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Recruiting Construction Workers From Overseas

Foreign recruiting has gotten significantly harder due to the impacts of Brexit on UK immigration rules. You can save yourself a lot of time and money by filtering out candidates who don’t hit the mark.

If you’re ready to get started immediately, call us on 0330 311 6351 or contact our team online.


Requirements for Overseas Recruitment in the Construction Industry

Construction in the UK continues to accelerate with the ever-growing demand for housing, industrial space, and public infrastructure. Each of these sectors of the UK construction industry is experiencing growth in the post-pandemic environment according to the ONS, but with inflation at an all-time high, labor costs continue to rise as well.

To help mitigate these cost increases, UK construction firms are turning to foreign recruitment to source reliable talent at lower costs. Here’s everything a recruiter needs to know about sourcing new employees from outside the UK.

Your Job Must Be a Genuine Vacancy

The first thing to remember is that the position you’re recruiting for must be a genuine vacancy. The UK government will not issue a visa for an overseas worker to come and fill a role that could be filled by someone already resident in the country.

Fortunately, proving a genuine vacancy isn’t as hard as it might sound. If you’re not sure whether your job qualifies, an IAS agent can help you determine this. We’ve extensive experience with UK visa requirements and can help you put together a strong application.

your job must be a genuine vacancy

Your Candidate Must Qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa

Once you’ve established that the role you’re recruiting for is a genuine vacancy, any candidates you select must then qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa. This visa is also known as a Tier 2 Visa, and it’s the most common way for workers from outside the country to come and work in the UK.

Under the UK’s immigration points system, candidates must score a minimum of 70 points to qualify for this visa. For skilled workers, this means:

  • Having a job offer from a licensed employer in the UK, including a certificate of sponsorship (more on this below)
  • The role must meet the appropriate skill level (typically RQF3 or A-level)
  • A salary of at least £25,600 per year (or the going rate for the role if this is lower)
  • They must speak English to an acceptable level

If your candidate will meet all four of these criteria, they’ll acquire enough points to qualify for a visa. For more specific details, read our guide to the UK Points-Based System.

Your Candidate Must Be Healthy, Safe, and Self-Sustaining

While the criteria we discussed above will qualify a prospective worker for a visa, there are also several other requirements that apply to all visa applicants.

To obtain a visa, candidates must pass a physical conducted by a physician inside the UK. They must also prove that they can support themselves financially throughout their stay.

Additionally, the UK government will heavily scrutinize your candidate’s criminal history. Any applicants with a criminal record or who have been convicted of an offense related to child abuse, terrorism, or human trafficking will not be granted a visa. However, certain offenses may be excused if they took place a long time ago and the applicant has since led a law-abiding life.

Do you need help recruiting construction workers from overseas? Our lawyers can assist you.

How to Recruit Overseas Workers for Your Construction Job

If you’re ready to begin recruiting overseas workers for your construction site, here’s everything you need to know to get started.

Obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship

To sponsor a worker from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), you’ll need to obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from the UK government. This document is also sometimes referred to as a ‘sponsor licence’.

The CoS is an electronic record that confirms an employer’s offer of employment to a foreign worker. It’s used by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) service to decide whether to grant a visa to the sponsored worker.

To obtain a CoS, you must first register as a sponsor with the UKVI. To apply for sponsorship, you’ll need to provide evidence that you’re a legitimate UK business, such as your company registration number, Articles of Association, and/or a letter from your accountant. You’ll also need to pass a criminal record check.

Pay the Immigration Skills Charge for Your Candidate

The Immigration Skills Charge is a levy that UK employers need to pay for each non-UK worker they sponsor. The charge for the first year of employment is currently £1,000 per year (or £364 for small businesses and charities). It’s also worth noting that some workers are exempt from paying the Immigration Skills Charge—however, most construction jobs won’t be eligible for exemption.

Wait Patiently for Approval

After you’ve paid the ISC in full for a candidate, all you can do is wait for approval from the UKVI. The entire process—from registering as a sponsor to receiving confirmation of sponsorship—can take between three and eight weeks or more.

During this time, it’s important to keep in mind that the UKVI may ask for additional information or evidence at any point. They may also choose to conduct an unannounced visit to your business premises. If everything goes smoothly, you should receive confirmation of sponsorship for your candidate within a few weeks. At this point, they can begin applying for their visa if they haven’t already.

Let IAS Help You Recruit Overseas Labor

Recruiting internationally can be a great way to find the best talent for your construction project. By taking the time to develop a basic understanding of the visa process and requirements, you can minimize the risks involved and ensure a smooth transition for your new hire.

