How to get key people from overseas into UK businesses - as published on United Employment Lawyers

4 mins

Posted on 21 Oct 2015

The dominant news story over the summer has been the mass migration of refugees from war-torn Syria, with millions seeking safe havens across ‘civilised’ Europe. The harrowing pictures of children washed up on a Mediterranean beach and desperate people clambering into trucks at Calais have shocked the politicians and the public.

However, as this often-depressing news story subsides as the autumn sets in, another more positive issue about the international battle for talent is clear. Increasingly, UK plc requires talented and special people from overseas to undertake key occupations across the UK.

Owen Jones, (pictured) a partner with Doyle Clayton and an expert in immigration law, describes his department as a ‘Business Immigration’ practice as distinct from immigration lawyers who specialise in family matters, asylum, Human Rights. His firm advises UK businesses looking to employ migrants from outside the European Economic Area and provides specialist support in this area to UEL member firms.

“This is anything from multinationals moving their executives around international offices to SME’s, start-up companies, entrepreneurs and investors. Our team also advises individuals on other immigration matters, often involving family issues, marriage, nationality, but that represents only 5% of our workload,’’ he says.

So how does it work for talented workers eager to work in the UK – and is it stacked in favour of higher earners?

“There is a good deal of comment and criticism of the Home Office’s system of allocation of the certificates. Clearly it favours those in well-paid roles and companies in industries which pay well. So, you might well say that there is a bias towards London and the South-east of England (and against Scotland and the North for example). You might also say that there is a bias against, for example, key lower paid jobs, such as nurses,” says Owen.

The Home Office have a points system for deciding which applicants get the limited number of certificates available each month. Those roles in the rare PHD codes or on the ‘shortage occupation list’ take precedence under this system. The remainder are assessed according to salary levels.

This level can change quite substantially. For example, in June the salary – unless the role was a PHD code or in a list of shortage occupation – the salary had to be a minimum of £46,000 to gain a certificate; in July this dropped to £32,000 and, in August, only £24,000.

The major part of Doyle Clayton’s work is supporting larger corporates. So what are the pitfalls?

“Tactically, the first part is finding the correct immigration route and then executing that route through applications to the Home Office in the UK and overseas. There is also a great deal of work involved in ensuring that UK companies have the correct processes and procedures in place to comply with the Home Office’s sponsorship duties, as well as the basics of right to work checks on all employees no matter where they are from,’’ he explains.

This starts with a company identifying an individual they need who requires a visa.

“We analyse the vacancy, its skills level, the CV, the salary, the nationality and come up with the options,’’ he explains.

The shortage occupation list is useful as it means no advertising is required for companies – no need to demonstrate that a UK/EU national cannot fill the vacancy.

“We do work with roles within that list – but it is far more likely that the role in question is outside of that list. Our client base is global but we probably do most work with North America. The largest number of sponsored migrants come from India as there are many IT roles to fill and we have some major Indian clients on our books – but the United States must also be up there in terms of migrant numbers. However the picture is truly global and there is only a small number of nationalities that I have not come across over the years,’’ he concludes.

As the battle for crucial talent goes on, this is unlikely to dry up across the UK in the medium term.

Owen Jones' interview with United Employment Lawyers was originally published on their website at

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