Which SOC code should you use for skilled occupations?
What are the SOC codes?
When sponsoring individuals under the Skilled Worker visa or the Intra Company Transfer visa, employers must ensure that the role they are offering meets the visa conditions. An example would be making sure the role is at the required skilled level and pays the relevant minimum salary. In order for the Home Office to determine if a role meets certain visa requirements, jobs that are eligible under the Skilled Worker or Intra Company Transfer visa are given their own four-digit Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code. The SOC code list for jobs that are eligible for the Skilled Worker visa can be found on the government website here, while the list for jobs that are eligible for the Intra Company Transfer visa can also be found on the government website here.
The occupation codes are used to identify what the relevant going rate and salary threshold for each job is and they also provide details such as examples of what job titles are associated with that specific occupation code. Only occupations that feature on the SOC code list can qualify for the Skilled Worker or Intra Company Transfer visas. Once the relevant SOC code is selected, the employer can then assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to the applicant. For more information on the going rates regarding the occupational codes for the Skilled Worker visa click here, while the same information in retrospect of the Intra Company Transfer visa can be found here.
How to find the right occupation code
Employers are required to provide the SOC code which must closely match the role they are recruiting for.
There are normally two ways to search for the correct occupation code:
One option involves using the occupation coding tool on the ONS website and searching by the job title. Once the coding tool then identifies possible occupation codes, sponsors should then read the descriptions to identify the correct SOC code for the job they want to offer.
Another option to the coding tool involves searching through the alphabetical index of job titles in the Standard Occupational Classification 2000 under ‘Volume 2 – The coding index’.
When matching the SOC code it is important for sponsors to focus on the duties and responsibilities of the role and not just the job title. When the Home Office are considering an application they will apply the most appropriate match based on job description in the application and will not necessarily rely upon the SOC code stated by either the applicant or sponsor. If the job role does not match an eligible occupation because it is not at the correct skill or salary level, then sponsors will be unable to sponsor an individual for that role. Any visa application relying on an ineligible occupation code will be refused.
Sponsors must also check the latest version of the SOC code list each time they issue a CoS for a migrant worker due to the fact that the list is subject to change. For example, a code that has been previously relied upon for the assignment of a CoS for an applicant might have been taken off. Another example would be if salary levels for a code has changed and a CoS is issued at a salary that now falls below the minimum threshold, which will then result in the applicant’s visa application being refused for not meeting the visa salary requirement.
What happens if the wrong occupation code is used?
When the code that has been used relates to an eligible role, but is not suitable for the job itself as it does not meet the job’s occupation code description, the Home Office can take action.
When issues with the SOC code come to light as part of the employee’s visa application, the Home Office can then refuse the application for failing to meet the visa requirements. This can mean having to make a new visa application with a corrected code, in which case, you would have to outlay again for the Immigration Skills Charge, Health Surcharge and the visa application itself.
Incorrect occupation codes can also be identified from a Home Office compliance inspection. The Home Office has the power to investigate whether a job actually meets the stated SOC code. This can be done by reviewing documents such as the worker’s employment contract and job description, and by interviewing the worker so that they can verify the actual responsibilities of the job.
If a wrong code has been selected and it is found to have been a genuine error, it may be possible to rectify the mistake. However, the Home Office can investigate further and depending on their findings, can take enforcement action against the organisation by, for example, suspending their sponsor licence.
Recruitment strategies for the SOC code
The appropriate SOC code should be identified at the outset of the recruitment process to make sure the role meets either the skilled worker or Intra Company Transfer requirements for skill and salary level.
Additionally, when a job title does not quite match up with a code but you are confident that it might qualify, it is important to take a step back as the job title might just be the starting point. What should also be considered is the tasks that the role might involve on a regular basis and how the role might develop. The details within the occupational codes and job titles should then be considered.
How we can help
At NA Law Solicitors we provide thorough guidance and advice to businesses on all matters regarding corporate immigration and Home Office applications. We can therefore assist you with any queries you may have about SOC codes, CoS allocations or the Skilled Worker or Intra Company Transfer visa in general. Please get in touch for an initial assessment