Foreign interest in UK jobs
has doubled under post-Brexit
immigration system

According to data shared by jobs platform Indeed last week, foreign interest in UK jobs has doubled since the government launched its post-Brexit points-based immigration system, particularly from non-EU countries including India and Nigeria.

Indeed’s analysis looked at job searches and clicks on British roles advertised on the platform, and the IP location from which the activity originated.

The data revealed that the share of job searches by foreign nationals increased to 5.5% in June 2023, compared to just 2.2% during the pandemic low point in April 2021. Foreign searches also remain well above the average of 3.5% recorded in 2017 – 2019. According to the analysis, the roles receiving most interest from overseas nationals were social care and software development jobs.

This surge in interest may be good news for some employers who are struggling to fill roles with domestic workers and are considering international recruitment to help plug gaps in their workforce.

However, those navigating the sponsorship system for the first time are often daunted by the complex requirements placed on businesses applying for a sponsor licence. The UK’s post-Brexit immigration system is also expensive, with the government charging various immigration fees that are among the highest in the world.

Those businesses that do wish to take advantage of growing interest from overseas talent should ensure they are prepared to meet the strict compliance obligations placed on sponsors and the associated fees.

The UK’s post-Brexit immigration system

The UK’s points-based immigration system was launched in January 2021, following the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU). As a consequence of Brexit, UK employers lost the ability to freely recruit workers from the EU, and anyone without an existing right to work in the UK must now apply for a visa.

The post-Brexit immigration system treats all visa applicants equally, whether they are EU or non-EU nationals. Anyone applying for a visa to work in the UK must meet certain criteria for which they score points, meaning visas are granted based on the skills a person can bring, not where they are from.

However, various changes that were brought in with the points-based system have made it easier than before for non-EU nationals to obtain a UK work visa. Lower skill and salary thresholds under the Skilled Worker route mean more roles are eligible for sponsorship, and employers are no longer required to prove that they could not fill the role with a domestic worker before applying to sponsor an overseas national.

In February 2022, the government also added care workers and home carers to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), making these roles eligible for sponsorship under the Health and Care Worker route, a sub-category of the Skilled Worker route.

In the year ending June 2023, care workers and home carers comprised around 50% of visas granted under the Health and Care Worker visa category. Indian nationals were the top nationality to be granted a visa in this category.

The data from Indeed appears to support this trend towards non-EU migration. Of the 5.5% of job searches carried out from overseas, the majority (4.1%) were from non-EU regions. Among the top locations of these job searches were India, Nigeria, South Africa and Pakistan.

Key considerations for employers

If your business is contemplating taking advantage of this growing interest and beginning an international recruitment drive, there are several important areas to consider.

If your company is not already licensed to sponsor overseas workers, you will need to apply for a sponsor licence before your new recruits can apply for a Skilled Worker visa. As part of the application process, you will need to show the Home Office that you have robust HR systems and processes in place to enable you to meet your compliance duties. Once the sponsor licence is in place, you will be able to begin assigning Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to the individual workers you wish to hire.

You will also need to nominate suitable members of staff within your organisation to take on ‘key personnel’ roles and take responsibility for the ongoing management of your licence including upholding record keeping and reporting requirements. The Home Office takes sponsor compliance extremely seriously and unannounced compliance visits to your business premises can happen at any time. For this reason, it is essential to be aware of your sponsor duties and have internal processes in place to ensure ongoing compliance.

Perhaps the most pressing concern expressed by new sponsors is how much it costs to bring overseas workers to the UK via the Home Office sponsorship routes. The exact amount you will need to budget per sponsored worker will vary depending on a range of factors including how long you intend to sponsor them for, where they are applying for their visa from, and whether you intend to utilise any of the Home Office’s priority services.

Costs you will need to consider at the start of your sponsorship journey include, but are not limited to:

Keeping costs down

With the already high Home Office fees set to rise even more this year, many employers are considering ways to keep costs down whilst still onboarding the overseas talent they need to grow their business.

Sponsorship fees, including the sponsor licence application fee, CoS fee and ISC must be paid by the sponsoring employer and cannot be passed onto the visa applicant. Other fees relating to the individual applicant such as the visa fees and IHS can either be covered by the business or the employee.

Many employers opt to reduce costs by requiring employees to pay the visa and IHS fees for themselves and / or any accompanying dependants. However, businesses that do opt to pay for their employees’ visa fees can seek to protect their investment in their sponsored workers by implementing “clawback” agreements to recoup some of these costs from the worker if employment terminates early. Employers are advised to seek specialist advice before implementing such agreements.

Expert support with business immigration

If you require support with your sponsor licence application or any other aspect of immigration compliance, Smith Stone Walters can help. To discuss your requirements with a member of our team, please contact us today.

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