A Guide to Sponsor Licence Applications and Recruiting 2022
2022 is flying by and employers are beginning to realise the extent of the UK skills shortage and what that means for the smooth operation of their business or its expansion plans. Immigration solicitors say emergence from COVID-19 pandemic restrictions has shown UK employers they need to recruit if they want to avoid stagnation. The road to business growth and prosperity starts with a Home Office sponsor licence application to recruit skilled worker visa applicants. In this article our Sponsorship Licence lawyers provide a guide to sponsor licence applications in 2022.
UK Online and London Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers
Applying for a sponsor licence
Sponsorship Licence lawyers say the threshold to apply for a Home Office sponsor licence isn’t high and most UK based companies will be eligible, though some firms will have to do some work on their office procedures and HR systems before being able to secure a sponsor licence. Immigration solicitors can look at your current business practices to see if they need an overhaul or a tweak so that when you apply for your sponsor licence you stand the best chance of successfully getting your licence first time round.
The sponsor licence eligibility criteria for a UK business are:
- An established business presence in the UK.
- Offering genuine employment. The jobs you are recruiting to fill with skilled worker visa applicants must meet the skill and minimum salary thresholds.
- Operating with the right HR systems in place so the business can comply with sponsor licence reporting and recording duties and with a business owner or senior member of staff who can act as the authorising officer to assume overall control and supervision of the sponsor licence on behalf of the business.
The sponsor licence application process involves:
- Completing an online application form.
- Providing the right supporting paperwork that is relevant to your business.
- Paying the application fee. The amount of the fee depends on the size of your company.
It is then a question of waiting for your sponsor licence application to be processed by a Home Office official. The process can be speeded up if you are willing to pay the Home Office for their premium service or a priority service.
Immigration lawyers emphasise that many sponsor licence applications get rejected by the Home Office because of simple errors on the application form or mistakes with the paperwork needed in support of your application. Sponsorship Licence lawyers can make sure that your HR processes will meet Home Office audit standards and also ensure your application has the documents needed to enable the Home Office to approve it.
Sponsoring skilled worker visa applicants
Skilled worker visas have replaced the Tier 2 (General) visa as the ‘go to’ work visa for overseas workers wanting to move to the UK and take up employment. Just like the old-style Tier 2 (General) visa, the skilled worker visa applicant needs a job offer from a UK sponsoring employer with a Home Office issued sponsor licence. The UK business needs to sponsor the recruit if they are from overseas and the worker is subject to immigration control.
The first step in the sponsoring process is to secure your sponsor licence. Sponsorship Licence lawyers warn that UK employers should not think that a sponsor licence application is a quick application with no strings attached. The grant of the sponsor licence is just the start of the relationship between the Home Office and the UK company with the business acting as a sort of ‘immigration monitoring service’ for the Home Office but with penalties if the employer gets their sponsor licence reporting and recording duties wrong.
Recruiting a skilled worker
When you are conducting a recruitment exercise you need to invest the time and energy into the recruitment process at the outset. That way, if you need to employ a skilled migrant worker on a skilled worker visa, the paperwork will be relatively straightforward.
First, you need to assess the job vacancy and the job description. Does the role meet the skill level required for the skilled worker visa? If it does not do so then your pool of talent will be limited to UK based workers and those who are in the UK and subject to UK immigration control but who can work without requiring sponsorship. For example, international students can work limited hours and do not require sponsorship and those in the UK on the graduate visa are not restricted to employment with a business holding a sponsor licence.
The skill level required for the skilled worker visa is A level standard or equivalent. The skill level applies to the job rather than to the job applicant. Accordingly, a candidate who is unqualified but who has the right level of experience to do the job could secure a skilled worker visa.
The job description is important because even if the job meets the required skill level your business won't be able to recruit a skilled migrant worker to fill the role unless the job description matches a SOC code on a list produced by the government. The job description for your vacancy and the standard occupation code for the job on the SOC list need to match.
Second, are you able to pay the minimum salary threshold for the skilled worker visa? If the job meets the eligibility criteria for a skilled worker visa as it meets the skill set and SOC, you can't assume that it is ‘full steam ahead’. For a skilled worker visa applicant to secure a work visa the salary on offer needs to be the minimum salary threshold or above for a job with that standard occupation code. If the salary is higher than you would normally pay an employee then you may be able to pass on the extra overheads in higher costs to your customer. If you can't then you may need to rethink your options.
Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that you should not just check the minimum salary threshold on the government website for the particular job and assume that the job is ‘out of your salary band’. That’s because if your job offer is accepted by a recruit who qualifies as a new entrant under the skilled worker visa scheme, or if the job applicant has a PhD that is relevant to the job vacancy, the salary threshold is lower. Alternatively, you may be able to recruit a former international student who is now in the UK on a graduate visa where there is no requirement for sponsorship by a sponsoring employer or minimum salary threshold other than the national minimum wage applicable to all employees, whatever their nationality or immigration status.
Third, conduct your recruitment process. If you have carried out stages one and two you will know if you can focus your recruitment search overseas or whether you are limited to a relatively small pool of UK talent. Completion of stages one and two therefore ensures your recruitment strategy is tailored to your potential recruits and should also ensure that you can scoop up and employ the best available worker for the job.
Fourth, allocate a certificate of sponsorship to your successful job applicant. Your prospective employee won't be able to start work until they get their skilled worker visa. The first stage of the visa application process is to allocate the worker a certificate of sponsorship. If you put the time in when assessing your job vacancy and writing the job description, then the allocation of a certificate of sponsorship should be straight forward as you’ll already know the SOC that the role falls into and you’ll have checked that your pay level meets the minimum salary threshold for the skilled worker visa eligibility criteria.
How can OTS Solicitors help?
The thought of sponsorship responsibilities towards an employee or risking penalties for not complying with sponsor licence reporting and recording duties can put some employers off from applying for a sponsor licence but with training for key personnel or the use of a professional sponsor licence management service the operation of the sponsor licence can become routine and trouble free when compared with the alternative of staff and skills shortages and not being able to meet contracts on time or expand your business.
Sponsor licence applications and skilled worker visa recruitment can seem complicated and confusing if you are not used to Home Office requirements or procedures. With a bit of professional help, most businesses can successfully recruit the staff they need using the Home Office sponsor licence scheme and UK points-based immigration work visa system.
UK Online and London Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers