It’s no secret that the U.K., while possessing many industry-leading organisations, has found itself at the mercy of a growing skills gap in recent years. While there are apprenticeships and training programmes available to help boost the skills to be found in the U.K. labour market, increasing a countries skill set can take time. Until those programmes start to take effect, and companies start to be able to recruit the workers they need with homegrown talents, companies are often forced to look further afield to attract the skills they require to fill their employment needs.
In the last couple of years, we’ve seen an increase in remote working, largely due to organisations becoming more flexible to this approach as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has helped many businesses to recruit workers from all over the world, most of whom never need to leave their homes to fulfil their working responsibilities. There are other industries however who require their workers to be physically present who have been affected by the skills gap, and some additionally so due to Brexit.
Temporary agricultural workers, lab workers in the biomedical field and mechanical engineers who may need to conduct field work, are all examples of workers in industries where the U.K. has a shortage of workers.
They’re also all roles which aren’t able to filled by remote workers. Luckily, under the recent changes to the U.K. immigration system, there are visa routes available which can help organisations to recruit workers from overseas with the appropriate skills and abilities.
The first of these routes is called the High Potential Individual Visa, and it allows workers born overseas, with high-level qualifications to come to the U.K. to live and work. While it is possible for an applicant for the HPI visa to come to the U.K. and pursue unemployment, they are also able to use this visa to work for an existing business.
The HPI visa’s purpose is to allow individuals who have the equivalent of a U.K. bachelors degree or higher, to fulfil their potential by working with world leading organisations based in the U.K., before returning to their home nation with increased experience. In this way the visa can be seen to benefit the applicant as it increase their opportunity to use their skill, the organisation as it allows them to recruit a skillset which may not be available to them in their home labour market, and lastly the applicants home nation, as they’re able to return with additional experience they couldn’t gain at home.
The result of this is that the HPI has a limited eligibility of two years for those with a bachelors degree or equivalent, and three years for those with a doctorate or equivalent. The visa is also unable to be renewed as the intention is for the individual to eventually return to their nation of origin. While this does provide flexibility both for the applicant and the employer, if your organisation finds that it wants to retain the employee at the end of the fixed term, then they may be eligible to switch to the second visa type we’re discussing here.
Employers are able to apply to hold a U.K. sponsor licence, which as the name suggests, allows them to sponsor an overseas candidate to live and work within the U.K. If your application is accepted, then the Home Office will issue you with a sponsor licence rating, which by default starts at a rating of A. This means that your organisation is able to sponsor people to fill roles within your business. As long as your new employee continues to meet the terms set by the Home Office for their visa, then your rating should remain the same and you’ll be able to sponsor further workers as and when you need.
HPI Visa Benefits
Unlike the HPI visa however, visas obtained through a sponsor licence are linked to the employer continuing to have a role for the employee. This means that the employer has more responsibility to the visa holder than they would if they simply employed someone with an HPI visa. If the person working for you under your sponsor licence breaches the terms of their visa, then your business has a responsibility to report these breaches to the Home Office.
If this happens, the Home Office may downgrade your sponsor licence to a rating of B. This effectively suspends your ability to host new workers under your sponsor licence, but all is not lost. If your licence is downgraded to a B rating, you can contact the UKVI, who will be able to help you take steps to recover your A rating. For a set fee, they will help you to create and action plan to correct any issues. Once the action plan is completed and they’re satisfied, the Home Office will be able to reinstate your licences A rating and you’ll be able to sponsor workers once again.
Applying for a sponsor licence does incur a cost for your business, and depending on the size of your business, that cost could vary between £536 and £1476. A small business or charitable organisation will be eligible to pay the former, with medium to large enterprises eligible to pay the latter.
For any business, cost can be a factor in making decisions, especially when the hiring and onboarding process itself can be such an investment. It can become tempting for businesses to try and recoup some of the cost of an application of this nature, by following a do it yourself route and attempting to complete the process without assistance.
It is of course entirely possible for a business to work through the forms and use Home Office guidance to apply for either visa route mentioned here, but it doesn’t come recommended. As with any immigration process, it can become complex and in terms of the sponsor licence that can end up costing a business more than it might otherwise. If your application is rejected, any fees you have paid are non-refundable and the decision can not be appealed.
You may be able to request an administrative review, but this doesn’t guarantee that the decision would be changed. If you then choose to re-apply, you would be required to pay the fees again for the new application. As a result it’s recommended that you retain the services of a firm of immigration specialists, to ensure that you can navigate the process as smoothly as possible.As an Amazon Associate, Icy Canada earns from qualifying purchases.