What is a Standard Occupation Classification in Business Immigration
What is a SOC? Many of us are guilty of using abbreviations and immigration solicitors can be just as bad as many other professionals for ‘talking in code’. In this article our Sponsorship Licence lawyers take a look at what they mean when they refer to a SOC code when talking to sponsoring employers about best practice when allocating a certificate of sponsorship to a skilled worker visa applicant.
UK Online and London Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers
What does SOC stand for?
In business immigration the abbreviation SOC is short for ‘standard occupation classification’ although you may also see SOC being used as an abbreviation for ‘standard occupation code’.
What is a standard occupation classification?
A standard occupation classification is a job description. For business immigration purposes, unless a job has a standard occupation classification (and corresponding code) a sponsoring employer cannot recruit an overseas worker to fill a vacancy.
What is a SOC code?
The SOC code is a four-digit number that originates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The important point is that unless a job is classified as an eligible occupation for a skilled worker visa with a SOC a business cannot sponsor a worker for the job vacancy.
SOC codes in practice
Sponsorship Licence lawyers are quizzed about the UK points-based immigration system and immigration rules because to many employers if they hold a sponsor licence and they have a genuine job vacancy, that they can't fill by recruiting a UK based worker, they should be able to hire an overseas worker on a skilled worker visa (or if they are an international company be able to transfer an employee to work in the UK on an intra company transfer visa).
The immigration rules don’t work that way as unless a job is on the government produced list of jobs with a standard occupation classification, and corresponding code, a sponsor licence holder can't allocate a certificate of sponsorship to a successful overseas job applicant to enable them to apply for a skilled worker visa.
Take the restaurant sector as an example of how SOC codes work and their complexities. Current restaurant and café jobs with a standard occupation classification include:
- Restaurant and catering establishment managers and proprietors (code 1223)
- Chefs (code 5434)
- Catering and bar managers (code 5436).
The government then goes onto give related job titles for each SOC code. This means, for example, that for code 1223 job vacancies with the job titles of café owner or fish & chip shopkeeper or operations manager (catering) or restaurant manager or shop manager (take-away food shop) – all fall within the SOC 1223.
If a restaurant owner tries to recruit an overseas worker with a job title of ‘front of house’ then the job does not fall within the definition of ‘catering establishment manager’ or fall within the job-related titles for code 1223.
This is where Sponsorship Licence lawyers can help restaurant owners with sponsor licences as whilst a waiter is not going to fall within the SOC a person with the job title ‘front of house’ may in actual fact be within the definition of an operations manager, depending on the size of the restaurant and the detailed job description.
Alternatively, the front of house role may better fit the SOC 5436 ‘catering and bar managers’ as the job titles for SOC 5436 include floor manager (restaurant) as well as bar manager, catering manager, kitchen manager and steward (club).
The right SOC is important as each SOC has a prescribed ‘going rate’ and the going rate for the SOC will affect the minimum salary threshold eligibility criteria for the skilled worker visa applicant.
For example, the going rate for SOC code 1223 jobs is £21,000 (£10.36 per hour). For code 5434 jobs it is £18,900 per year ( £9.32 per hour) . For code 5436 jobs it is £18,400 (£9.07 per hour). A sponsor licence holder has to pay a skilled worker visa applicant either the minimum salary threshold of £25,600 per year or eighty per cent of the going rate for the job, whichever is the higher figure.
Does the standard occupation classification really matter?
SOC codes do matter even though Sponsorship Licence lawyers understand the frustrations of restaurant owners and other sponsor licence holders when it comes to matching a job vacancy to a SOC code.
The SOC code is important because the right SOC on a certificate of sponsorship shows the Home Office that the skilled worker visa applicant has a job offer from the sponsoring employer that meets the skill criteria and minimum salary threshold for the skilled worker visa.
The SOC code also matters because if a job does not match a SOC code the sponsoring employer should not allocate a certificate of sponsorship to the skilled worker visa applicant. If the sponsor licence holder does do so then the Home Office could reject the work visa application. In addition, the Home Office could conduct an audit of the sponsor licence. If the Home Office official concludes there has been inaccurate SOC descriptions on certificates of sponsorship then the Home Office could decide to suspend or even revoke the sponsor licence.
Accordingly, while it can take time to get standard occupation classifications right and matched to the job description it is essential to do so to minimise the risk of skilled worker visa applications being rejected or consequences for the sponsor licence.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers