Visas and Sponsorship

The UK boasts a wealth of award-winning talent, both above and below the line, and across all categories.

Visa national and non-visa nationals

Non visa nationals are countries with less stringent entry controls to enter into the UK i.e. they do not typically need to apply for a visa beforehand. Examples include USA, Canada, Australia etc. The Home office have a great tool to see if this apply to certain nationalities.

Check if you need a UK visa.

Non visa nationals can work in the UK with just a CoS and do not need to obtain a full biometric visa, providing they are in the UK for less than 90 days and fit other criteria. A CoS normally takes a couple of weeks to issue.

Do you need a UK visa?

The UK operates a point based system for non EU migrants wanting to work in the United Kingdom, this has essentially been mainly divided into 5 categories. These are:

-Tier 1 visa – Migrants with desirable professional skills
-Tier 2 visa – Skilled workers with an offer of employment
-Tier 3 visa – Temporary, low skilled workers (closed category)
-Tier 4 visa – Students
-Tier 5 visa – Temporary workers, including Creative and sporting

The Tier 5 temporary worker creative and sporting category is the most appropriate immigration route for a production company wanting to bring in a Non EEU worker to the UK.

A creative worker is someone who works in the creative industry e.g. An actor, dancer, musician or film crew member.

The worker (called a migrant by the Home Office) can apply for a Tier 5 Creative and Sporting visa if:

-They have been offered to work as a sportsperson or creative worker in a legitimate media organization
-From outside the EEA and Switzerland
-Meets the other eligibility requirements – including passing the code of practice

Overseas workers do not need work authorisation if:
– They are coming to the UK for a short location shoot and their production is based outside the UK.
– They are coming to the UK for business meetings
However, they should provide documentation to support this.

Certificate of Sponsorship

A CoS is not a physical certificate but a reference number, this number holds information inputted in by a sponsor about the migrant’s personal details and their role. The migrant would share this number when they arrive into the UK and they should receive a stamp in their passport entitling them to work for the period written on the CoS. Holding a CoS does not guarantee entry into the UK – this is at the discretion of the border secure team at the UK port of entry, however generally migrants do not encounter problems here.

A Sponsor is a Home office approved company that is authorised to grant a CoS to an individual, providing they meet the criteria. A production company can become a sponsor by obtaining the relevant license from the Home Office or a production company can enlist the support of a third party ‘umbrella’ sponsor who would act on their behalf and become the migrants sponsor and then provide all the necessary paperwork.

The Home office expects the sponsor to undertake a number of ‘sponsorship duties’ including holding on file the workers ‘right to work in the UK’ which could be their CoS stamp, visa visual or BRP (biometric residence permit), their residing address(s) and contact details plus any TMO’s (travel movement orders). The Home Office expect this information to be easily assessable if they decide to audit the sponsor.

Find out more about sponsorship.

The Sponsorship Code of Practice

Productions should always try where possible to informally search for relevant candidates within the EU before broadening their search to incorporate other nationalities. The exception to this is when a production is hiring a cast member of international status or a worker that falls under a senior creative worker grade. In all other cases the candidate/s chosen must meet the Code of Practice as governed by the Guilds including BECTU, PACT and Production Guild.

The Code of Practice contains a number of categories. Workers falling into one of the categories are deemed to be making an additional contribution to the UK film and television industry and not displacing the resident labor force, so are exempt from further resident labor market testing.


Read the full Code of Practice.

Tier 5 Visa


If the applicant needs to stay and work in the UK for longer than 3 months or are a visa national, they should apply for a Tier 5 Temporary work visa (as well as a CoS). A Tier 5 work visa is valid for a maximum of one year and has the option to extend for an additional year.

To obtain a visa the applicant (or immigration firm handling the application) will need to apply online for the visa and make all necessary purchases. Upon online submission the applicant will then to need to attend an appointment at a biometric center where their biometric details (including fingerprints and photo) will be taken, before sending off their passport and pack to be processed and assessed. A visa that is approved would be typically be given a 30-day travel vignette after which their visa term will be carried on their BRP card (biometric residence permit)

A visa takes aproximatly 3 weeks from submission of biometrics to be approved.

This is only a brief summary of the category and further consultation should be obtained before selecting this route.

Read more about the Tier 5 visa.

This advice has been prepared by Victoria Stone of CoSmopolitan Production Services. Contact details can be found on their website


Tier 2 Visa

Tier 2 Visa

The Tier 2 visa is usually the most appropriate immigration route for a facility company, such as a VFX house, to bring a non-EU worker to the UK.

A worker can apply for a Tier 2 visa if:

– They have been offered a skilled job in the UK
– They are from outside the EEA and Switzerland
– They have a Certificate of Sponsorship reference number
– They meet other eligibility requirements

A Tier 2 visa is valid for a maximum of five years and 14 days, or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month, whichever is shorter.

It usually takes approximately three weeks from submission of biometrics to be approved.

This visa does not lead to indefinite leave to remain, and the migrant would have no recourse to public funds.

Read more about the Tier 2 visa.

This is only a brief summary of the ways non-EU residents can enter the UK for work. Further consultation should be obtained before proceeding along any of these routes.