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Recruiting Construction Worker From Overseas

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The construction sector just cannot get the workers they need. It is not the only sector of the UK economy that is experiencing a recruitment crisis. Healthcare and hospitality workers are in equally short supply.

Many smaller construction companies are unaware that they may be able to recruit construction workers from overseas to fill their vacancies.

In this article, our immigration solicitors look at the option of recruiting construction workers through the skilled worker visa route.

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

For immigration law advice on sponsoring workers from overseas call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

Post-Brexit construction recruitment crisis

Gone are the days when construction firms had their pick of EU workers to choose from to work on building sites. With the end of free movement, only those EU nationals with pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme have the right to live and work in the UK.

Construction firms may be tempted to recruit temporary employees without making too many enquiries about their nationality or immigration status because they think they will not need a particular trade on site for long. That would be a massive mistake as it could play havoc with any profit. All UK employers must carry out right-to-work checks on all employees before they commence employment. The rules apply even if the employment is only casual or temporary in nature.

If a company is found to be employing workers who do not have the right to work in the UK, then the firm can currently be fined up to £20,000 for each illegal worker. The government intends to increase the fines to £45,000 per illegal worker for a first-time offender. Second or repeat offenders could be fined up to £60,000 per illegal worker employed by them.

In addition to the financial consequences, if your business already has a sponsor licence to sponsor overseas workers then you are putting the licence at risk of suspension or revocation. If the company plans to apply for a sponsor licence it is unlikely that you will be successful if you received a recent fine for employing workers who do not have the right to work in the UK. That is because the Home Office relies on sponsor licence holders to comply with their licence reporting and recording duties to help police immigration rules and policies and needs to be able to trust licence holders.

The sponsor licence

To employ a construction worker on a skilled worker visa, your company needs a sponsor licence from the Home Office. It is an investment in time and money but it gives you access to global talent provided the construction jobs you want to fill are on a list of approved jobs with a standard occupational classification code.

Smaller building companies can be put off from applying for a sponsor licence because they do not realise that the immigration rules and the skilled worker visa allow them to recruit the workers they need from overseas. The other deterrent for smaller businesses is the thought of applying for a sponsor licence to sponsor skilled worker visa holders and managing the licence. Our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can carry out a pre-application audit and apply for you. We can then manage the licence on your behalf with our sponsor licence management service at a fixed monthly fee.

For advice on applying for a sponsor licence call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

The skilled worker visa for construction jobs

The Home Office maintains a list of occupations that meet the eligibility criteria for a skilled worker visa provided the applicant meets the individual criteria. For example, the applicant has a job offer and the sponsoring employer will be paying the minimum salary threshold for the specific job. The minimum salary threshold is set by the government and depends on the job role.

Each eligible job has a standard occupational classification code allocated to it. In addition to this list, it is worth checking if a construction job is on the shortage occupation list. That is because a job on the shortage occupation list can be paid at a lower minimum salary threshold than a job that is not on the shortage list.

Following recommendations by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the government has reviewed and updated the shortage occupation list. The additional construction occupations placed on the list with their code are:

  • Bricklayers and masons 5312
  • Roofers, roof tilers and slaters 5313
  • Carpenters and joiners 5315
  • Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified 5319
  • Plasterers 5321

Construction jobs that are on the general occupation list as eligible for skilled worker visa applicants are currently:

2436 Construction project managers and related professionals Contract manager (building construction)
Project manager (building construction)
5241 Electricians and electrical fitters Electrical contractor
Electrical engineer
Electrical fitter
5311 Steel erectors Steel erector
Steel fabricator
Steel worker (structural engineering)
5312 Bricklayers and masons Bricklayer
Dry stone waller
Stone mason
5313 Roofers, roof tilers and slaters Mastic asphalt spreader
Roof tiler
Roofing contractor
5314 Plumbers and heating and ventilating engineers Gas engineer
Gas service engineer
Heating and ventilating engineer
Heating engineer
Plumbing and heating engineer
5315 Carpenters and joiners Carpenter
Carpenter and joiner
Kitchen fitter
5316 Glaziers, window fabricators and fitters Glass Cutter
Installer (double glazing)
Window fabricator
Window fitter
5319 Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified Acoustician
Building Contractor
Maintenance manager (buildings and other structures)
Property developer (building construction)
5321 Plasterers Dryliner
Fibrous plasterer
Plastering contractor
5322 Floorers and wall tilers Carpet fitter
Ceramic tiler
Flooring contractor
Mosaic floor layer
5323 Painters and decorators Artexer
French polisher
Paper hanger
Ship sprayer
Wood stainer
5330 Construction and building trades supervisors Builder’s foreman
Construction foreman
Construction Supervisor
Maintenance Supervisor
Site foreman


This relatively long list comes as a surprise to some construction firms who have perhaps assumed that after Brexit they are unable to recruit from overseas.

Ready to apply for a sponsor licence to sponsor construction workers

If your business is not already a licensed sponsor, you must apply for a Home Office sponsor licence before you can begin sponsoring workers under the skilled worker visa route.

The Sponsorship Licence lawyers at OTS Solicitors can help you with:

  • Pre-sponsor licence application advice on your HR systems and record keeping to ensure you are ready to apply
  • Advice on the choice of key personnel
  • Sponsor licence applications
  • Sponsor licence management service
  • Sponsor licence training for key personnel
  • Sponsor licence reporting and recording duty compliance and your options if your sponsor licence is at risk of suspension or revocation
  • Sponsor licence renewal applications
  • Help with certificate of sponsorship allocation
  • Advice on skilled worker visa and dependant visa applications

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

For immigration advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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