Sponsor Licence

How the UK gaming industry can navigate the Immigration Rules

By Amer Zaman

on September 28, 2022

Read Time: 7 Minutes

For all the uncertainty and tumult that has characterised much of the UK’s economic and employment landscape in recent years, one thing remains clear: the gaming industry continues to be one of the country’s not-always-talked-about success stories.

This success should not be as great a surprise as it might initially seem to some observers. According to the Newco Global Games Market Report 2022, almost 3.2 billion people were expected to play games during 2022, spending a combined total of $196.8 billion.

With regard to the UK gaming sector specifically, the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, or Ukie, gave it a valuation of more than £7 billion as of 2021. There are reported to be some 39.1 million estimated video games consumers in the UK, which further underlines that the sector is big business.

How much does the UK gaming sector depend on migrant talent?

Poring over the statistics that have been gathered over recent years for the UK gaming industry, the sector’s diversity relative to the broader UK population quickly becomes clear.

This is reflected in the results of the 2022 UK Games Industry Consensus, which found that – for example – the number of people reporting a sexuality other than heterosexual was 24% in 2022; this was significantly higher than in the broader adult population.

The survey of more than 3,600 games workers – which represented about 15% of the entire games-industry workforce – also found that 66% of the respondents reported themselves to be White British; 24% identified as White Other, 5% as Black, 2% as Asian, and 2% as Mixed/Multiple ethnicity.

Of greater relevance to the subject of immigration, however, was that a fifth (20%) of people in the UK games sector reported a nationality from the European Economic Area (EEA), and 9% from the rest of the world.

Almost 30% of the game-industry workforce holding a nationality other than British marks it out as one of the UK’s most diverse industries, well ahead of the 11% figure recorded for the broader UK working-age population.

However, the free movement of workers from the European Union (EU) has come to an end in the UK since the latter’s departure from the bloc, and the UK immigration system has undergone massive change post-Brexit. So, organisations in need of the best gaming talent might appreciate some advice and guidance on navigating the latest rules and visa options. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the process.

What is a sponsor licence, and do you actually need one?

Much of the process by which UK gaming-industry employers can recruit the right people for their open positions now revolves around the sponsor licence system.

As we explain on the dedicated page of our website, a sponsorship licence will give your business the right to sponsor someone from outside the UK to work for you.

While you will normally need to obtain a sponsor licence from the Home Office in order to recruit an overseas worker for your UK business, this is not always the case. You can sponsor a worker from one of the following categories without the need for a sponsor licence:

There are others who will have immigration permission which may or may not come with the right to work in the UK – for example, family members of British citizens, international students, and holders of work visas. So, it might not be immediately obvious to you whether the candidate you are considering already has the right to work in the UK. If you are in any doubt, please don’t hesitate to call our experts in immigration law at Cranbrook Legal, on 0208 215 0053.

If it turns out that you will need to secure a sponsor licence in order to employ a particular candidate, you will be required to go through the following process:

  • Checking that your business is eligible to hold a sponsor licence
  • Ascertaining whether the job you are recruiting for is suitable for sponsorship
  • Selecting the type of licence you wish to apply for, which will depend on the type of worker you intend to sponsor
  • Determining who within your business will be responsible for managing the sponsorship
  • Applying online via the UK Government website for the sponsor licence, and paying the Home Office fee

What are the requirements for a UK sponsor licence?

If you wish to be approved for a sponsor licence that will enable your organisation in the UK gaming sector to start hiring workers from abroad, you will need to satisfy the Home Office’s eligibility requirements.

As an employer with a sponsor licence, you will be expected to have suitable systems in place for the monitoring of sponsored workers within your business.

Your responsibilities in this regard will include ensuring that your sponsored staff have the skills, qualifications and/or professional accreditations needed in order to do their jobs; you will also need to inform UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) in the event of any of your sponsored workers failing to comply with their visa conditions.

Sponsor licence holders are also required to appoint, at the licence application stage, people within their organisation who will have the responsibility of managing the sponsorship process via the sponsorship management system (SMS).

Those roles will include:

  • An authorising officer, who should be a senior and competent person within your business, and will be responsible for staff and representatives’ actions when they use the SMS
  • A key contact, who will serve as your organisation’s principal point of contact with UKVI
  • A level 1 user with responsibility for all day-to-day management of your licence, again via the SMS

You can choose to have one person take on all these roles for your organisation, or you can have them filled by different people. Once you have obtained a sponsor licence, you will also have the option of appointing a level 2 user. This user would not have as high a level of access to the SMS as a level 1 user – not having the ability, for example, to withdraw a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).

What visa options can gaming-industry workers use to move to the UK?

As the UK immigration system continues to rapidly evolve in adaptation to a post-Brexit landscape, if you are a gaming-industry employer, our solicitors at Cranbrook Legal can help ensure you are well-informed on the latest visa routes that candidates for your roles could use to relocate to the UK.

Examples of UK visa categories of potential applicability to the games industry include:

  • The Skilled Worker visa is the most popular employer-sponsored visa enabling someone to move to, live in, and work in the UK. If you wish to recruit overseas workers via this route, you will be required to have a sponsor licence, as well as a physical presence in the UK. The Home Office will also expect you to be hiring a candidate for a specific role.
  • The Start-up visa is aimed at entrepreneurs who are interested in setting up an innovative business in the UK. The “innovative” distinction is an important one; in the words of the Home Office, the business “must be something that’s different from anything else on the market.” This visa is also only granted for two years, with no option to extend. So, someone who comes to the UK on this visa and wishes to stay for longer will need to be approved to switch to another visa category before the end of that two-year period.
  • The Innovator visa could also be of relevance to some people wishing to come to the UK to work in the games industry. Specifically, it is targeted at more experienced entrepreneurs, and those wishing to set up a new business on this visa will need to have a minimum of £50,000 in investment funds.
  • There is also the Global Talent visa, which can be applied for by those who are a “leader or potential leader” in any of a number of fields. However, candidates will not normally be allowed to even apply for this visa until they have first received an endorsement to prove that they are a leader or potential leader. It is, though, a highly flexible visa, and the candidate doesn’t need to pay as much to obtain one as is the case for the Skilled Worker visa.

The above is not an exhaustive rundown of all the visa categories that could be of relevance to candidates for gaming-industry jobs in the UK, and the organisations that might wish to employ them. For example, the likes of the Graduate visa and High Potential Individual (HPI) visa could also be worthy of consideration for some people with suitable skills who wish to come to the UK.

Cranbrook Legal is available to serve your needs as an individual or business

It will probably be clear to you from reading the above that the present UK immigration system can be confusing to navigate, with an array of options for recruiting suitable workers for your business in the gaming industry, or to move to the UK if you are a candidate for such a role.

For more in-depth help, advice, and guidance in relation to all your UK immigration needs as an individual or organisation, please feel free to call the Cranbrook Legal team today on 0208 215 0053. Alternatively, please send us an email to arrange your free consultation with our capable, friendly, and experienced specialists in all aspects of immigration law.  

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