[I want to preface this piece by saying I am not trying to generalise about all recruitment agencies, there are some great specialised places that work with coming to the UK needing tier 2 sponsorship. Additionally, I am not generalising that this is not a possibility 100% of the time, of course, other recruiters and I will very occasionally be able to look at those who need sponsorship, but in my experience, this is very rare.]

Every week I (and I’m sure most other agency recruiters) will get 10’s of messages and reach outs from people looking for a job in the UK but are coming from a location which requires them to get a tier 2 sponsorship visa. This may be people who are currently in the UK but require an employer to sponsor them to gain employment or those currently living outside of the EU looking to relocate to the UK for work. It must get frustrating I appreciate that, trying to reach out to so many people to try and find a job and just getting rejections or non-responses. For this reason, I am hoping this article can be as helpful as possible.

Getting sponsored: The process in simple terms

  • A General Work Visa (Tier 2) is for those outside the EEA and requires you to be employed by a licensed sponsor. It is important to note that not every company in the UK is licensed to sponsor somebody even if they want to. If you want to see a list of all UK companies licensed you can see this here:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/register-of-licensed-sponsors-workers
  • If you interview for a role with a licensed sponsor and are successful, then there is still a significant amount of time and work that still needs to be done by your new employer before they can officially offer you the job. If you employer isn’t currently registered then they must do this first, which is a process that can take 8 weeks. If they are already licensed, in most cases your employer will still then have to re-advertise the job for another 28 days before then can offer it to you, to prove that this role cannot be filled by a UK worker.
  • Then there is also the cost, for most employers this is around £1000 per year.
  •  Once all this is done then the employer will be able to offer you the job.

Why agency recruiters like myself likely can’t help you, even if we want to!

The most common form of recruitment someone in an agency will do is contingency. What this means in simple terms is that a company will task a recruiter like myself to find a suitable candidate for a specific role they need. We will agree a percentage and this will be the fee, dependant on what the candidate gets paid in salary and invoiced once the person has usually started in the job and then passed an agreed probation/rebate period. An example:

Google (the company) needs a Data Scientist (the role) for their team. They speak to Andy Driver (the recruitment agency), agree a fee of 20% and he provides a candidate. They interview and decide to offer the job at a salary of £100k. Google then pay RedCat Digital £20k as a fee once the candidate has completed their 3 months’ probation period.

The problem here lies in the expectation, a company is willing to pay out a fee to an external agency, then they will expect that person to be an immediate fit for that role. Somebody who needs visa sponsorship incurs extra cost and time form the employer, as well as paying the agency the agreed fee the company will then need to pay the cost for sponsoring the visa as well as all the admin they must do to justify that they need to hire this person and not a UK citizen. It is because of this that companies are usually unwilling to pay a fee to a recruitment agency for somebody who requires a visa.

So what should you do instead?

My advice I will always give out to those who require visa sponsorship is to approach things proactively and directly:

  • Don’t waste your time reaching out to agency recruiters or applying for jobs posted by agency recruiters unless they specifically state they can look at those who need sponsorship.
  • Map out the companies you want to work for, base this in your personal skillset and the types of company you want to work for. Put some research in to these companies and find ones that could be a fit for your skills and experience. (My suggestion would be to initially use the above list so you know that the companies you are approaching are eligible to sponsor)
  • Approach these companies directly, reaching out to their internal head of recruitment of HR manager or even the head of Data Science. Explain your circumstances and sell your skills and experience but also be upfront about the fact you need sponsorship.

If you are in this position and want advice on anything job-related please do feel free to reach out to an agency recruiter however be aware that in most cases, this is all we really can do.

For more details on sponsored visas take a look over the gov website here: https://www.gov.uk/tier-2-general

Andy Driver is a Senior Consultant at RedCat Digital covering role in the Data Science space.

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