We’ve found hiring to be one of our biggest challenges. Particularly in London and with Brexit on the horizon, the competition for talent is incredibly fierce and for us, like many startups, every hire is crucial. We analysed our hiring funnel to see what steps we could take to maximise our chances of making the right hires, and one clear opportunity was to increase the potential pool from which we could source by looking at candidates in need of visa sponsorship to work in the UK.
As you probably know, individuals from outside the EEA generally can’t work in the UK without a working visa, and post-Brexit there may be a need to extend this to include EEA and Swiss migrants who wish to work in the UK. The main working visa available is the ‘Tier 2 - General’ visa, which can only be granted where the person is being sponsored by his/her employer.
So we knew we needed to go ahead and get sponsoring! Easy, right? Not so fast. Only companies with a Tier 2 Sponsor License - granted by the Home Office - can offer sponsorship. We were granted our Tier 2 Sponsor License, and we thought we’d share a few of the lessons we learned, in case they can help other startups out there hack their hiring funnel with minimal effort :)
1. Understand the jargon
You’ll need to get familiar with a few new terms:
- Visa: The visa itself is what gives someone the right to come (and in some cases, to work) in the UK. Visas come in all shapes and sizes. The Tier 2 (General) Visa is the one that’s used for people coming to the UK to work in skilled jobs.
- Certificate of Sponsorship (COS): This is a certificate that’s assigned by the employing company to the person coming to the UK to work. This is what allows the person to apply for the Tier 2 Visa. COS can be either restricted, or unrestricted.
- Restricted COS: The type of COS that is used for people who are not currently working in the UK. You have to apply for these if you want one - there’s a strict monthly limit on how many the government issues, and they’re doled out on the basis of a points system.
- Unrestricted COS: The type of COS used for people already working in the UK under a Tier 2 Visa, who wish to change to a new employer. These get allocated to you on an annual basis.
- Sponsor License: The license from the Home Office that gives a company the ability to create and assign COS.
- Sponsor Management System: The online system that sponsor license-holders use to apply for and manage their COS.
- Standard Occupational Classification: the system by which different job types are graded by the UK government. The roles you’re hiring for will need to be within certain categories and you’ll need to be paying a certain amount in order to grant sponsorship.
These are just a few of the key terms. There’s a lot more bedtime reading provided by the Home Office - it can be heavy going but it’s worth it!
2. Know how long it will take
Unfortunately you won’t get your sponsor license overnight. ‘Move fast and break things’ isn’t really a motto they live by over at the UK Home Office (which is probably a good thing!). At a minimum you’re going to need 28 days to run a resident labour market test (see below). You’ll also need time to get all of your supporting documents together and you might need to factor in time to obtain certified copies of some of them from a lawyer.
3. Carry out a ‘Resident Labour Market Test’
This is a key part of the Tier 2 Visa system. It means going through an open recruitment process for the role you’re trying to hire for, to see if there are any workers from the UK or EEA who are suitable. The idea is that if there are suitable workers, you shouldn’t be hiring from outside the UK/EEA.
You’ll need to advertise the role in a specific format in at least two places, one of which will be the government’s Universal JobMatch site. The ads have to stay up for 28 days and you’ll need records on everyone who applied, the decisions you made and the reasons behind them. You need to follow the instructions for the RLMT to the letter, so get reading!
4. Get your files in order
A lot of getting a license comes down to record-keeping. In fact, one of the key things that the Home Office wants to ensure is that any company with a sponsor license is able to keep proper records about who they’re sponsoring! You’ll need to dig out your company incorporation documents, bank statements, insurance policies, register of shareholders and lots more besides. You’ll also need to keep scrupulously detailed records of the applications you receive as part of the RLMT, so now would be a good time to sort out your filing system!
5. Make your case
You’ll need to accompany your application with a letter setting out the nature of your business, the roles you’re hiring for and why you don’t seem to be able to find workers from the UK or EEA. You’ll also need to give an idea of your hiring plans. This is especially the case if you’re hoping to be allocated unrestricted COS - perhaps if you’ve identified someone with a Tier 2 Visa in the UK who wants to move to your company!
Whilst it may seem daunting, provided you are organised it really isn’t so bad. Take time to read through the guidance plan ahead for all of the documents and supporting evidence you need to pull together. Once we submitted our application, we found the Home Office really responsive, and our license came through within a few weeks…
(Oh and if you’re someone who is looking to join a UK startup, need sponsorship, and you’re interested in a career with Brolly - we’re hiring!)