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Obtaining a Sponsor Licence for Migrant Workers in 2023

John Grant

Published byJohn Grant

5th April 2023

Obtaining a Sponsor Licence for Migrant Workers in 2023

As the UK and Scottish Governments grapple with addressing skills shortages across the UK, WJM’s John Grant discusses the process of obtaining a sponsor licence for migrant workers in 2023.

When it comes to taking on a new employee, finding the right person for the job is vital. Hiring internationally affords the opportunity to tap into a global pool of talent, but when recruiting staff members from overseas, there is a legal requirement to obtain a Home Office sponsor licence which many employers find complicated and difficult to navigate.

Obtaining a licence to employ workers from abroad remains topical years on from Brexit, particularly in industries such as hospitality, which is facing an ongoing recruitment crisis. Employers are now taking strategic action in a bid to trade effectively in adverse market conditions, such as making calls to be put on this year’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL), which would make it easier for business to recruit from abroad, as well as petitioning for a hospitality worker visa scheme.

However, at present, there are no plans for the Home Office to introduce such a route for recruitment, meaning that employers are responsible for ensuring each employee has the right to work in the UK, which means completing a compliant right to work check before hiring.

Throughout the UK, large parts of the hospitality industry are reliant on overseas workers due to a high turnover of staff. However, the industry is still playing catch up on recruitment in the aftermath of the pandemic, given the fact many workers were made redundant by employers during periods of lockdown. This saw many employees travel back to their home countries, many of whom have never returned. Employers are now desperate for these empty vacancies to be filled, and according to a recent survey of 24 nations, the UK has become one of the most accepting places for foreign workers in the hopes that they can fill gaping skills gaps.

Despite this, in November last year, a report published by Personnel Today claimed that just 3 per cent of UK employers have a sponsor licence that enables them to recruit EU and non-EU workers. Following an analysis of the UK government’s current list of sponsors, only 50,000 out of an estimated 1.4 million private sector employers in Britain reportedly hold a licence.

The low number of UK sponsor licence holders comes amid growing skills shortages in Britain. Since 2020, the number of UK employers with a sponsor licence has only increased by 1.5 per cent. Many employers who haven’t had the chance to interact with the system before could potentially have been put off by the prospect of costs and perceived administrative burden associated with applying for a sponsor licence.

Even so, employing people from other countries has a variety of benefits for businesses. As well as filling the gaps in high-skilled positions, many internationally trained workers are multilingual and can offer cultural expertise to aid the development of organisations.

Often the obtaining of such a licence can appear to be highly complicated as the online submission form and supporting documents run to hundreds of pages. It’s important to note that while this may feel incredibly complex, there is a lot of support out there. Our team of conflict dispute and employment law solicitors offer advice to those who may be struggling to acquire skilled staff and are looking to recruit from overseas.

If you’d like assistance with applying for a sponsor licence or to find out more about how we can help with the process, contact us today.

The information contained in this newsletter is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of relevant law and practice as at April 2023. Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP cannot be held responsible for any action taken or not taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be taken on any individual matter. Transmissions to or from our email system and calls to or from our offices may be monitored and/or recorded for regulatory purposes. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office: 302 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5RZ. A limited liability partnership registered in Scotland, number SO 300336.