Business Immigration Solicitor Hans Sok Appadu’s Thoughts on Being Nominated for the Rising Star Award 2022 and on Immigration Trends in 2023
2022 was a busy year for Hans Sok Appadu and the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors as their achievements had already been recognised in the two leading law directories, The Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession.
In this blog, we fire some questions at Hans on his nomination and his thoughts on immigration trends for 2023.
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What did it feel like to be nominated for the rising star award?
When I was nominated for the award, it felt like I had mastered the summit of Everest and was looking down on the world. To put my feelings into context, I arrived in the UK at age 18 with ambitions to qualify as a lawyer. That was all I had, ambition and hope. Fast forward ( I won't say how many years) and I have not only achieved my goal of becoming a solicitor but I am also a partner at OTS Solicitors and head of the business immigration team. Nomination for the rising star award was like the icing on the cake.
In the interests of full disclosure, I did not win the award despite all the team at OTS Solicitors and my family in Mauritius rooting for me. In some ways, I was quite pleased not to win as it gives me the incentive to work harder and to continue to rise. That will not be difficult as some days I feel as if I am on cloud 9 (normally when Liverpool football club has won a match as I am an avid fan).
How has life changed now you are a Partner and Head of Business Immigration?
I am not sure how much life has changed now I am a partner and head of business immigration at OTS Solicitors. That’s because before my promotion I had always worked hard to rise from intern to paralegal to trainee solicitor to eventual qualification as a solicitor.
At OTS there is a culture of promoting from within so throughout my time at the firm I have always tried to help the next intern or paralegal so that they, in turn, will qualify as a solicitor and be nominated for awards. An example of this is Philip Saville who joined us in 2019 in an Office Administrative role. He is now a Solicitor in Training & Manager of Operations. He is helping Tia Rose, our Legal Services Officer, step into his shoes and I am sure she will soon be helping the latest recruit as she moves on up her career path.
What are the hot topics in business immigration in 2023?
In business immigration, the key thing that business clients want to know from our sponsorship licence lawyers is whether they can make a sponsor licence work for their company. In a period of economic uncertainty with predictions of a recession, whilst at the same time some sectors of the UK economy face a UK skills shortage and recruitment crisis, it is easy to see why UK business owners want their sponsor licences to be cost-effective and hassle-free.
Whilst I can't promise that anything related to the Home Office will ever be 100% hassle free, I can say that the business immigration team will look at whether a first sponsor licence application is the best route for a company to take. We are not forensic accountants assessing the cost of apprentice schemes for settled workers against the cost of the Home Office fees for a sponsor licence application and associated fees such as the immigration skills charge. However, we can give a company a general steer on whether a sponsor licence will meet recruitment needs and if the skilled worker visa is likely to be suitable for the current or anticipated job vacancies.
We are also making sure that the sponsor licence is the beginning of our working relationship with start-ups, entrepreneurs and family businesses. We believe that we can add value with our sponsor licence training and management services. It is a simple philosophy – businesses stick to what they are good at and our sponsorship licence lawyers sort out the ongoing management of the sponsor licence and its renewal and any associated employment or company and commercial legal queries.
If you could change one thing in business immigration law, what would it be?
At the moment, I think the key change that I would like to see happen in business immigration is to reduce the disconnect between the points-based immigration system and immigration rules and UK business owners.
Times are tough enough for UK companies without having to battle to employ skilled overseas workers. For example, some London restaurants are having to reduce their hours of opening because they can't recruit from within the UK and there is no replacement EU workforce due to the end of free movement. The trickle of international students able to work part-time on student visas isn’t sufficient to keep restaurant and bar doors open.
On the individual immigration front, there are so many things that I want to change that I don’t know where to start. For example, if asylum seekers were allowed to work whilst awaiting a decision on their claim this would help business owners and the UK economy. If decisions on claims were processed with speed, whilst not jeopardising compassion and thoroughness, there would not be such a clamour in some political parties for the return of the hostile environment. I could go on at length as could most immigration solicitors frustrated by an almost broken immigration system.
What is the worst thing about being an immigration lawyer? And the best?
The worst thing about being an immigration lawyer is the sense of frustration you feel. For example, when the Home Office is slowly considering a first sponsor licence application by a tech start-up that is desperate to recruit expertise from the Silicon Valley so they can innovate and scale up. I know that unless the business owner pays the Home Office a priority service fee the sponsor licence decision may take weeks (or months) and not days. Alternatively, you get frustrated when you hear news like the withdrawal of Tech Nation from endorsing and monitoring global talent visa applicants in the digital sector without a clear replacement plan. When the UK is aiming to attract the brightest and best to its shores there needs to be a plan and joined-up thinking. I could go on and frequently do to my colleagues at OTS Solicitors.
The best thing about being an immigration lawyer is the clients. Whether it is a business that has managed to avoid having its sponsor licence revoked (and having to tell its sponsored employees that they can no longer be employed by the company so they will have to leave the UK or find a new sponsoring employer) or a spouse visa applicant who can be reunited with their husband or wife, there is the same relief and delight. I never tire of trying to achieve immigration solutions.
If you have immigration law questions Hans Sok Appadu and the team at OTS Solicitors can help you.
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