The immigration skills charge: Everything you need to know!


Are you an employer looking to sponsor skilled workers from overseas? If so, understanding the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) is crucial. ISC is a fee that UK employers must pay each time they assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to a migrant worker. This blog breaks down everything you need to know about ISC, from who pays it to the exemptions and refund policies.


Who must pay the ISC?

The ISC must be paid by the employer, not the worker. It’s a legal requirement, and any attempt to transfer this cost to the employee could lead to severe penalties, including revocation of the employer’s sponsor licence.


How Much is the ISC?

The ISC amount varies based on the size and type of your organisation, and the length of employment specified in the CoS. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Small or Charitable Organisations: £364 per year per sponsored employee; plus £182 for each additional 6 months stated on CoS.
  • Large Organisations: £1,000 per year per sponsored employee; plus £500 for each additional 6 months stated on CoS.


When to Pay the ISC?

You must pay the ISC in full when assigning a CoS to a worker. If you pay less, the Home Office will request the remaining amount as a top-up payment. You have 10 working days to make the payment; otherwise, the worker’s visa application will be refused. ISC payment is mandatory for each CoS assigned unless specific exemptions outlined below apply.


ISC Exemptions

You do not need to pay the ISC if any of the following conditions apply:

  • The worker is applying from outside the UK for less than 6 months.
  • The worker is switching from a student visa to a Skilled Worker.
  • The worker is in specific PhD-level occupations.
  • You are a Scale-up sponsor.
  • The worker was assigned a CoS before 6 April 2017 and:
    1. that CoS resulted in a grant of entry clearance or permission to stay;
    2. the worker undertook the role for which that CoS was assigned; and
    3. the worker has not since ceased to have permission under Skilled Worker route.


Are you entitled to a refund for the Immigration Skills Charge?

Employers may be eligible to request a full or partial reimbursement of the ISC under certain conditions. Normally, refunds are given within 90 days of notifying the Home Office.


You’ll get a full refund of your ISC if the worker’s visa application is:

  • Refused or withdrawn.
  • Successful, but they do not end up working for you.


You’ll receive a partial reimbursement if the employee:

  • Obtains a shorter visa than the one you sponsored them for.
  • Starts working for you but soon switches to a different sponsor.
  • Quits their position before the job end date mentioned on their sponsorship certificate.


If you paid the medium or large sponsor charge when assigning the CoS but previously informed UKVI that you are now a small or charitable sponsor, you will also get partial reimbursement.

Understanding the ISC can be complex and daunting, but it is a vital part of the sponsorship process. Vira International can assist you in staying compliant with the immigration rules to avoid penalties and keep your business running smoothly. If you have any questions or need further assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out for our expert guidance.

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