Posted on Dec 02, 2015 by | 0 Comments
Immigration specialist, Grace McGill from McGill & Co has kindly prepared a guest blog article for us this week on the Frequently Asked Questions on employing overseas nationals in your business. Sponsorship can seem like a daunting prospect for some employers with complex rules and expensive penalties if you get it wrong, however, Grace’s post below gives a helpful overview of the process and potential benefits for businesses of offering sponsorship and engaging overseas nationals.
How do I employ an overseas national in my company?
This is a simple question that predictably has a complex answer. The first point is to differentiate between nationalities and visa types. Some overseas nationals will be able to work for your company without much trouble, because they are a national of an EEA state or because, despite not being an EEA national, they have an existing visa which permits employment without restrictions, such as a spouse visa. In all cases though, bearing in mind the substantial penalties levied against employers for illegal work, it is important to confirm the right to work of a potential employee, and the Home Office have established a checking service to allow this to be confirmed relatively easily.
For those overseas nationals either here or abroad who do not fall into the broad categories above, the main mechanism to permit work for your company is sponsorship.
What is sponsorship?
Sponsorship by an organisation of overseas national employees to permit their work here has been a feature of the UK’s immigration system for some time. In its present form, an employer must seek a sponsorship licence from the Home Office. This involves establishing the organisation’s legitimacy and credibility, and its ability to properly report on those whom it sponsors through effective HR systems. The licence application involves the provision of key company documents and background information. Increasingly the Home Office decision involves an assessment of the justification for requiring foreign workers.
Ok, so I have a sponsor licence, what next?
A sponsor licence permits the employer to issue a document known as a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) to an employee. This is then used in their applications for a visa, either to come to the UK or continue to reside here.
A COS must contain data about the salary to be paid and the occupation to be carried out. Salaries must be in accordance with published minimums, which change yearly. In addition generally only certain occupations which are regarded as skilled to degree level or above can be sponsored.
Before a COS is issued in many cases an employer must carry out what is known as the ‘Resident Labour Market Test’ to properly advertise the role to resident workers and justify why a foreign national is required. Certain exemptions to this requirement exist, including students who are coming to work after their degree here.
A further significant exemption is the Shortage Occupation List. This is a list of defined occupations which are recognised to be in shortage in the UK. These jobs do not have to be advertised and have streamlined procedures.
It is also worth bearing in mind that if someone is coming from abroad to work, rather than someone who is already here, the government has a fixed monthly limit of certificates. This is to attempt to control numbers. As a result an application must be made for a certificate from a monthly pool.
I have obtained a sponsor licence, navigated the rules about Certificates and my new overseas national employee is now working for me, can I relax?
A sponsor licence also imposes certain ongoing duties, including to maintain various records and to report proactively any changes to the business. This can range from changes in personnel to full mergers and takeovers, along with TUPE transfers. Ultimately the Home Office system seeks to impose the duty of monitoring foreign migrants to the company employing them and consequently wants to be informed of any changes that materially affect that position.
What are the benefits of engaging in this system?
If this short piece has been even mildly interesting you likely already have had experience with labour shortages. It is often tough to get good candidates with high skill levels in certain fields. Sponsorship, despite the relatively onerous conditions, allows the acquisition of skilled foreign talent. It can reinvigorate your business and open up new markets. In particular the right to work in the UK is sought after and an employer offering sponsorship can expect to receive loyalty and dedication from employees in return. Minimum salary rates are keen and competitive. Also, whilst the system may seem complex, it is no more complicated that many existing obligations and duties such as tax, or health and safety. There are also professionals who specialise exclusively in the field who can help.
McGill & Co