Four myths on recruiting overseas workers

Many organisations are still struggling to fill vacancies across the UK, with nursing and care, hospitality and IT just some of the sectors with wide gaps in their recruitment.

But when I first speak with employers they often tell me a number of myths about why they’re unable to consider overseas workers to help ease their talent shortages.

These myths are mainly centred on four key areas which are not only harming organisations’ ability to operate and fill many of their unfilled vacancies using sponsorship, but also to meet their high product or service demand.

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The myths are normally:

  1. My company isn’t big enough to qualify
  2. It all looks complicated and expensive
  3. It’s too difficult to manage and has too much red tape
  4. Overseas recruits now have to be highly qualified

In fact, according to government data we analysed in the last quarter of 2022, only 3.5% of UK employers currently possess a licence to sponsor EU or non-EU workers despite the widespread talent shortages.

So due to myths such as these, 96% of UK companies are missing out on how they could fill vacancies for over 240 job codes ranging from chefs and care workers to construction workers and software developers.   

Let’s review these myths overall. No minimum number of existing employees is needed to apply for a sponsor licence, even start-ups can apply.

But if you’ve been trading in the UK for less than 18 months on the date you make the application, the Home Office checks will be different to those they carry out on more established businesses.

While the process can appear daunting, complicated and bureaucratic, it can be done online, while businesses like ours can also help manage the process as needed.

Another perception is that overseas workers need to be highly qualified with a PhD or other high-level qualifications. The skilled worker route is based on a points-based system with 70 points required in total for a sponsored worker to be eligible, but it’s the level of job vacancy that makes the difference, which needs to be at RQF Level 3 or above (equivalent to A Levels in the UK).

The true reality is that to recruit overseas talent an organisation just needs to show that it has a genuine vacancy at the required level and a UK presence.

I always advise any organisation suffering from persistent skills shortages to apply for a sponsor licence so it’s ready to be used as needed; for small organisations this costs £536 for four years.

To get this right first time, the HR team needs to check their organisation is eligible, that the role is suitable for sponsorship and identify the type of licence you need to apply for, which should be based on the type of worker you want to sponsor. You should also ensure that someone within the HR team is ready to manage the sponsorship responsibilities of the organisation. Covering off all these steps along with submitting the required documentation for the chosen route will ensure you have a flying start to easing your talent shortages.

Jonathan Beech is managing director of Migrate UK