tech recruitment

June 3

Finding talent with tech recruitment


OTB Legal

Recruiting talent in the Tech Industry

This summer we are travelling the country speaking to tech businesses and entrepreneurs about the best visa options for recruitment the world’s best talent or establishing a cutting-edge business in the UK.

We understand that not everyone can make it to the events, and that even if you do it’s a lot of information to take in at once! So we’ve written a short FAQ about the most high profile options, and a few lesser known options, below.

If you would like to chat with us at one of the events, we will be at the following places this summer:

  • 12th June 2024 – London Tech Week, ExCel Arena, London
  • 08th July – 11th July 2024– Develop, Doubletree by Hilton Metropole, Brighton
  • 18th September 2024 – The Emergency Tech Show, NEC Birmingham

Drop us a line and we can arrange to talk, or you can book an online appointment using the link at the bottom of this article.

Tech recruitment, sponsor licences and skilled workers

What is a sponsor licence?

The idea behind a sponsor licence is to demonstrate to the Home Office that you are a legitimate business and that you agree to take responsibility for ensuring that your workers are complying with the terms of their work visas. Once the licence has been granted, you can request and assign certificates of sponsorships for prospective employees. These certificates allow you to sponsor the workers to work for you in relevant skilled roles.

What type of tech businesses does this suit?

Most! We have particular experience working with enterprise software development, IT architecture specialists and video game developers. Sponsor licences are particularly well suited to large scale recruitment in highly skilled roles because the process is reasonably quick and uniform. You’ll be requesting the same information and following the same process in each application.

You keep saying ‘highly skilled role’. What does this mean?

The immigration rules define which roles are considered highly skilled. Broadly these are roles considered to be a RQF Level 3 or above (A Levels or higher). Each role is defined by a SOC code (Standard Occupation Code) that is assessed by the office of national statistics.

Most tech sector roles will fall into the category of highly skilled but what tends to be more relevant is the precise occupation code as this affects the minimum salary that you need to pay the workers.

How long do I have to sponsor workers for?

In principal, as long as you like. There is no minimum period to sponsor a worker for and no time limit on how long they can stay in the route, although the maximum period they can apply for in a single application is five years. After a continuous period of five years in the UK on a skilled worker visa, your employee will be able to apply for indefinite leaver to remain which means you no longer need to sponsor them.

Most businesses will either sponsor for three years or for five years. Five years is usually the more cost-effective approach in the long term and benefits the worker because they have a greater degree of certainty that they will reach settlement. However, this does have a higher degree of upfront cost.

Those who sponsor for three years do this because the application fee for a work visa increases if you are sponsoring for more than three years.

What costs do I need to be aware of?

If you need to apply for a sponsor licence, then your initial outgoings will be quite high due to the need to secure the initial licence. The Home Office change the value of their fees over time but we have itemised the types of fees you should expect to pay at the application for a sponsor licence:

  • Licence application fee
  • Priority service fee (optional)

When assigning a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) to a worker:

  • CoS assignment fee
  • Immigration Skills Charge

The fees above must be borne by the business and can’t be passed on to the worker. Some businesses will also cover the fees for the visa itself but this is not a requirement. These fees are:

  • Visa application fee
  • Immigration Health Surcharge
  • Biometric appointment fee
  • Priority service fee (optional)

Our legal fees are as follows:

  • Advice on securing a licence - £500 plus VAT
  • Support preparing your licence application - £3,000 plus VAT
  • Support submitting a skilled worker visa application (client is a business) - £1,000 plus VAT
  • Support requesting a CoS - £350 plus VAT
  • Support assigning a CoS - £650 plus VAT
What are the pros and cons of sponsor licences in tech recruitment?

The main downsides are cost and administration. Sponsor licences are administratively heavy with a number of areas where you may need to make regular reports. As you will have seen from above, cost is also a factor with a number of different fees being incurred during the process. You also need to keep in mind the minimum salary which for software development roles is in the region of £45,000 to £55,000 at the time of writing.

On the other hand, many of our clients find holding a sponsor licence hugely beneficial in particular larger businesses where the salary requirements aren’t an issue. For companies that can afford to do so, sponsoring for five years at the outset of employment can help lock in lower costs in case of Home Office fee increases and act as an incentive in talent retention for those workers who want a path to settlement.

Global Talent

What is global talent?

Global Talent is a premium visa with generous work conditions for people who are considered global leaders or are recognised as having the potential to be global leaders in their field. Prospective applicants are required to seek endorsement from tech nation before making their applications. Tech Nation expect to see three letters of recommendation from experts in the digital technology sector who have first hand knowledge of the applicant’s work.

After this they need to demonstrate the mandatory criteria (that they are a global leader or future leader in their field) and two out of four optional criteria.

The optional criteria tends to be the most complex part of the process with most applicants needing to demonstrate that they have had a significant impact on their field, rather than just within their job.

If successful, applicants will be able to work in almost any job without the need for sponsorship.

What type of tech businesses does this suit?

We’ve seen positive outcomes in this route for businesses that are more consultancy based or where they have identified specialists who have a lot to contribute but would rather work for multiple companies and would therefore not be eligible for the skilled worker visa.

What costs do I need to be aware of?

This is not a sponsored work visa so strictly speaking the company does not need to incur any costs in this approach at all. However, as with the skilled worker visa, you may wish to support your employees regardless.

The relevant home office fees for this route would be:

  • Endorsement application fee
  • Visa application fee
  • Immigration Health Surcharge
  • Biometric appointment fee
  • Priority service fee (optional – visa only)

We offer the two different services when it comes to securing endorsement. These are a checking service and a ‘full service’.

The full service costs £4,500 plus VAT and is hands on support preparing an endorsement application. We’ll have a meeting with you and the Applicant to identify the projects they have worked on as well as agree a strategy and documents list for evidence. We’ll then provide written advice on the application requirements and put together a bundle using all of the documents they are able to provide. We will also write a letter of representations to the endorsing body that explains all aspects of the application and how it satisfies the requirements.

The checking service is a reduce cost service at £1,600 plus VAT and is about setting the applicant up to be able to prepare the application themselves. We’ll still have that initial meeting to work out a strategy, document list and letter of advice but once we’ve given this to you, we will leave you to prepare the endorsement application yourselves. Once you’re done, send it over to us and we will review it and provide a written report on how likely we think it is to receive endorsement and any changes we would make to strengthen it. Further reviews can be provided for an additional fee.

If you would like support on the final visa application as well, this would be charged at an additional £600 plus VAT.

Pros and cons?

This is a very complex route to secure endorsement in, and the nature of the route targeting current and future leaders means that only a select few will qualify. There is a strong subjective element and the evidence required for each applicant will always vary quite significantly as no two people’s careers are the same. Despite this the documentary requirements can be quite limiting and technical and we have seen applicant’s get tripped up on being able to provide things like financial documents to demonstrate success. However, this is where the support and connections of a business can help open doors for gathering evidence.

It can also be time consuming. We generally say to clients that they should expect a strong application for endorsement to take around two months to prepare however it can take longer if they struggle to secure evidence or their recommenders take a while to prepare the letters.

Finally, because the worker is not sponsored, there is less incentive for them to remain at your business due to needing your ongoing sponsorship. In principle, they could leave the business shortly after securing their visa.

On the positive side of the coin, our experience with businesses using this approach has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve worked with businesses that have been able to work with and collaborate with people they otherwise would never have been able to bring on board. There are no salary restrictions, meaning smaller businesses who don’t need to recruit on a large scale and might be priced out of the sponsor licence approach can still look at this as a way to harness international talent.

While the workers aren’t dependant on you to reach settlement, we haven’t seen any meaningful impact on retention because skilled workers are still able to change jobs if they can find a new sponsor anyway. With no sponsor licence, you also don’t need to worry about reporting duties and the risks or liabilities that come with that.

It’s also much more beneficial for the applicants. If they primarily work overseas but need to come in to work with you periodically then this can be facilitated in a way the skilled worker visa doesn’t. If they are primarily based in the UK, they can develop their own side projects without worrying about breaching the supplementary work provisions, and we’ve seen cases of the skills learned on these side projects feeding back into their primary employer.

Other options to enhance your tech recruitment

The options above are the most relevant for many of our clients but there are other routes available as well.

If your business is an international group:

It may be worth looking at the senior or specialist worker route. This is a temporary visa that allows senior workers to be transferred over to the UK entity. The route is capped at 5 years and the employee must have worked at the overseas entity for a minimum period of 12 months or be earning more than £73,900 per year. The UK will need a sponsor licence for this visa and it does not lead to settlement.

If your business is an international entity seeking to establish a UK entity:

You can look at the expansion worker visa. This route involves sending a worker to the UK to register and establish the UK entity. This is a temporary visa that does not lead to settlement. The worker will be granted a visa for one year which can be extended for a further period of one year to a maximum total period of two years. If the company wishes the worker to stay longer then they will need a full sponsor licence. The worker must have worked for the parent company for a minimum period of 12 months or earn more than £73,900 per year or be a Japanese worker of a Japanese parent company.

If you are an individual looking to start a technology business in the UK:

You can consider the Innovator Founder visa. This visa requires endorsement by a third party endorsing body. Among other requirements, you must demonstrate that the business is innovative, scalable and viable. Innovative means providing a product or service that can’t easily be replicated by another business in the UK, scalable means a business that can grow to hire settled workers, and viable means that you must have the skills and financial resources to bring your business to reality.

If you would like to discuss any of the options above, we would be delighted to speak with you. You can book an appointment with a member of our team here:

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