With the national labour shortage making it increasingly difficult for Bedfordshire businesses to fill posts with suitable candidates, bringing workers in from abroad can be a pragmatic solution, especially as the UK is seen as an attractive professional destination.
We spoke to Omayemi Mac-Jaja and David Rushmere, of Bedfordshire Chamber member Machins Solicitors (www.machins.co.uk), for some expert insight into immigrants’ “right to work”, and how local businesses can make it easier for themselves to lawfully bring in talent from overseas.
How the legals work
Specialist Immigration solicitor Omayemi explains that the fundamental legal instrument for bringing migrant workers into this country is a sponsor licence, issued by the Home Office.
However, he emphasises that while firms intending to hire migrants within and outside the UK require a sponsor licence, the documentation required for the application may vary depending on the sector and organisation concerned.
For example, the documentation required for hospitals or care homes may include additional documents not required for other organisations such as, say, restaurants, law firms, or local authorities.
Importantly, the Home Office is a little more flexible with the documentation required from startups, as these may not have all the documents that would be expected from businesses that have been trading for a significant period of time.
It is also a very time-pressured process. The employer must not only submit the sponsor licence application, but also ensure that all supporting documents are sent to the Home Office within five working days after the online sponsor licence application is submitted.
If a sponsor licence is awarded, your business must then issue the worker with a Certificate of Sponsorship, and the worker then uses this to apply for the necessary visa - with accompanying fees - to enable them enter or stay in the country to work in the post offered.
Understanding costs, minimising error
Omayemi makes it clear that the cost involved in sponsoring immigrant workers makes it all the more important to get the process right first time round.
“The costs to the business soon add up,” he says. “The sponsor licence application costs between £536 and £1,476, depending on the size of your business, and each Certificate of Sponsorship costs £199.”
“But there are also ongoing costs, like the Immigration Skills Charge, which can be either £364 or £1000 for the first year, depending on the size of your business, and then 50% of that for each additional six months of sponsorship.”
And there is a double-whammy if your sponsor licence application is unsuccessful, because you may not get the fee back, and you may have to wait for another six months before a further application can be submitted, in certain circumstances.
Omayemi’s message is clear: get legal help early. That way, there is a far better chance you will get who you need into post in a timely fashion, rather than waste money for no result.
Where the Chamber adds value
For David Rushmere, this is a perfect example of how Chamber membership adds value to businesses by connecting them to solutions to pressing problems.
“I was at a Chamber event where questions were asked around making it easier for local businesses to recruit from abroad to combat the labour shortage,” he says, “Clearly, our ability to step in and take care of the legal side of things became the next talking point!”
As a local business and major regional employer, David says, Machins sees the Chamber as “the beating heart of local commercial life,” and values it as much for the suppliers it connects them to as for the prospective clients.
“The Chamber,” as he says, “is hugely important to us.”
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of Chamber membership, call us on (01582) 522448.