Matching the role you are recruiting for with the relevant SOC code is a crucial step when allocating a Certificate of Sponsorship to a new migrant worker.
To hire skilled non-EEA employees under the Tier 2 route, employers must ensure the role they are seeking to fill meets prescribed conditions.
The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code is used to assess the correct skill level and appropriate salary level for specific job roles. Employers are required to select the SOC code that most closely matches the job description they are looking to sponsor a migrant worker for.
With the relevant SoC code selected, the employer can then assign the relevant Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).
If the job role does not meet the conditions for skill and salary levels, sponsors cannot issue a CoS.
It’s not always obvious for employers or their HR staff which SOC code to use – particularly if assigning a CoS for the first time, or employing for a new type of role or skillset.
Issuing the wrong code will in all likelihood result in issues further along the Home Office process, with the employee’s application potentially being refused for failing to satisfy the Tier 2 requirements.
If this means starting again with the application – you will have to outlay again for the Immigration Skills Charge, Health Surcharge and the visa itself.
SOC Codes: Getting it right
The latest published SOC codes are found in Appendix J of the Immigration Rules, Codes of Practice for Skilled Work.
The codes of practice are intended to cover all possible jobs, and are based largely on the SOC 2010 system designed by the Office for National Statistics. They detail which jobs meet the Tier 2 conditions for minimal skill level – degree level or above, with some exceptions – and for salary – either at ‘new entrant’ or ‘experienced rate’.
One of the biggest problems for employers is that the codes of practice are subject to change. Sponsors need to check the latest version before issuing a CoS for a migrant worker. It may be for example that a code you had previously relied on has been taken off.
Or, if salary levels have been changed and you issue a CoS at a salary that now falls below the minimum threshold, it’s likely to result in the applicant’s Tier 2 application being refused for not meeting the Tier 2 requirement.
Conversely, you could find that a code you have used previously, or even for a long time, has been moved onto the Shortage Occupation List. This can make a huge difference in easing the process of employing foreign migrants for those roles, without the need to carry out the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) and Genuineness Test.
Using the Tier 2 SOC Codes
The Codes of Practice provide details on job titles and job skills. You can search by keyword or job title. Codes are colour-coded, corresponding to NQF / skills level of each job:
- Blue – PhD jobs – chemical scientists, R&D managers etc
- Green – NQF Level 3 or above – these codes / roles do not qualify for sponsorship
- Pink –NQF Level 6 – you can sponsor a migrant worker new to the UK only at NQF Level 6
- Turquoise – not eligible, these positions are deemed well-abled to be filled by the resident workforce
There are many exceptions that apply, so it is advisable to take professional guidance where you are uncertain.
It’s also important to note that when considering an application, the Home Office will apply the most appropriate match based on the job description in the application – not necessarily the SOC code stated by the applicant or their sponsor.
What can you do if a job doesn’t seem to match to a code yet you are confident it should qualify? Take a step back – the assigned job title may just be the starting point. Consider the tasks the role will entail on a regular basis and how it fits in the wider organsational map. Also think about how that role will develop.
Then look at the codes of practice job titles and what the SOC code is saying.
This may require further discussion and detail with technical managers in your organsation, to ensure you are covering all angles and are not overlooking any codes that could be an appropriate match.
SOC Codes & recruitment strategies
We recommend our clients take a strategic approach to using SOC codes, in the context of their organisation’s broader recruitment aims.
Ideally, the SOC code should be identified at the outset of the recruitment process to ensure the role does in fact meet the Tier 2 visa requirements for skill and salary level and – importantly – since many roles will require a RLMT to be completed in order for the Home Office application to be granted.
While there will always be potential for change to the codes, the advantages of taking a planned approach to future recruitment should not be overlooked.
The codes of practice give a good insight into how you can create job titles to match your future skills needs, and also how to map out the career paths and progression of foreign employees in the future as well as an indication of the salaries required under the SOC codes.
Do you have a question about SOC codes? DavidsonMorris can help!
As experienced advisers to businesses on all aspects of corporate immigration, global mobility and Home Office applications, we can assist with any questions you may have about SOC codes, CoS allocations or the Tier 2 process in general.
We also deliver training to inhouse HR and management teams on how to use SOC codes effectively in support of recruitment strategies and immigration compliance. Contact us for more information.