As a tech start-up, what steps do we need to do, to secure a visa for our candidate?

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This is a very common scenario and very often prospective employers are sometimes put off from what is seemingly a daunting process, as they feel that they are being asked to jump over so many hurdles in order to recruit someone who would ultimately be benefiting their business which in turn supports the wider economy UK economy.

I find that the best way to think about the Home Office Sponsorship process is in two distinct parts. Firstly, being able to demonstrate that you have genuinely tried to fill the role from the UK labour market but that there were no suitable candidates. Secondly, you will need to be able to show the Home Office that you are a responsible employer that takes its immigration compliance obligations seriously.

The actual application process is a 4-stage process based on this particular scenario when trying to recruit directly from overseas.

Stage 1 – Resident Labour Market Test vs Shortage Occupation?

If the role in question is part of the Shortage Occupation List then the Home Office does not require a Resident Labour Market Test (a 28 day recruitment campaign) to have been completed and the application for a Sponsor Licence can be made straightaway.

If the role is not considered, as being one in shortage occupation and is on the regular List of Skilled Occupations then the position must first be advertised on 2 online platforms (one of which must be Universal Jobmatch) for at least 28 days prior to the Sponsorship Licence application being submitted in order to be able to demonstrate that no workers already in the UK could fill the role.

Stage 2- Sponsor Licence Application

Once the recruitment campaign has been concluded on the basis that no suitable workers in the UK were found then the business would normally apply to the Home Office for the Sponsor Licence.

In order for the business to obtain a Sponsorship Licence to employ someone from outside the European Economic Area (‘EEA’), it must provide certain documentation to satisfy the requirements of Home Office such as unaudited accounts, Employers Liability Certificates, bank statements etc. The business will also need to appoint an employee to manage the sponsorship process and be nominated as the contact between the Home Office and the business. Once the required documentation has been collected and roles allocated, the application for a Sponsorship Licence can be submitted.

Once submitted, the Home Office may want to conduct an inspection to make sure that a business is fully aware of it compliance obligations and that it has the required HR practices in place to be a responsible Sponsor Licence holder. It is unlikely that the Home will conduct a pre-authorisation visit where the business has been trading for over 18 months or if it does not fit the Home Office risk profiles.

If approved the Licence will last for 4 years and means that you can sponsor more overseas workers in the future should the need arise.

Stage 3 – Certificate of Sponsorship

Once approved the business will need to apply to the monthly Home Office allocation panel and set out their reasons as to why they require a Certificate of Sponsorship for the candidate in question and also explain the steps they have initially taken to try and recruit locally. In some instances the Home Office may want to see copies of the adverts, CV’s and interview notes before granting the Certificate of Sponsorship.

If the Home Office are satisfied and not too many UK businesses are applying for the Certificates of Sponsorship all at the same time then the business will be granted a Certificate of Sponsorship for the candidate to use in their personal visa application.

Stage 4 – Visa Application

This is the final stage in the process and the prospective employee will have to complete an online application form providing their personal details and quote their Certificate of Sponsorship unique number in that application.  Following the application they will usually need to visit the relevant local visa application centre closest to them in order to provide their supporting documents and to enrol their biometric data. Typically the decision will follow within 15-30 working days (sometimes even quicker) granting them the visa to come to the UK to take up their new role.

The process is not as cumbersome as it may first appear when reading the Home Office information but with careful planning and understanding of the processes and timescales the ability to sponsor overseas workers can be relatively a straightforward undertaking.

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