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With approximately three-quarters of businesses in the South West experiencing recruitment issues, there are a significant number who are increasingly needing to source talent from overseas. But what does this really involve?

If your business is in this position you will need to apply for and be granted a Skilled Worker sponsor licence from UK Visas and Immigration. This involves demonstrating that your organisation is lawfully operating in the UK and is honest, dependable and reliable. You will need to show that you have adequate HR systems in place and have genuine vacancies for eligible roles, which have a suitable rate of pay and skill level. You evidence this by providing specified documents. You would also need to clarify who in your organisation will act as the key personnel (Authorising Officer, Key Contact and Level One User) on the licence.

Once your licence is in place, it will be valid for four years. You will then be able to assign Certificates of Sponsorship (COS) to overseas workers, who could already be in the UK in another visa category or could arrive for the first time from overseas, provided certain requirements are met. They will then use their COS to apply for their visa to work for your organisation. You will have the option of renewing your licence at the end of this four year period. If your licence application is refused, you will be subject to a six-month cooling-off period, during which time you cannot apply again. During the lifetime of your licence you must meet certain duties around record keeping, reporting, compliance and cooperating with the Home Office in order to retain your licence.

Following the end of Free Movement, businesses are not able to recruit skilled workers from overseas without a licence. The competition for talent is fierce and organisations are on the back foot in terms of accessing talent if they don’t have one in place. Although the prospect of obtaining a licence can be daunting, the recent changes to the immigration system now means that with the right advice and support in place, businesses of all shapes and sizes can successfully apply for and maintain a sponsor licence, which opens up their recruitment pool significantly.

Our immigration team is on hand to assist you with the process of obtaining a sponsor licence and ensuring that you meet your requirements surrounding compliance. Lisa Mulholland is Partner and Head of Immigration at Stephens Scown. If you are seeking advice on this you can contact Lisa by calling 01392 210700 or by emailing [email protected].