The team at IAS is experienced in helping construction companies recruit overseas labor. We can help you navigate the visa process and ensure that your candidate meets all the necessary requirements. Send us a message or give us a call on 0330 311 6351 to get started today.

If you have any questions about recruiting construction workers from overseas, we can help.

We offer immigration advice sessions as face-to-face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the country your candidate is coming from, their occupation, and whether they already have a job lined up in the UK. In most cases, however, it takes between two and six weeks to get a visa.

However, it’s important to note that the UKVI is currently processing a backlog of visa applications, so it may take longer than usual to obtain a decision. Considering the COVID-19 crisis and the current state of affairs, we recommend allowing at least eight weeks for a decision to be made on your application. In many cases, our team can help you speed up this process.

For most candidates, a visa costs £704-1,408 depending on how many years of experience they have. This may also vary depending on the country your candidate is coming from and their occupation. Read more about UK Visa Fees to learn about the different types of visas and how much they cost.

Yes, you can sponsor multiple workers from overseas. However, you’ll need to obtain a CoS for each worker you wish to sponsor. You also have to pay the Immigration Skills Charge for each worker you sponsor.

Plus, you’ll have to have enough work lined up to justify sponsoring multiple workers. The UKVI will want to see that you have enough contracts in place to keep all of your sponsored workers employed throughout the duration of their visas—and that each role being filled qualifies as a genuine vacancy.

If your candidate doesn’t meet the criteria for a visa, they may still be able to come to the UK on a different type of visa. While construction workers typically fall under the Tier 2 visa category, there are other options available depending on your candidate’s status.

However, an immigrant must genuinely intend to take up the job you’re offering—as well as meet all other eligibility criteria—in order to qualify for a Tier 2 visa. If they don’t, they may be refused entry to the UK. Don’t try to obtain an invalid visa type for your candidate in order for them to start work, or else you could face severe penalties.

Yes, you’ll need to pay the Immigration Skills Charge for every worker you sponsor from overseas. This charge is currently £1,000 per year (or £364 for small businesses and charities). The ISC is non-refundable and must be paid even if your application is unsuccessful.

In addition to the cost of the visa itself and the Immigration Skills Charge, you may also need to pay for:

-An English language test for your candidate, if they’re from a region where English is not the primary language such as the Middle East

-A tuberculosis test for your candidate, if they’re from a country where TB is common

-The cost of your candidate’s travel to and from the UK

-Any other costs associated with relocating your candidate to the UK

Keep in mind that you may be able to recover some of these costs from your candidate once they start working for you. However, you’ll need to have this agreed upon in their benefits package before they begin work.

Most Tier 2 visas are valid for five years, although this may vary depending on your candidate’s circumstances. For example, if your candidate is coming to the UK to fill a temporary shortage of workers in their occupation, their visa may only be valid for two years—however, such exceptions will be noted on their individual visa.

After five years, your candidate can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK. This will allow them to live and work in the UK without restrictions. However, they will need to meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for ILR, such as passing a Life in the UK test and having no criminal convictions.

Your candidate will need to renew their visa before it expires if they want to continue working in the UK. The renewal process is similar to the initial application process, and your candidate will need to submit most of the same documents.

The cost of renewing a Tier 2 visa varies depending on the length of the extension. For example, renewing a Tier 2 visa for up to three years costs £704, while renewing it for more than three years costs £1,408.

In most cases, your candidate’s family members (known as ‘dependents’) will be able to accompany them to the UK on their Tier 2 visa—so long as the individuals qualify for a family visa. This includes their spouse or partner, as well as any children under 18 years of age.

Dependents may be allowed to work and study in the UK. However, they will need to apply for their own visas if they want to stay in the UK after your candidate’s visa expires. This is one of the more common paths to indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

There are a few steps you can take to minimize the risks involved in recruiting internationally.

    1. Conduct due diligence on your candidate. This includes verifying their qualifications, references, and work experience.
    2. Make sure you’re familiar with the visa application process and requirements. This will help you avoid any mistakes that could cause delays or lead to your application being rejected.
    3. Get help from a professional immigration lawyer or consultant. This can be especially helpful if you’re unfamiliar with the visa process or if your candidate’s circumstances are complex.
    4. Keep in mind that the recruitment process may take longer when recruiting internationally, especially if you’re working alone without a recruitment agency. Make sure you allow enough time for the visa process to unfold before making any job offers.

There is always some degree of risk when recruiting workers from overseas. However, by taking the necessary precautions, you can minimize these risks and ensure a smooth process for both you and your candidate.

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