According to immigration law firm Migrate UK, only around 3% of employers currently hold a sponsorship license to employ EU or non-EU workers despite severe skills shortages.
According to the firm’s analysis of the list of current government sponsors, only around 50,000 employers are licensed out of a potential 1.4 million private sector employers in the UK.
That number is up just 1.5% since the firm last analyzed the numbers in May 2020, despite major changes to the immigration system over the past two years.
Managing Director Jonathan Beech said companies are often concerned about the cost and complexity of acquiring a license.
“When new clients come to us, they often say they delayed this process due to the perceived cost, complexity and amount of paperwork involved in doing so,” he said.
“This is not just worrying for individual UK businesses that have enough talent to deliver products and services effectively, but also for UK plc. We hear day in and day out about the problems companies face in recruiting enough staff, especially in the hospitality, science and engineering sectors.
There has been speculation that the the government could review the current visa system and immigration rules, including possible changes to the list of shortage occupations. Suella Braverman was appointed Home Secretary yesterday in Rishi Sunak’s new wardrobeless than a week after his resignation.
Braverman has hinted that she wants tougher immigration policies to be put in place, which could lead to changes in rules or licensing thresholds.
This contrasts with former Prime Minister Liz Truss’ suggestion in September that the the list of shortage occupations could be extended bringing migrant workers into industries that are struggling to find workers.
“The key problem – in addition to including some much-needed ‘less’ skilled occupations, such as caregivers or chefs – is that this list is no longer as attractive to employers as it once was” , added Beech.
“To really benefit from this list, certain jobs should be exempt from the Immigration Skills Charge (between £364 and £1,000 per year of sponsorship, paid by the employer), plus the costs of the NHS Surcharge (between £470 and £624 per person per year), normally paid by the employee, so this is a great company for overseas recruits, especially for the lower paid roles.
Migrate UK reported that sponsor license applications currently take around two to three months to process, meaning applicants who have offers from employers who already have a license are likely to favor those offers.
“Businesses with a license are not only able to recruit more easily now to meet their current skills shortages, but will also be better prepared when the economy picks up following the current challenges in the UK and around the world. “, added Beech.
If employers have a license in place, they can use it for recruitment for up to four years at a time, provided they comply with government reporting and record keeping requirements.
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