The Skilled Worker route was introduced in December 2020, replacing the previous Tier 2 (General) route. A number of changes were also made, many of which have simplified the process of sponsoring a worker. Here we take a look at a recent Home Office report, based on research by IFF Research, on how the route is working.
First of all, a recap on the Skilled Worker route. To qualify, applicants must demonstrate that:
- they have a genuine job offer in the UK from a Home Office licensed sponsor
- they have a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
- the role will meet the minimum salary requirement
- they meet the English language requirement
- they have sufficient funds to support themselves whilst in the UK and
- they meet the requirements for valid TB tests and criminal record/police checks where required.
Further information on the requirements and conditions of a Skilled Worker visa can be found here.
Skilled Worker visa: early insights and evaluation
On 15 July 2022, the Home Office published a report on how the Skilled Worker route is working. This included research conducted by IFF Research.
The research included interviews with 50 employees and 50 licensed employers. Individuals were asked how they decided to migrate to the UK, how they found the visa application process and their experience of living in the UK. Employers were asked questions including how they decided to sponsor workers and what their future intentions were for vacancies and sponsorship.
Deciding to migrate to the UK
The research found that the decision to migrate was less about the Skilled Worker visa itself and more about the factors surrounding it. For example, 92% of the sample cited familiarity with the English language as the reason to migrate. 92% chose this visa because of career progression, whilst only 54% chose to migrate because of the visa itself. Of particular note was the importance to employees of the ability to settle with family after five years, with 70% citing this as having had an impact on their decision to migrate and 26% citing this as the most important reason.
The research found that 76% of those surveyed had considered other options. 56% considered remaining in their home country, while 10% said they considered applying for a different visa. This is illustrative of the fact that the Skilled Worker visa itself is not the sole reason for migration, and sometimes is not part of the reason at all.
In choosing this visa, one of the reasons mentioned was because “it seemed a better choice because it was more permanent”. For some, the Skilled Worker visa is more about the possibility to settle in the UK than it is about working.
The visa process for applicants
The research found that there was generally an overall sense of satisfaction with the application process. 92% of employees interviewed stated that they were very satisfied, or fairly satisfied, with the process. Additionally, 94% felt the quality of written guidance was good and 90% that the process was open and transparent.
However, many felt there are improvements to be made to the Skilled Worker visa application process. Suggested improvements included shorter waiting times between the time of the application and receiving a decision and a telephone helpline to guide applicants through the process.
Other factors such as the requirement for an extensive travel history, the English language requirement, and Immigration Health Surcharge (‘IHS’) were also considered and criticised by many. These were said to be either unfair or unclear. The IHS in particular had mixed reviews. Whilst some felt it was fair, others felt it was unfair and unduly costly. The research found that these opinions were largely informed by the Skilled Workers’ countries of origin.
Living in the UK
The research found that 70% of Skilled Workers planned to stay in the UK beyond the duration of their current visa. This intention however was not without challenges. 12% experienced challenges with language, 16% struggled with cultural differences and 20% faced challenges obtaining suitable accommodation.
Overall, for the Skilled Workers surveyed, the application process is a good process but there is also a lot of room for improvement.
How employers decide to sponsor Skilled Workers
The research found that a range of channels to employ Skilled Workers were used, amongst these the most used were targeted advertising on LinkedIn, advertising on company websites and use of UK jobsites.
There were a few factors that contributed to the decision to recruit Skilled Workers. These reasons included the need for specialist skills (for example language and technical skills) cited by 76% of the sample. Another reason stated was the shortage of UK based workers with experience or skills needed. This was cited by 64% of employers. Additionally, the research found that many of the employers interviewed felt that sponsored workers were more productive and have a strong work ethic, as cited by 12%.
Whilst the most common alternative to sponsoring Skilled Workers was to recruit from the domestic labour market (with 82% of sponsors having considered this), in practice this is difficult. 64% of employers interviewed said that sponsoring Skilled Workers in the first place was largely due to a shortage of workers in the domestic labour force with the necessary skills and experience. Furthermore, another influencing factor was how easily employers felt they can now recruit Skilled Workers. 50% of employers surveyed stated that changes to the sponsorship policy (for example the removal of the resident labour market test) had influenced their decision to sponsor workers. With the process of sponsorship becoming easier, it seems reasonable that employers recruit via the Skilled Worker route as opposed to settling and recruiting within the domestic labour market where the required skill level likely won’t be met.
Employers’ future intentions
The research found that the most likely method employers will use to fill future vacancies is hiring UK workers, followed by sponsoring applicants for the Skilled Worker visa route. This is because it is quicker, less of an administrative burden and an easier cultural fit from the employers’ perspective to hire from within the country. This is an interesting approach considering one of the main reasons cited for hiring Skilled Workers was due to the skill levels required, however, the processing times were criticised and were a factor that had an impact on the future intentions of sponsors.
How our immigration solicitors can help
Our team of solicitors is experienced in preparing Skilled Worker visa applications and can offer expert guidance and assistance to you throughout the process.
If you require legal advice on this route or any other aspect of immigration law, we would be happy to help. Please contact us or use the enquiry form below.