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Sponsoring Dental Technicians from Overseas – Guidance for Dental Lab Owners

By Andy Foster | 22nd June 2022 | Blog

Recruitment specialist Andy Foster explains the minutia of sponsoring overseas dental technicians

Recruiting & retaining dental technicians in the UK has become increasingly difficult in recent years. Dental technicians leaving the trade is creating a skills shortage, which is a major headache for dental labs.

Why are dental technicians leaving?

The technician shortage has come about for several reasons, including;

• An aging workforce retiring and leaving the trade

• Redundancy due to the pandemic

• Technicians choosing to switch careers in search of improved work conditions, higher salaries and a better work/life balance.

All of the above has resulted in the number of GDC registered technicians declining year on year. It's tough out there in the UK labour market, and many lab-owners are now looking to sponsor dental technicians from outside the UK. To help lab owners understand the process, we've put together a roadmap outlining the steps needed to sponsor workers from outside of the UK.

Sponsorship Roadmap 

Brexit has turned off the tap on migration from Europe, and that tap won't be switched on again anytime soon. Whether you think that's a good or bad thing, a sponsor licence offers a different kind of tap for overseas labour. Sponsor licence costs aren't cheap, but then neither is the cost of paying a recruitment agency, so while financially painful in the short-term, sponsorship can pay off in the long-term.

Who can apply for a sponsor license?

Almost any UK dental lab owner is entitled to employ overseas dental technicians in their company, although they must be authorised for issuing Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to overseas workers. To issue a CoS, a company must first get the sponsor license - a license that is appropriate to the type of job they will be occupying with foreign staff.

The home office's standard time for considering sponsor licence applications is currently eight weeks, so you'll need to take this into consideration, especially if your lab has urgent recruitment plans. One of the initial considerations a dental lab should make before applying for a sponsor licence is what type of licence they would like to apply for.

This can typically be split into two camps, the worker route or the temporary worker route. The most common route that dental labs will be looking to apply under is the worker route, which includes the skilled worker category and is generally for workers taking up a permanent position within a UK organisation.

(The temporary worker route is for charity workers, creative workers, and seasonal workers, so is generally not relevant for most dental technician roles.)

Skilled-Worker visa

The Skilled-Worker visa, which has replaced the Tier 2 (General) visa, is the main UK immigration route for non-UK resident workers. Whether you are an employer looking to hire a skilled worker from overseas or an individual applying for a sponsorship visa, it is important to understand the Skilled-Worker visa eligibility and application requirements to avoid issues or delays with the application. The Skilled-Worker visa allows employers to recruit non-UK resident workers for certain eligible, skilled roles.

What are the Skilled-Worker visa requirements?

The visa is open to individuals who attain 70 points by meeting specific requirements such as skill and salary level, English language ability, and having a qualifying job offer from a UK sponsor.

The 70 points threshold for a Skilled-Worker visa is made up of;

• 50 points for mandatory or 'non-tradeable' criteria (i.e.; the job offer, speaking English and the requisite skill level for the job on offer)

• 20 points for what's classed as 'tradeable' criteria. The Skilled-Worker minimum salary threshold is £25,600 per year, unless the 'going rate' for the particular role is higher. Every occupational is assigned a going rate via an SOC (Standard Occupational Classification) code.

So, what's it going to cost you?

The costs are for both the sponsor and the worker, and these are as follows.

Costs for the employer

1. The sponsor licence, paid when you apply for the licence;

• £536 for a small business (or a charity)

• £1,476 for large businesses

Most dental labs will be classed as a small business, although for clarity, a business qualifies as small if it meets two of the below criteria in a financial year:

• turnover is not more than £10.2 million

• balance sheet total is not more than £5.1 million (aggregate of the amounts shown as assets in the company's balance sheet)

• number of employees does not exceed 50 (taken as an average across the financial year)

If your sponsor licence application is successful, your licence will be valid for a period of four years, and during that period your business will be permitted to assign certificate sponsorship to foreign workers. Should your business require the sponsor licence beyond the four years, a renewal application would need to be submitted prior to the four years expiring, and it costs the same amount to renew it.

2. Certificate of Sponsorship

You will issue a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) to workers that you wish to hire. The worker then uses the CoS to apply for their Skilled Worker visa. The cost of issuing each certificate of sponsorship is £199.

3. Immigration Skills Charge

This is basically a business tax for employing foreign workers. For a small or charitable sponsor, the Immigration Skills Charge is £364 for the first year and £182 for each additional six months. So, the cost of sponsoring someone for five years would be £1,820.

For a medium or large sponsor, the charge is £1,000 for the first year and £500 for each additional six months. Therefore, the cost of sponsoring someone for five years would be £5,000.

Costs for the worker

1. Visa application fee

Here are the fees for somebody applying from outside the UK for a Skilled Worker visa:

• £625 - for a visa valid up to three years in a non-shortage occupation.

• £479 - for a visa valid up to three years in a shortage occupation.

• £1,235 - for a visa valid for more than three years in non-shortage occupation.

• £943 - for a visa valid for more than three years in a shortage occupation.

(Dental technicians are currently not on the shortage occupation list)

You can find more information regarding visa costs by visiting how-much-it-costs .

2. Immigration Health Surcharge

The Immigration Health Surcharge is essentially a tax on visas, in addition to the application fee. The fee is £624 for each year of the visa. For example, the Immigration Health Surcharge fee would be:

• £3,120 to a five-year visa

• £1,872 to a three-year visa

• £624 for a one-year visa.

As with the application fee, this is nominally down to the worker to pay.

More information on the Immigration Health Surcharge can be found at https:// 

(The surcharge does not need to be paid if a worker is applying from outside the UK for six months or less)

As most people reading this will be lab-owners/managers and not necessarily legal eagles, it may seem slightly daunting to arrange a sponsor licence application, therefore immigration solicitors can be used to help prepare you and your dental lab for a sponsor license application, helping to ensure you have the necessary HR and recruitment practices in place to be a trusted sponsor.

Who pays?

The above costs are for the worker alone. Family members accompanying them to the UK are also liable for the visa application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge. Before sponsorship goes ahead, employers should check with the worker to see whether they have family and reach an agreement at the outset on who covers what costs. For example, the sponsor might agree that the worker will pay their own application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge.

Please note that sponsors cannot lawfully pass the Immigration Skill Charge on to individual workers. The licence fee is also paid by the sponsor.

For more information, call 07595 315862, visit, or email 

For dental technician jobs and career news, please visit 

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