The UK is experiencing a severe shortage of skilled employees, due to the dwindling pool of readily available EU workers. There are currently openings in the majority of economic sectors, including 42,000 in construction, 60,000 in transportation, 170,000 in food and lodging, and 200,000 in care. The new immigration system has made it somewhat easier for UK businesses to fill positions with qualified professionals from outside of the country.
The UK skills shortage list
The UK shortage occupation list is a comprehensive list of jobs that the UK government has identified as being underrepresented in the local labor market. The requirements for applicants seeking sponsored work visas are more lenient if their jobs are on the list. For instance, a job offer for an occupation on the shortage list counts for 20 tradeable points under the points-based immigration system.
The list of skills shortages has significantly expanded as a result of the pandemic and Brexit instability. Many technical jobs, such as electricians, plumbers, and IT user support technicians, for example, would previously not have qualified for the old Tier 2 (General) visa. But they do so now under the Skilled Worker visa.
There are also many more office positions that qualify for the Skilled Worker visa, including sales executives and office managers. The list also includes teaching assistants, gardeners, chefs, shopkeepers, ticket inspectors, estate brokers, and shopkeepers.
How to employ overseas skilled workers
The UK government has very strict regulations when it comes to hiring employees from overseas, including those from the EU and EEA. Firstly, you will need to obtain a sponsor license if the company does not already have one in place.
A sponsor license is a broad authorization from the UK Home Office that enables UK-based businesses to provide Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to workers who need them for their Skilled Worker visa applications. Obtaining a sponsor license can be challenging, so it’s worth using a professional service provider to ensure that all of your paperwork is in order and completed on time.
Skilled Worker visa
If you want to employ someone from overseas, aside from the company requiring a sponsorship license, the individual will also need to qualify for a Skilled Worker visa. With this visa, they can stay and work in the UK for up to five years before having to renew it or, if they have completed five years in the UK on a Skilled Worker visa, apply for indefinite leave to remain.
Candidates must gain 70 points under the UK’s points-based immigration system in order to be eligible for the Skilled Worker visa.
The mandatory requirements are:
- A job offer by an approved sponsor (20 points)
- The job is at an appropriate skill level (20 points)
- They can communicate in English at the required level (10 points)
- They can make up the remaining 20 points by earning a salary at the “going rate” for their occupation, having a job on the shortage list, or by holding a PhD in a subject relevant to their job or in a STEM subject.
Health and Care Worker visa
Healthcare workers may be eligible to apply for the Health and Care Worker visa. This route is the same as the Skilled Worker visa, with lower education requirements, lower application fees and holders do not need to pay the annual health surcharge of £624 per year per person.
This route also requires a job offer from an approved sponsor and has the same mandatory requirements as the Skilled Worker visa.
The Home Office has also expanded the shortage occupation list to include more occupations that fall under the healthcare and education category, including:
Health services and public health managers and directors
Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors
Health professionals not elsewhere classified
Senior care workers
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Despite the many benefits associated with hiring foreign talent, many employers are unwilling to take the leap. This is because they associate the idea of procuring international talent with a lengthy employment process through LMIA, wherein they must wait for several months to locate the talent, before embarking upon a complicated legal process while they obtain VISAs and other forms of documentation.