Securing International Talent – How Global Recruiters Can Secure Highly-Skilled Non-EEA Employees


OTS Solicitors is highly recommended in the Legal 500 for Immigration and Human Rights law.  We have also been selected by the 2017 Global Excellence Awards as the Most Trusted in Immigration law: UK.  We provide the best legal advice to businesses and individuals throughout the UK, South East Asia, Russia and the Middle East.

The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world and operates on a truly international scale.  Many industries are reliant on securing and maintaining international talent to grow their business and meet customer demands.  According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the main sectors which hired non-EEA staff in 2016 were:

  • Transport and communication
  • Banking and finance
  • Public administration, education, and health
  • Wholesale and retail trade (including hospitality)

In addition, a majority of non-EEA workers employed by UK companies were in the high or upper-middle group of skill-by-occupation and they earned a high level of gross hourly pay.

International recruiters need to be alive to the issues surrounding recruiting non-EEA workers for companies inside the UK.  One of the best ways to keep up to date is to work with an experienced Immigration solicitor.  The British government has been focused on reducing the number of foreign workers entering the UK over the past five years, to the point of introducing policies to deliberately discourage employers from hiring outside the EEA (and this will soon extend to outside Britain once the country formally leaves the EU, if recent trends are anything to go by).  Examples of this include introducing the Immigration Skills Charge of £1,000 per non-EEA worker per year and insisting a Tier 2 migrant has a minimum salary of £35,000 before being permitted to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after five years in the UK.  This can leave global recruiters feeling like there are simply too many hurdles to overcome to place a non-EEA national into a UK-based position, even if they are the best candidate for the job.  However, by working with an Immigration lawyer, you can quickly understand the best practices for ensuring the organisation looking for the candidate is set up to employ the best person, regardless of their nationality.

Getting a Tier 2 or 5 Sponsor Licence

Any employer who wants to hire non-EEA nationals must have a Tier 2 or 5 Sponsor Licence.   To be eligible to apply, the sponsor must:

  • Be a genuine company and operating lawfully within the UK
  • Hold any planning permission required for the type of business they operate
  • Be honest, dependable, and reliable and not threaten UK Immigration control
  • Have the necessary HR systems in place to comply with the duties and responsibilities set out in the Sponsor Guidance

There is a seven-stage procedure to follow when applying for a Sponsor Licence.  An Immigration solicitor can manage this for a busy organisation, ensuring that all aspects of the application procedure run smoothly, wasting neither time nor money.

The seven stages a company needs to follow to obtain a licence as follows:

  1. decide which categories/tiers it wishes to include on its licence
  2. assess its eligibility and suitability for each category/tier and make any relevant changes to its HR systems
  3. decide who will be the 'Key Personnel'
  4. get together the appropriate documents for submission with the application
  5. decide how many Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) it wishes to request for the first year of the licence—this does not apply for restricted CoS under Tier 2 (General)
  6. submit the online application and hard-copy documents
  7. where relevant, prepare for and attend the Home Office site visit to the organisation's offices
  8. receive the decision

Sponsor Licence duties and responsibilities

Obtaining a UK Sponsor Licence is only the beginning of the process.  The Home Office places many duties and responsibilities on Sponsor Licence holders and if full compliance is not met, the licence can be downgraded, suspended, or revoked.  This can lead to the organisation being unable to apply for any further Certificates of Sponsorship (COS).  A COS is an electronic document which must be provided to a Tier 2 migrant so that they can gain entry-clearance into the UK.  Without the ability to issue a COS, a business cannot recruit any further talent from outside the EEA.  Revocation of a Sponsor Licence can lead to even more serious ramifications. Namely, any employees on a Tier 2 visa may be required to return to their home country if they cannot find another employer to sponsor them.

Most of the compliance responsibilities focus on ensuring that all migrant employees have a legal right to work in the UK.  Therefore, it is imperative that Right to Work checks are done correctly for all new employees (this averts any risk of being accused of discrimination).  If a company is found to have an illegal migrant working for them (this usually results from a migrant’s visa expiring rather than companies deliberately hiring illegal workers, despite what is trumpeted in by some UK media), the licence holder can face a penalty of £20,000 for each illegal worker and their licence may be immediately revoked.

In addition, unless the position being recruited for is on the Shortage Occupation List, a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) must be run by the hiring company.  This is designed to ensure there are no UK or EEA citizens who are qualified to undertake the position being filled.

Compliance is easy, with the right support

Global recruitment professionals and companies need support when it comes to placing international talent in the UK.  Sponsor Licence compliance is relatively simple, if the organisation has the right HR processes and procedures in place. 

Working with an experienced Immigration solicitor allows those who place highly-skilled non-EEA nationals in UK-based positions to understand what is required by the hiring company.  Unfortunately, many businesses put all their focus on obtaining a licence without understanding the responsibilities surrounding record-keeping and updating the Sponsor Management System (SMS).

Our business immigration solicitors can assist international recruitment specialists and organisations with understanding their compliance obligations.  In fact, we can even manage the entire process on an employer’s behalf, from obtaining the Sponsor Licence to updating the SMS.

By entrusting our solicitors to advise you on UK immigration law, you can concentrate on doing what you do best – finding the best people for the job, regardless of where in the world they come from.

OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected immigration law firms in London and is a Legal 500 leading firm.  By making an appointment with one of our business immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today.  Contact us on 0203 959 9123 to speak to one of our Immigration consultants.


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