Closing the technology skills gap with overseas talent
The technology industry saw significant growth during the pandemic but the industry still faces a distinct sector-specific skills gap.
The technology industry was one of the few sectors to see booming growth during the pandemic and as a result, high-calibre tech specialists are increasingly sought after. At the same time, the industry is also faced with a distinct sector-specific skills gap. In this article, we look at some of the options for the technology industry to recruit the talent it requires from overseas.
The Frontier Worker Permit
Technology businesses and organisations have benefitted from having technology experts enter the UK to conduct work for on their behalf and then return to their home country. Many of these experts will not be employed or contracted on a full-time basis but rather, contracted only for particular technology projects.
To be eligible to apply for a frontier worker permit, an applicant must be:
- a citizen of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
- not primarily resident in the UK — an applicant must have returned to their country of residence either once in every six-month period or twice in every 12-month period. Even if this requirement is not met, a frontier worker permit may still be granted if the individual has been prevented from returning home due to ‘exceptional reasons’
- able to show that they began working in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 — an applicant must have worked in the UK at least once, prior to 31 December 2020
- able to show they have continued working in the UK at least once every 12 months since they started working here — exemptions apply, including an inability to travel to the UK to work because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
A technology professional must have commenced their cross border working pattern before 31 December 2020 to be eligible, but other than that the criteria are very wide and capture a host of different working patterns, arrangements and technology roles.
There are no minimum skill or salary thresholds that must be met and no minimum hours that an individual must have worked in the UK. In addition, it can be used by employed or self-employed individuals. Once granted, a frontier worker permit can be extended indefinitely provided that the holder continues to meet the eligibility criteria.
The Skilled Worker Route
The Skilled Worker route allows employees to come to the UK to work for a Home Office approved employer in an eligible occupation. In order to do this:
- the employee needs to be provided with a certificate of sponsorship and so the employer must have a sponsor licence
- they must be performing a job on the list of eligible occupations
- the employee must be paid a minimum salary for their role and
- they must be able to prove their knowledge of English.
The list of eligible occupations includes a significant number of technology roles and many are on the ‘shortage occupation ist’. These are roles the Government has recognised to be in short supply within the UK resident labour market. At present, this includes cyber security specialists, IT business analysts, programmers and software development professionals, web designers and development professionals. An employer recruiting for a role in shortage occupation can pay 80% of the going rate to a sponsored worker.
Technology employers wishing to recruit should consider partnering with local universities to identify talent. Options include offering work placements and educating students on potential technology career paths.
The Graduate Visa allows international technology students who have completed an eligible UK degree to stay in the UK to work, or look for work, for two years (three years for those being awarded a PhD) after they have completed their studies.
Youth Mobility Visa
The Youth Mobility Scheme visa is for young adults (aged 18 – 30) from participating countries and territories who wish to experience life and work in the United Kingdom for a period of up to two years.
A technology professional working on a Youth Mobility visa cannot renew after two years but they can apply to switch into another route (e.g. skilled worker route) before expiry.
How can we assist?
We provide a complete business immigration service. Our team of UK business immigration specialists are highly experienced in all the documentary and evidentiary requirements vital to a prompt and stress-free process when applying for a sponsor licence and sponsorship of overseas workers. We also provide support and guidance in managing the licence and compliance with sponsor duties and responsibilities.
Our Frontier Worker Permit product will assess the eligibility of any individual considering applying for a frontier worker permit. If an applicant fulfils the criteria then they will receive a comprehensive pack containing our step-by-step guide to the application process.
For more information, contact our immigration solicitors.