for each subsequent 6 month period stated on the CoS. This is known as the ‘large charge’.
How is the Immigration Skills Charge Paid?
You will pay the Immigration Skills Charge each time you assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to a worker you are seeking to sponsor, unless an exception applies.
Are There Any Exemptions to the Immigration Skills Charge?
You do not have to pay the Immigration Skills Charge if you are sponsoring:
- a worker who is applying for entry clearance from outside the UK for a period of less than 6 months;
- a worker who is being sponsored to do any of the following occupations:
- 2111 (chemical scientists)
- 2112 (biological scientists and biochemists)
- 2113 (physical scientists)
- 2114 (social and humanities scientists)
- 2119 (natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified)
- 2150 (research and development managers)
- 2311 (higher education teaching professionals)
- 2444 (clergy)
- 3441 (sports players)
- 3442 (sports coaches, instructors or officials);
- a worker on any of the Global Business Mobility routes other than Senior or Specialist Worker (but see update below);
- a worker to whom you have previously assigned a CoS where:
- you assign them a new CoS to work for you, and
- the new period of permission they are seeking will not exceed their current period of permission;
- a worker who has valid permission for the purpose of study and is applying to ‘switch’ to the Skilled Worker or Senior or Specialist Worker route;
- a worker who was assigned a CoS under Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (ICT) Long-term Staff before 6 April 2017 and:
- that CoS resulted in a grant of entry clearance or permission to stay;
- the worker undertook the role for which that CoS was assigned; and
- the worker has not since ceased to have permission under Skilled Worker (or its predecessor route, Tier 2 (General)) or Senior or Specialist Worker (or its predecessor routes, Intra-Company Transfer, or the Long-term Staff sub-category of Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer)).
Update: Employers who assign a CoS to a worker on the Global Business Mobility Senior or Specialist Worker route from 01 January 2023 will not need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge where all of the following apply:
- The worker meets the requirements for this route;
- The worker is a national of an EU country or a Latvian non-citizen (note that this does not apply to nationals of Iceland, Norway, Liechenstein or Switzerland);
- The overseas company which employs the individual is a business established in the EU and forms part of the same ‘sponsor group’ as the company sponsoring them to work in the UK (i.e. the UK sponsor and the overseas employer are linked by common ownership or control and have been notified as such to the Home Office(;
- The UK assignment, based on the dates provided on the Certificate of Sponsorship, will be no more than three years in duration
The Immigration Skills Charge applies to the workers alone and no additional charge is required for the worker’s dependants, i.e. their partner or children. The Immigration Skills charge also does not apply to any other Worker or Temporary Worker route.
What Will Happen if I Don’t Pay the Immigration Skills Charge?
You will be contacted by UK Visas and Immigration if you have not paid the Immigration Skills Charge when you assign the CoS. The CoS will become and remain invalid until the ISC is paid in full. It would also lead to a delay in any application made on the basis of the CoS until the charge has been fully paid.
If the Immigration Skills Charge is not paid in full within 10 working days of the first reminder to make the full payment the worker’s application will be refused.
Can the Immigration Skills Charge Be Refunded?
The Immigration Skills Charge can be refunded in part or full. If refunded, the amount will be paid back to the credit or debit card the charge was paid with.
You will receive a full refund where the worker’s application is refused, withdrawn or granted but the worker does not travel to the UK or start work for the sponsor.
You will receive a partial refund if the worker changes employers after working for you, terminates their employment contract before the end date stated on the CoS or is issued a visa for a shorter period of time than you applied to sponsor them. You will also receive a partial refund where you have assigned a CoS to a worker, paid the large sum but before you assign the CoS your company is verified as a small or charitable business. There are also circumstances in which you can receive a partial refund for unused 6 month periods of leave after the worker’s first year of employment.
Decisions on Immigration Skills Charge refunds are generally made within 90 days of:
- the date when you tell the Home Office that the worker did not come to work;
- the expiry date on the worker’s Certificate of Sponsorship, if they did not use it to apply for a visa;
- the date the worker’s visa application is refused or withdrawn;
- the date you assigned the Certificate of Sponsorship, if you had already notified the Home Office that you had become a small or charitable sponsor.
The Home Office will not refund the Immigration Skills Charge where:
- the worker changes job but remains working for you;
- the worker switches from the Skilled Worker or Senior or Specialist Worker route to another immigration route but remains employed in the same job;
- your licence is made dormant;
- your licence is revoked;
- the worker’s permission is cancelled (unless the permission is cancelled because the worker failed to commence employment or finished employment early).
Contact Our Business Immigration Barristers
It is important that sponsors pay the required Immigration Skills Charge in order to ensure there are no unnecessary delays to a migrant’s application for entry clearance or leave to remain reliant on the CoS.
For advice regarding Immigration Skills Charge fees, refunds or exemptions, contact our business immigration barristers and lawyers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via our enquiry form below.