Recruiting overseas nationals - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Recruiting overseas nationals

Sponsorship can seem daunting, but with the right advice and guidance, your veterinary practice can secure a sponsor licence to enable you to employ overseas nationals

In a time of severe recruitment challenges within the UK, it can be hard for veterinary practices to secure the talent they need for their business to survive and succeed. Hiring overseas nationals can help combat this problem – but what is the best way to do so?

Routes for recruiting overseas employees

Recruitment from overseas has been brought into sharp focus post-Brexit as EU nationals now need a visa to work in the UK unless they have another right to work in the UK (such as settled status).

Some routes allow overseas nationals to work in the UK without a sponsor, meaning that a veterinary practice can employ them without becoming a licensed sponsor. For example, a Graduate visa allows international students who have completed an eligible UK degree to stay in the UK to work for two years after they have completed their degree (or three years if they have a PhD). Similarly, the High Potential Individual visa is available to recent graduates from top global universities who wish to work or look for work in the UK. The Youth Mobility Scheme visa also allows young people who are between 18 and 30 years old from participating countries (including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan and India) to come to live and work in the UK for up to two years.

The Skilled Worker visa is still the main route for overseas nationals [and] these visas are only available if the role in the UK meets the minimum skill and salary level required

However, the Skilled Worker visa is still the main route for overseas nationals to come to the UK to work. These visas are only available if the role in the UK meets the minimum skill and salary level required. 

What steps should you take when recruiting overseas?

If your veterinary practice is considering recruiting from overseas, there are several steps you should take to ensure you achieve your goal.

Is the job role eligible?

The first step is to establish whether the role you are recruiting for is eligible for a Skilled Worker visa. Any job role an overseas employee will be undertaking must be at the right skill level and within one of the eligible job classification roles known as “SOC” codes.

Any job role an overseas employee will be undertaking must be at the right skill level and within one of the eligible job classification roles

Importantly, the required skill level was reduced post-Brexit, and Skilled Worker visas are now available for more roles than before. This includes veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, other animal care service providers, practice managers and some of the staff involved in other areas of the practice, such as HR, marketing and IT.

What salary do you need to pay?

Once you have identified the correct SOC code for the role, it is necessary to establish the minimum salary that needs to be paid. The minimum salary level for a Skilled Worker visa is £25,600 per annum; however, each SOC code has a “going rate” of salary which must be paid. The minimum wage varies depending on the skill level of the role. 

The minimum salary for a veterinary surgeon is normally £32,500 per annum, but as vets are considered a shortage occupation in the UK, this minimum salary is reduced to 80 percent of the minimum salary (£26,000 per annum). In contrast, the recommended salary for a practice manager is £25,500 or £16,900 per annum for a veterinary nurse. Despite this, practice managers and nurses would still need to be paid at least £25,600 per annum, as this is the minimum salary for a Skilled Worker visa. However, the minimum salary requirement can be reduced to 70 percent of the relevant minimum salary for “new entrants” – for example, if they are under 26 years old or switching from a student visa. 

Becoming a sponsor

Once you’ve established whether the role you are recruiting overseas for is eligible to be sponsored under a Skilled Worker visa, you will need to apply for a sponsor licence. This process is an online application wherein your practice must prove it is a genuine UK business by producing the relevant supporting documents.

The Home Office is very specific about the documents that must be sent for a sponsor application and will reject applications if the rules are not followed. Your application needs to be supported by a cover letter. Again, the Home Office sets out what this must include: for example, a hierarchy chart for the business and details of the roles you intend to sponsor. You will need to explain why and who you want to recruit if you already have an overseas national candidate in mind. The practice must also ensure it can comply with the mandatory sponsor duties, such as having the required HR systems in place.

It is vital to get your sponsor licence application right because if the application is refused, there is no right to appeal [and] you will be prohibited from making further applications for six months

It is vital to get your sponsor licence application right because if the application is refused, there is no right to appeal. If refused, you will be prohibited from making further applications for six months, by which time the recruit you wish to secure will have obtained an alternative role elsewhere.

In terms of timing, it normally takes eight weeks to obtain a sponsor licence and the licence is valid for four years. It costs either £536 or £1,476 depending on the size of your practice.

Issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship

Once your practice has a sponsor licence, you can apply for and assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to the potential new overseas employee. The Certificate of Sponsorship (or “CoS”) is a reference number that the individual can put on their online Skilled Worker visa application to prove they have an eligible job offer from a UK employer. Each CoS costs £199.

Skilled Worker visa application

The last step is for the potential employee to make their online Skilled Worker visa application. Once this has been granted, they can start working for you. Visa decision waiting times can vary depending on where the applicant is applying from, but applications made from outside the UK currently take an average of four weeks to process. The employee also usually has the option of paying an additional fee to get a faster decision within five working days.

Summary

Sponsorship and recruiting overseas can seem like a daunting process, but with the right advice and guidance, your veterinary practice can secure a sponsor licence to enable you to employ overseas nationals and deal with any recruitment challenges you may be facing.

Jane Biddlecombe

Jane Biddlecombe is an associate and head of the immigration team at Paris Smith. She has 20 years’ experience as a solicitor specialising in employment and immigration law. Jane supports her clients by providing clear and concise advice and guidance on sponsorship and visa applications to ensure they achieve their goal of employing the best talent from overseas.


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