Globalization and international recruitment are increasingly important in today's business landscape. As labour markets tighten and free movement ends, employers are forced to face the challenge and harness the benefits of recruiting from overseas. In a recent podcast
on globalisation and the world of work, Simon Bellm
, Adam Williams
, and Alexei Zuyev
discussed the recruitment of non-settled workers in the context of UK immigration law.
Visa sponsorship as a solution
The changing labour market and the end of free movement have made immigration control a recurring issue in recruitment. To overcome this challenge, employers are considering visa sponsorship as a solution. However, they also need to consider the costs and compliance burdens associated with recruiting non-settled workers.
Benefits of becoming a licensed sponsor
Becoming a sponsor can bring several benefits to UK based operations. The most obvious benefit is the ability to attract talented individuals from other countries, helping address skill shortages and filling difficult-to-recruit positions. Sponsoring workers allows businesses to access a wider pool of talent and bring in individuals with specialised skills and expertise. It provides demand-driven access to a global talent pool, where non-sponsors are dependant on supply of workers who already have (or can obtain) the right to work in the UK for themselves.
A sponsor license can also be a tool to help attract and retain talent within the UK. It provides potential employees, especially those on student or graduate visas, with a long-term career path in the UK (through the potential to switch to an employer-sponsored work visa). Being a licensed sponsor also gives businesses a competitive advantage in the marketplace, showing their commitment to investing, in and supporting, their workforce.
Becoming a sponsor also has compliance and risk management benefits. It requires businesses to meet certain compliance obligations and demonstrate systems to monitor and manage sponsored workers, which should increase diligence and reduce scope for issues such as deficient right to work checks. This helps ensure compliance with the law and minimizes the risk of non-compliance.
Common challenges associated with visa sponsorship
Before sponsoring a worker, employers must determine if the role is eligible for work-visa sponsorship. The role must meet minimum skills and salary thresholds. The cost is another important consideration. Sponsoring workers can be expensive, especially for long-term sponsorships where the employer will cover some or all of the costs of the employee and their family.
The timeline of the process is another crucial factor. Some employers require candidates to start within a short period. Without a sponsor license, the process can take weeks to months to set up. While there are ways to expedite the process, these options are not always available and are rarely guaranteed to hit any internal deadline.
To apply for a sponsor license, businesses need to analyse their needs, select the appropriate visa route(s), gather key documents, prepare a supporting letter, complete an online application form, identify key personnel, submit the application, respond to any requests for information or visits from UKVI, and await license approval.
Another important consideration is the additional duties and risks associated with holding a sponsor licence. The Home Office expects licensed sponsors to have a higher degree of commitment to compliance with relevant laws and regulations, and to actively assist and co-operate with it in its prevention of illegal working. Businesses need to ensure they have the capacity and relevant HR systems and/or external advice and support in place, to monitor compliance and fulfil obligations. Training of the key individuals responsible for managing the licence will be key.
Once a sponsor license is in place, the process for securing a skilled worker visa for each migrant worker will be much quicker with various fast-track options being available for the majority of the applications.
Alternative visa solutions
While work-visa sponsorship is the principal option for employers, the sophisticated approach involves consideration of alternative routes which may be more suitable or cost-effective for certain individuals. Youth mobility schemes, ancestral links to the UK, recognition as a leader in their field, sponsored internship schemes, and being a graduate of a particular course/university are examples of how other routes may present themselves, often avoiding the need for direct employer-sponsorship. Therefore, support and expertise at an early stage of a recruitment process to identify possible alternative routes that are more optimal could pay dividends.
For a more detailed analysis of the above points please listen to our podcast in full.