Date updated:

Educational organisations across the UK are struggling to recruit school staff, including for roles such as teachers and teaching assistants. Many are therefore looking outside of the UK to fill shortages in the workforce.

Organisations can bring overseas nationals to the UK for work through the process of sponsorship, and workers can be sponsored for a variety of roles, including those on the Shortage Occupation List. Employers should therefore consider the implications of sponsoring workers. They may also wish to consider the alternatives to sponsorship.

In order to sponsor overseas nationals, an organisation must hold a sponsorship licence. An application for a sponsorship licence must be submitted online, and there are a number of requirements that an organisation must meet in order to be successful in its application.

Most jobs that are eligible for sponsorship fall under the Skilled Worker immigration route. For example, teaching roles are eligible for sponsorship under this route. Other roles within schools that are also eligible may be bursar, headteacher, human resources manager and IT support technician.

The length of sponsorship of an individual worker can vary; however, organisations typically sponsor for 3 years at a time. After 5 years of continuous residence, sponsored individuals may be eligible to settle in the UK and therefore sponsorship may no longer be required.

It is important to note that there is a cost to apply for a licence, and thereafter further costs for each worker that is sponsored.

The shortage occupation list comprises of skilled jobs which UK Visas and Immigration consider there to be a shortage of workers in the UK.

Under the points-based system, if a role is listed on the shortage occupation list, an applicant can take advantage of the tradeable points rules. The benefit of a sponsored role falling on the shortage occupation list is that the applicant can qualify for a lower salary threshold and lower visa application fee when applying for their Skilled Worker visa.

Secondary education teachers of maths, physics, science (where an element of physics will be taught), computer science and modern foreign languages are all included under the list, as well as primary and secondary education teachers of Gaelic based in Scotland. The shortage occupations in the education sector can be found here.

Whilst educational organisations may wish to consider sponsoring workers to come to the UK, employers should be aware that not all overseas nationals in the UK require sponsorship to work at their organisation. An overseas national may already be in the UK under a non-sponsorship route, such as a family visa.

Family visas typically last between 2 to 3 years, and nearly all employment is permitted on these visas. A school may therefore be able to hire an individual, for example as a IT support technician, whilst they are in the UK on their family visa.

Furthermore, there are similar permissions for individuals who are in the UK under the Graduate route or Youth Mobility Scheme. The benefit of employing workers who are on such visas is that no sponsorship costs are incurred.

When faced with workforce shortages, many in the educational sector are looking into sponsoring overseas workers. When looking into sponsorship, employers may wish to consider the time and cost implications of applying for a sponsorship licence and thereafter sponsoring workers. Not all overseas nationals in the UK require sponsorship, therefore employers should also be aware of the alternatives.

If you would like further information on sponsorship or any other immigration-related matter, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Head of Immigration, Julie Moktadir at