In our increasingly interconnected world, employers in the UK are seeking innovative approaches to expanding their talent pool and remaining competitive in the global labour market. Offering sponsorships to skilled overseas workers can be a strategic solution to address talent shortages, foster diversity, and inject fresh perspectives into your workforce.
Rising sponsorship applications
According to government data on sponsorships, the number of new Tier 2 (general visa) applications made in Q1 of 2023 was 8,651, compared to only 5,988 in Q1 of the previous year. Before that, the numbers were even lower. From 2014, up to 2020, the average had always been between 900 and 2,100.
This shows the impact of the pandemic in the growing rate of sponsorship applications – most likely due to the increased technological infrastructure most companies developed in response to Covid.
The power of sponsorships
Sponsorships open the door to a vast reservoir of talent beyond national borders. By extending job opportunities to skilled individuals from around the world, employers gain access to a pool of diverse experiences, cultures, and expertise. This infusion of fresh perspectives can foster creativity, enhance problem-solving capabilities, and contribute to organisational growth.
While there is no legal obligation for companies to offer sponsorships, over 80,000 companies in the country already hold a licence to do so. With only around 8,000 applications made per quarter in the entire country, and the rate steadily increasing, there is room for a hiring boom of international talent.
Reed has always encouraged employers to offer sponsorships to increase interest in their roles. Here are some benefits sponsoring overseas workers can have on your company:
Retention and loyalty – employees who have been sponsored to work in the UK may feel a sense of gratitude and loyalty towards their sponsoring employer. This could increase their commitment to the company and reduce turnover rates.
Career development and growth – sponsoring foreign employees can also help employers build strong international networks. Additionally, some employees return to their home countries after gaining valuable experience, potentially becoming business partners or clients.
Filling the skills gap – certain industries face a shortage of local professionals with specific skills and qualifications. Sponsorships offer an opportunity to bridge this skills gap by attracting and retaining international talent with the necessary expertise.
Creating an inclusive work environment – sponsoring international workers can enrich your company's diversity and inclusion efforts, and the cultural exchange within your organisation can enhance collaboration, team dynamics, and overall employee satisfaction.
Global perspective – organisations that operate internationally, or have global ambitions, can benefit from hiring talent with diverse cultural backgrounds. Such employees may better understand the nuances of foreign markets and facilitate business expansion.
Employer branding – companies that are known for offering sponsorships and supporting international employees can develop a positive reputation as socially responsible and globally-minded organisations.
Retention and employee development – employees sponsored to work in the UK often demonstrate immense gratitude towards their employer. Nurture this loyalty by investing in their career development and growth. Offer opportunities for training, mentorship, and advancement to retain top talent and foster long-term commitment.
Navigating the UK sponsorship process
There are multiple visa categories and types of sponsorships which can be offered depending on the reason for the employee’s stay and how long they are expected to live or work here.
Tier 2 (general) visas are the most popular type to offer sponsorships for. They fall under the ‘skilled worker’ route, which requires the sponsored workers to meet specific eligibility criteria related to skill level, English language proficiency, and salary thresholds, among others. The skilled worker visa allows sponsored workers to stay and work in the UK for a specific duration, usually based on the employment contract or the employer's sponsorship period.
Before embarking on the sponsorship journey, it's essential to understand the UK's points-based system (PBS) for immigration. Here are the key steps to effectively offer sponsorships:
Obtain a sponsorship licence – to sponsor overseas workers, you must apply for a sponsorship licence from the UK Home Office. This process involves proving your organisation's legitimacy, compliance with immigration rules, and a commitment to fulfilling sponsorship responsibilities.
Resident labour market test – in most cases, you will need to conduct the resident labour market test to demonstrate that no suitable candidate from the resident labour market is available to fill the position. This involves advertising the job in specific channels for a set duration.
Meet skill and salary requirements – the role offered must meet the required skill level and salary threshold to qualify for sponsorship. Ensure you review the latest guidance on skill levels and minimum salary requirements.
Issue a certificate of sponsorship – once you have identified the most suitable professional, you must issue a certificate of sponsorship, which the potential employee will use when applying for a visa.
Immigration skills charge – to support investment in local workforce training, the government has implemented this charge, which may apply when sponsoring non-European Economic Area workers.
Embracing sponsorships can be a game-changer for UK employers looking to expand their talent pool and stay ahead in the global market. By navigating the sponsorship process effectively, embracing diversity, and fostering an inclusive work environment, businesses can unlock untapped potential, drive innovation, and cultivate a workforce ready to face new challenges.
Embrace sponsorships as a strategic tool, and your organisation will reap the benefits of a diverse and skilled workforce poised for success. However, it is essential to note that offering sponsorships comes with legal and administrative responsibilities, as employers need to comply with the UK's immigration laws and sponsorship requirements.
Additionally, the rules and regulations surrounding immigration and sponsorships can change over time, so employers should stay informed about the latest guidelines. Therefore, it is best to consult with legal and immigration experts for the most up-to-date and personalised advice on sponsorships.
If you’re looking to expand your company using international talent, get in touch with a Reed specialist now.