The recruitment squeeze

With the number of job vacancies remaining near all-time highs and fewer people than ever actively seeking work, businesses are continuing to struggle to recruit staff to fill vacancies. One option for employers is to look outside the UK and Ireland and recruit international talent. In order to access this talent employers will need to interact with the UK’s points-based immigration system.

 What is the points-based system?

Broadly speaking in order for a UK employer to hire a worker who is not from the UK or Ireland, the worker must have an appropriate leave to enter the UK and to work. For many workers the most appropriate route will be the Skilled Worker route. An employer must sponsor skilled workers before they can apply to enter or remain in the UK for a job – the ‘points-based’ system.

Why might it matter to me?

As an employer based in the UK, you may be used to having benefitted from the access to the EU talent pool that free movement via membership of the European Union brought. Generally speaking any EU national (here used as shorthand for EU, EEA and Swiss nationals) previously had the right to move to the UK to look for or take up employment. All that changed from 1 January 2021. Instead, EU nationals who don’t have settled or pre-settled status are now treated in virtually the same way as nationals from any other country for the purposes of taking up employment.

How does the points-based system work?


Getting a sponsor licence

Employers require a sponsor licence to hire any workers from outside the UK under the Skilled Worker route.

As part of the application, employers must:

  • provide information about their organisation;
  • select key personnel to be responsible for day-to-day duties and administration of sponsorship;
  • pay the application fee of £1,476 or £536 dependent upon size; and
  • employers may also be subject to online or on-site inspections from compliance officers.

Sponsors are expected to ensure that immigration laws are upheld and not abused, and to play a role in monitoring and reporting migrant activities, maintain specified records and report any changes or issues with a migrant, or their own statuses.

In our experience, it usually takes three to five weeks to prepare a sponsor licence application and then a further eight weeks for it to be approved by the Home Office, though priority services are available.

Sponsoring a migrant

Once an employer with a sponsor licence has identified a migrant that it wishes to sponsor, it needs to assess the eligibility of the role and the migrant.

The main requirements are as follows:

  • Skill – the role must be skilled at RQF level 3 (equivalent to A-Level) or above and migrant must be at that skill level.
  • Salary – the applicant must usually be paid at least £25,600 per annum (or the going rate for the role if higher), though there are reduced thresholds for ‘new-entrants’ and jobs on the ‘shortage occupation’ list:
      • Migrants are awarded points for salary and some of these points are tradeable so that the migrant does not need to meet the usual salary threshold in all circumstances.
      • The applicant must meet the minimum English language and maintenance requirements (although maintenance can be certified by the sponsor).
      • The application may need a clear TB test, depending on their country of residence.

The sponsor and migrant will need to pay a number of fees, including the following:

  • Usually the sponsor will need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) – £1,000 for each migrant worker (or £364 for charities and small companies);
      • There is also a fee of £199 associated with sponsorships;
      • The migrant will need to pay a visa application fee, for a standard 3 year visa the fee is £625;
      • The migrant will also need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge which for a 3 year visa is £1,872:
  • The sponsor sometimes pays these latter two, as otherwise it is not financially feasible for the migrant to accept the role and relocate.
  • UK Skilled Workers may be joined or accompanied by a dependent partner over the age of 18 and/or dependent children under the age of 18, but there are substantial fees to be paid in relation to their applications as well, which need to be factored in.

Business considerations

Consider carefully whether your business needs to become a licensed sponsor. It is sufficiently difficult to find the right candidates for skilled roles in your business, that the costs detailed above would be worth incurring to secure fresh talent.

If so, then licenced sponsorship status may be a necessity and the business should consider applying for it soon. This is so you can be prepared to offer the role to the right candidate when they come along. Otherwise, you could be left waiting months before you can make a genuine offer because your business is not already a licenced sponsor and you need to prepare, submit & await the outcome of your application.

How can we help?

Druces support a large number of businesses of varying sizes to obtain sponsor licences, sponsor migrants and deal with the visa application process. We offer an end-to-end service, which can be tailored to suit you, depending on how much support you need and your budget. We can then support you with maintaining your licence and dealing with potential compliance issues that arise during the life of your licence.

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