Legal

A guide to hiring non-EEA interns

28 Jun 2019 By Sasha Lal

Sasha Lal explains what UK employers should bear in mind when hiring interns from outside the EEA

The UK immigration rules allow temporary workers to come to the UK for work experience, training, to participate in an Overseas Government Language Programme, complete research or complete a fellowship through one of the authorised schemes. 

This visa category is known as the Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) scheme. There are specific approved schemes by the Home Office. Each scheme is required to hold a Sponsor Licence (a licence is a permission given to an organisation to sponsor workers in its business or to act as the overarching sponsor, as will be in this case). 

Some schemes are designed specifically to allow undergraduates and graduates from overseas to gain experience working in UK industry. From an employer’s perspective, these schemes allow employers to obtain a variety of talent and skills from overseas individuals.

The following criteria will usually need to be met for the employer to qualify for hiring a non-EEA national in the UK:

  • The employer must meet the conditions of membership and be approved to join the scheme.

  • The intern must be a non-EEA national.

  • The intern must either hold a degree, or be studying towards a degree equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or higher.

  • The intern must be paid the UK national minimum wage or above.

  • The role must be supernumerary.

  • The role must be supervised and must require a minimum level of NVQ Level 3.


There are also certain documents the employer will be required to submit to the approved scheme to meet the conditions of membership. 

To obtain this type of visa, the migrant must also have sufficient funds to support themselves and must obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship from one of the authorised schemes, a higher education institution or a government agency. There are certain requirements that the migrant, the approved scheme and the company will need to meet before this type of visa can be approved.

If they are already in the UK, they can only switch to this category from a Tier 4 (General) student visa.

The migrant can stay in the UK on this visa for up to 12 or 24 months depending on the scheme the employer has applied for. In addition to the migrant carrying out the duties they are sponsored to undertake, they are also able to work in a second job for up to 20 hours a week and bring certain family members with them to the UK. 

If the employer is unable to source appropriate vacancies from the UK resident or EU market force and wishes to fill the position with a migrant for more than 12 to 24 months, it would be required to obtain its own sponsor licence and to hire the migrant as a Tier 2 worker and satisfy the Resident Labour Market Test and other specified requirements. 

If the migrant is currently on the Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) Scheme, they will be required to apply out of country for a Tier 2 visa. 

It is important to note that if the company does not have a sponsor licence, it will be required to obtain this before any migrant workers can be considered to work for it.

Sasha Lal is an immigration consultant at Gherson Solicitors

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