Date updated: Thursday 30th November 2023

If your independent school is having difficulty recruiting to positions and you hold a sponsor licence, sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route may be the answer. There are, however, a number of points to consider before offering to sponsor an individual.

Below, we have outlined five common questions that we often receive from clients in the independent school sector who are considering sponsorship.

1.    How much does it cost to sponsor a worker and what protections should be in place?

In regards to the cost of sponsoring under the Skilled Worker route, ordinarily, the following UKVI fees will be incurred:

    Certificate of Sponsorship: £239
•    Immigration Skills Charge: £364 per year of sponsorship (provided your school is registered as a charitable sponsor, which includes independent schools that are exempt charities) 
•    Immigration Health Surcharge: £624 per year of sponsorship (increasing to £1,035 per year in early 2024)
•    Visa application fee: £827 (for applications made inside the UK) or £719 (for applications made outside the UK)

The fees in bold must be paid by the independent school, as the sponsor, and cannot be passed to the sponsored worker. However, it is possible to pass the cost of the Immigration Health Surcharge and the visa application fee to the prospective employee if this is the school policy.

We do, however, understand that due to the heavily competitive market, many independent schools choose to cover all of a prospective sponsored worker’s associated visa costs to attract the best talent.

While there are no restrictions on this, given the significant costs involved, we would advise any independent school offering this support to ensure that a repayment clause is included in the sponsored worker’s contract, which requires them to repay a proportion should they leave your employment within a certain timeframe. To avoid this obligation being interpreted as a penalty clause, the rate of the repayment is ordinarily provided on a sliding scale according to when the employee ceases their employment. Stone King’s immigration and employment law teams can assist with updating any contract templates to include such wording if necessary.

2.    Is the role eligible for sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route?

Before offering sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route, it is important to first ensure that the role is eligible for sponsorship. The first step in the process is to establish the most relevant standard occupation code (SOC code) for the role from the UKVI’s list, found here.

This is unlikely to be an issue for teaching positions within an independent school, as SOC codes 2314 (secondary education teaching professionals) or 2315 (primary and nursery education teaching professionals) will be applicable. The minimum salary that must be paid for these occupation codes is based on teachers’ pay scales. As such, if your independent school has adopted its own pay scale, it will be necessary to ensure that the role satisfies the required salary level.

For non-teaching roles such as some support staff or senior management positions, it will be important to identify the most appropriate SOC code for the position and ensure that the salary requirement is met.  

3.    Do we have enough Certificates of Sponsorship?

The number of CoS currently held by the school should also be considered.

For employees applying for their visa from inside the UK, it is important to ensure that there is a Skilled Worker CoS available on the SMS to assign to them. If there are only a limited number of CoS available, consideration should also be given as to whether these are required for current employees needing to extend their leave that year. In the event sufficient CoS are not available, it will be necessary to allow enough time to apply for an in-year CoS increase via the SMS. These requests can take a number of weeks to be granted by the UKVI. There is, however, a priority service available to expedite the decision to five working days, which costs £200 per request.

The process for obtaining a CoS for prospective employees applying from outside the UK is slightly different, as a Defined CoS will be required. These are applied for through the SMS on a case-by-case basis.

4.    How long does it take for an employee to obtain a Skilled Worker visa?

Finally, to avoid any delays in a sponsored worker starting their role and therefore any disruption to student learning, it is important to ensure that a CoS is assigned and the worker applies for their Skilled Worker visa application in good time.

For new employees applying from overseas, the current waiting times for a Skilled Worker visa are around 3 weeks from the date of the biometric appointment. For individuals applying from inside the UK, the processing time is approximately eight weeks from the date of the biometric appointment.

The availability of biometric appointments both inside and outside the UK does differ depending on the location of the application centre, and the available slots can only be viewed after the application has been submitted. In both cases, it is possible for the worker to submit their application under the priority service for an additional fee, which reduces the waiting time to 5 working days from the date of their appointment.

It is also worth noting that a prospective worker applying from inside the UK, who is currently sponsored by a different employer, cannot start working for your independent school until they have been granted their new Skilled Worker visa application.


If you require any further support with sponsoring workers, or would like further information about becoming a licensed sponsor, please do contact our Head of Immigration, Julie Moktadir, at