Can’t sponsor…or won’t sponsor?

Is it really all that difficult to be able to sponsor foreign nationals to work in the UK?

If only I could adequately express to you my frustration as a recruiter when I have a brilliant candidate for a role but cannot put them forward because my client is unable to offer sponsorship. Be it the Canadian woman in Toronto who has done Infra deals all over the world but wants to get to London to ply her trade at the heart of the Infra investment world, or the Chinese guy held hostage at one of the state banks’ London Branch on an inter-company transfer, if they are the best candidate for the position it hurts me not to be able to place them in the role.

In my fifteen years in recruitment I have overseen a considerable number of placements which required, and successfully achieved, sponsorship signed off by the UK Home Office. Some have been very senior hires, with a salary well in excess of the £150k mark beyond which eligibility is basically a formality.  But even the much more junior ones never took that long, and seemed far less complicated than HR departments wanted me to believe they would be.

Over the last few years, though, I have noted a really marked dip in the number of banks/ investors/ advisers willing to sponsor candidates. “We don’t offer sponsorship, I’m afraid” has been propelled into the top 3 most popular HR Business Partner phrases (I’ll tell you the other 2 another time) and line managers have given up trying to fight their corner against the authority of the HR machine and the bureaucracy (or so they are told) of the UK Government process.

For some time now, I have been threatening to run my own test case.  Little old One Search v the world – let’s see if it really is that difficult to secure the right to sponsor foreign nationals.  In fact I’ve been saying for years I was going to do it (every time we go into the market for experienced recruitment consultants and realise not only how competitive it is, but also how one-dimensional) but other important projects kept getting in the way. Monitoring and responding to every single Edwin Jonez LinkedIn post is a full-time job in itself, and that’s before we get into the recent outrage when it was discovered that the latest addition to the McCarthy clan’s Newfoundland pack had only been receiving half the recommended dosage of worming cream for a dog of his weight.

It was in April that I met a bright and ambitious young American woman and finally decided to stop pontificating and start doing.  She had a highly impressive background and although she could have gone in any number of career directions, she gave me brilliant answers as to why she wanted to be a recruiter (see my previously published ‘What’s wrong with Recruitment Consultants?’ for an explanation of this strange phenomenon). I knew I had to give it a try, or I’d always regret it.

So I called my lawyers (the brilliant SA Law, in case you’re wondering) who not only helped One Search attain our proud 100% record against a few rogue firms who were under the impression that recruitment was a charity enterprise, but who also ran humiliating rings around the management company behind the development on which I reside, bamboozling them with their own Rent Charge Deed when they took me to task over the impressive height of my beloved Leylandii.

Expecting to be overwhelmed by a blizzard of problems and box-ticking, I was amazed when Liam the Lawyer matter-of-factly told me that this should not be too much of a problem.  In fact, for just over £3k he could run the whole process for me. This one-off fee would (once approved by the Home Office) secure me a quota of slots (in my case 3, but you can ask for a sensible number in line with the size of your firm) which, when I want to fill with a suitable candidate, I would just have to fill in a simple application in each case and pay the c£1k admin fee.

It was a no-brainer, and I moved ahead at full steam.  I had to fill in a questionnaire about myself and the company, and provide a bunch of information on our company and our plans. I’d say it took me about two hours in total. A few days later, Liam the Lawyer was sitting next to me at my desk here at One Search Towers, ready to hit ‘send’ on the official application.  It has to be sent from your registered office, and the Home Office checks the IP-address as part of the process of confirming your legitimacy as a company. I hit ‘send’ on 3rd May 2017.

On 4th June 2017 I received the reply. We had been successful. We could go ahead and sponsor the American woman.  And two others (and we are now in the process of looking for two more talented recruiters from around the globe).  As simple as that. For a total investment of just over £6 K I can now employ 3 super talented foreigners, keeping my business diverse and giving us a competitive edge in the very competitive inter-recruitment company transfer market.

So my message to all my clients, and to all of you out there who thought this would be too difficult, too complicated, a waste of time, my message to all of you line managers or the Business Partners who run a mile as soon as you hear the S word; It’s not that difficult. If I can do it – if little old One Search Ltd can do it – anyone can do it.

In case anyone thought this was some sort of self-help manual for hapless HR professionals…it wasn’t.  It was a blatant plug (I know no other way) for talented and experienced (at least 3 years + please) recruiters (I don’t care what discipline – I just care that you have life, soul, banter, and no pesky nag,… please, Baby Jesus, no pinky ring) who want to work in London for a lively and ambitious Mayfair-based Infrastructure & Energy Finance recruitment specialist. We are very interested in Infra/Energy professionals looking to move into recruitment. We offer top remuneration, top banter and…sponsorship!