A Guide to Sponsor Licence Holders on Recruiting Graduates to the Skilled Worker Visa banner


A Guide to Sponsor Licence Holders on Recruiting Graduates to the Skilled Worker Visa

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It does not look as if the recruitment crisis will be fixed quickly so HR directors and business owners are increasingly interested in hiring international students graduating in 2023 from British universities.

Our immigration solicitors look at the process of hiring international students and hiring employees who need to switch from a student visa to a skilled worker visa.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For sponsor licence and skilled worker visa advice call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

From international students to skilled worker visa

Many of our international students are used to working in the UK because their student visas allow them to work provided that they comply with the work conditions. For example, limited part-time employment during term time and full-time work allowed during holidays.

Failure to comply with student visa work conditions can result in the student’s visa being curtailed, the student’s future immigration applications being refused and potential consequences for both student and employer if the international student has been employed without the right to work the hours undertaken by the student. In addition, if the employer holds a sponsor licence, the decision to employ an international student and allow them to work in breach of their visa conditions could place their sponsor licence at risk of a Home Office audit and suspension.

Sponsorship Licence lawyers say that international students are a very valuable employment resource as they do not need sponsorship to work in the UK and are not restricted to working in particular jobs. However, all employers, and especially sponsor licence holders, need to ensure that the international students they employ are only carrying out their permitted hours of work and are complying with their student visa conditions of work.

From student visa to graduate visa

One option for 2023 graduating students and UK business owners is for an international student to be employed in the UK on a graduate visa. This visa gives the former student the right to work in the UK without requiring an employer to hold a sponsor licence.

The advantage of a graduate visa, from the employer’s perspective, is that the graduate can be recruited to carry out any employment with no minimum skill level or minimum salary threshold save for the employer paying the national minimum wage. For the graduate, the advantage of the graduate visa is that it enables them to stay in the UK and gain some work experience whilst looking for a long-term skilled job or deciding on a future career path.

Whilst the graduate visa has some clear benefits, business immigration solicitors advise that it also has drawbacks from the perspective of both the graduate and the UK business owner:

  • Visa length – the graduate visa lasts for 2 years for most graduates. (3 years if the visa applicant has a PhD or doctoral qualification). The graduate visa cannot be extended and does not lead to settlement in the UK. Some employers see recruiting workers on graduate visas as a temporary measure. They are wary of committing to long-term training and investment in an employee who can only stay with the business for 2 years
  • The graduate visa application – the graduate visa can only be applied for from within the UK and whilst the international student is in the UK on their student visa. Once the graduate has left the UK they cannot return to the UK via the graduate visa. This means employers cannot employ a recent graduate in an apprentice-type role once the student has gone back home as the student is only able to return to the UK on a suitable route, such as the skilled worker visa or under one of the sponsored global business mobility routes

From international student to a full-time employee

When an international student is already a part-time employee of the business, you need to ensure that the student has the right to work in the UK when they cease their studies and graduate. Business immigration solicitors say that the transition from student to graduate emphasises the need to diary up repeat right-to-work checks for those employees who have limited leave to remain in the UK. It also highlights the importance of talking to international students at a relatively early stage so that they can apply for the appropriate work visa to move seamlessly from student visa to graduate visa or skilled worker visa.

From student visa to skilled worker visa

UK employers tell Sponsorship Licence lawyers that they prefer to employ graduates on a skilled worker visa rather than the graduate visa. That’s because the skilled worker visa can be granted for up to 5 years (unless the applicant is a new entrant) and can lead to settlement in the UK through the worker applying for indefinite leave to remain.  The 5-year visa (in comparison to the 2-year graduate visa) gives sponsor licence holders the confidence to invest the time and money in training the graduates in the hope that the employee will see themselves as having a long-term future in the business with a career path for progression.

The skilled worker visa application process is the same whether or not the recruit is already in the UK on a student visa or other type of visa. The key point is that the job offered to the graduate must be on the list of jobs that meet the skilled worker visa criteria and has an allocated standard occupational classification code.

In addition to the job being suitable for the skilled worker visa, a sponsor licence holder must also pay the minimum salary for the specified job. The minimum salary threshold is most skilled worker visa applicants are:

  • £26,200 gross per year
  • £10.75 gross per hour
  • The ‘going rate’ for the standard occupational classification code

However, if your business is employing an international student the likelihood is that they will meet the criteria for a ‘new entrant’ enabling you to pay the recruit less than the salaries set out above.

New entrants and the skilled worker visa

When a recruit is classed as a ‘new entrant’ an employer can pay the skilled worker visa holder 70% of the going rate for their particular job and standard occupational classification code as long as the salary is at least £20,960 per year.

A new entrant is a skilled worker visa applicant who meets one of these criteria:

  • Under the age of 26 at the date of the skilled worker visa application
  • In the UK on a student visa and studying for a bachelor’s degree qualification or above or in the UK for 2 years and a student or visitor visa was the most recent visa held
  • In the UK on a graduate entrepreneur visa
  • Will be working towards a recognised qualification in a regulated profession. For example, accountancy
  • Will be working towards chartered status or full registration in their sponsored employment

This list means most international students meet the new entrant criteria BUT new entrants are limited to a 4-year visa rather than the maximum 5-year skilled worker visa.

Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can answer all your questions on sponsoring new entrants on the skilled worker visa and can help international students with their graduate visa or skilled worker visa applications to take the hassle out of your business recruiting from the overseas-based pool of talent.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

For sponsor licence and skilled worker visa advice call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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