In November 2015 the Home Office amended the Immigration Rules to make recruitment of some skilled digital technology workers easier but a number of companies are either not aware of the new route or don't know how to use it.
What is the digital technology exemption?
The digital technology exemption is, in essence, an expanded shortage occupation list that is only available to qualifying digital technology companies that have registered with the Home Office. Companies that already hold a Sponsor Licence cannot use the exemption without amending their Licence and new sponsors should consider whether they wish to register.
Once registered, the company can use the exemption to fill certain roles without advertising the post and at a lower cost than a normal visa application.
What roles are covered by the exemption?
There are only a limited number of roles currently covered by the exemption and these are:
- IT product managers;
- Data scientists;
- Senior Developers; and
- Cyber Security Specialists.
In each case the role must require someone with 5 years of experience and experience of leading a team.
The Shortage Occupation List is subject to regular reviews and the scope of the exemption is likely to be extended as the Government seeks to promote growth in digital technology.
What is qualifying company?
- A qualifying company must meet the following requirements:
- Have between 20 and 250 employees;
- Not be more than 25% owned by a company which has more than 250 employees in the UK; and
- Not have been established for the purposes of supplying services to a single company or group.
- A common misconception is that any company which is more than 25% owned by another cannot use the exemption but, this is not the case. The key issue is how many employees the parent company has in the UK.
How do you register to use the exemption?
An application to register for the exemption can be submitted via the Sponsor Management System, under the heading of "reporting changes to your Licence".
Applications can take up to 18 weeks to process so it is worthwhile registering now even if you do not anticipate using the exemption in the near future.
When using the exemption, companies will need to be aware of the additional documents they are required to keep in order to comply with their obligations to the Home Office.