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Key HR strategies for managing immigration



Immigration will, it seems, always be at or near the top of any government’s list of national concerns. For this reason, the UK’s system of managed migration is often the subject of review, redesign and plain-old tinkering, which can make it a daunting area for HR professionals.

Here are some key strategies for HR to consider.


Plan ahead; apply for a sponsor licence

You may not have needed to go down the sponsorship route yet, but with high-skilled individuals at a premium in today’s job market, the chances are you will in the future.

So why not get your sponsor licence in place so you are ready to move as soon as the right candidate comes along?

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A common misconception is that a business must wait until they have identified a job candidate in need of sponsorship before securing a licence.

You can apply for a licence at any time, supported by evidence of anticipated future recruitment needs.

It is essential to review your internal processes to ensure you can meet Home Office compliance standards; this is particularly true of your Right to Work checks.

As with all aspects of sponsorship, remember to build in often very long Home Office service standards for decisions into your planning.

Priority services are often available, reducing service standards of between eight and 18 weeks to just two, but can be difficult to secure.


Don’t let sponsoring workers scare you

It might not be one of your core activities, but you really don’t want to miss out on that exemplary candidate who is head and shoulders above the competition just because they need a sponsored work visa.

Things have changed a lot post-Brexit; there is no need to prove resident labour market testing, you just need to demonstrate you have a genuine vacancy at an appropriate skill and salary level.

There is no monthly cap on skilled worker visas, so you don’t go into a ballot and hope to be one of the lucky applicants.

While government fees remain high, statistics show that sponsored staff are loyal, staying with employers longer than the average.  


Embrace the nostalgia of the SMS

Hate logging into the Sponsor Management System (SMS)?

Employers who first encountered the Home Office’s SMS when it was introduced in the late noughties will be forgiven for holding a negative opinion of it.

Unfortunately the tech platform remains the same; this is a long shelf-life for a piece of software, and it’s definitely showing its age.

A wholesale update is heralded in the coming 12 months, but until then you’ll need to embrace the SMS’s old-school characteristics.


Review your processes regularly

It is essential that you maintain access to, and information recorded on, the SMS for your business.

Time and again we are asked to advise on – and salvage – situations where key personnel have left, logins are forgotten, branches are not added or deleted, and workers’ details are not updated.

Consider instructing external counsel to maintain oversight over your sponsorship duties and keep you abreast of Home Office changes.


Consider alternatives to sponsored work visas

The last couple of years have seen an increase in non-sponsored work options for overseas talent.

If they graduated from a high-profile overseas university in the last three years they can enter the UK as a High Potential Individual.

If they attend a UK university, they can work up to 20 hours a week during term-time, unlimited hours during vacations.

They can then move onto a graduate visa, valid for two years (three years for PhD students).

While these routes don’t lead to settlement, they can be useful pre-cursors to a sponsored work visa which does, allowing you to gauge their suitability for the role without incurring the cost of sponsorship.


Gary McIndoe is managing partner at Latitude Law

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