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Skilled Occupation SOC Codes: All You Need To Know

When applying to sponsor a worker, an organisation will need to provide details of the role. One of the tasks is to select the correct standard occupational classification (‘SOC’) code for the role. In this article we look at how to find the right SOC code, what happens if a wrong SOC code is used and some of the terms frequently used in the context of SOC codes. 

What are SOC codes?

Appendix Skilled Occupations to the Immigration Rules provides information about each occupation code, including related job titles and the going rate for the code. In the Appendix, there is a list of four-digit occupation codes developed by the Office for National Statistics. This Appendix applies to Skilled Worker, Global Business Mobility and Scale-up routes. In Table 1, you will see that the going rates are per year based on a 39 hour working week. 

The occupation codes for health and education sectors are set out in Table 2, where going rates are based on national pay scales. 

Guide to finding the right SOC code

The worker must be sponsored for a job in an eligible occupation code listed in the Appendix. Do analyse the job descriptions of the role in which you wish to sponsor the worker and check whether there are any eligible occupation codes. 

Sponsors may also refer to the Office for National Statistics website to have an idea of the job descriptions, tasks and entry requirements for a particular job. 

The Home Office will be looking at whether there is a genuine vacancy and the applicant has the required skills, qualifications and experience to undertake the role. They will also check whether you have been complying with your sponsor duties, such as paying the salary as stated on the CoS. You must therefore make sure that the role which the worker will be undertaking is eligible for the relevant route. 

We have previously published an article discussing the eligible roles for a Health and Care Visa here. Do have a read if the role falls under one of these codes.

To ensure that you have selected the correct SOC code containing the right information, it is best to seek legal advice.  

Consequences of using the wrong SOC code

If the Home Office has reasonable grounds to believe that the sponsor has not chosen the most appropriate occupation code in the Certificate of Sponsorship (‘CoS’), the worker’s visa application may be delayed or refused. 

As a sponsor, you have a duty to ensure that the vacancy is genuine, as set out in the Home Office Guidance:

A genuine vacancy is one which: 

  • requires the jobholder to perform the specific duties and responsibilities for the job and meets all of the requirements of the relevant route 
  • does not include dissimilar and/or predominantly lower-skilled duties 
  • is appropriate to the business in light of its business model, business plan and scale

If there are any reasons for the Home Office to suspect that the vacancy is not genuine, such as containing an exaggerated or incorrect job description or the role does not exist, this may trigger the Home Office to conduct a sponsor compliance visit on an announced or unannounced basis and may also lead to your sponsor licence being suspended. 

If you do not comply with your sponsor duties, this may result in your sponsor licence being suspended and this will affect all the workers that are being sponsored by you. We have published articles discussing failure to understand and complying with sponsor duties in Sponsor Licence Suspended – What To Do Now and Sponsor Licence Suspended – What’s Next? It is therefore important to understand your sponsor duties and ensure that you comply with them. 

SOC code terms frequently used 

We set out below some of the terms frequently used in the context of SOC codes:

  • appropriate salary: the applicant is required to meet the salary requirements for the individual job as set out in the Immigration Rules;  
  • the general threshold: this is the minimum salary which must be met regardless of the occupation code; 
  • certificate of sponsorship: this is an electronic document with a unique reference number containing the the applicant’s personal details and details of the role;
  • appropriate skill level: the role is eligible for the relevant route in the Appendix;
  • the going rate: it refers to the minimum salary for a particular occupation code;
  • new entrants: it means someone who is new to the labour market;
  • shortage occupations list: these are occupations listed in Appendix Shortage Occupation List, such as care workers;

The routes mentioned in Appendix Skilled Occupations include:

  • Skilled Worker route: this route allows a sponsor who holds a valid Skilled Worker sponsor licence to sponsor an individual to carry out an eligible skilled job; 
  • Scale-up route: this route allows UK Scale-up sponsors to recruit talented individuals to enable the business to continue growing;
  • Global Business Mobility routes include the following:
    • Service Supplier: overseas workers to provide services cover by one of the UK’s international trade agreements that is currently in force or is being provisionally applied;
    • Secondment Worker: this route enables the overseas worker to be temporarily seconded to the UK as part of a high value contract or investment by the overseas employer;
    • Senior or Specialist Worker: this was previously known as the ICT route and allows overseas workers to come to the UK to carry out assignments on a temporary basis. The worker holds a senior manager ot specialist position and the UK business is linked to the overseas employer; 
    • UK Expansion Worker: An overseas worker coming to the UK to carry out temporary work relating to the business expansion of the overseas company in the UK. Further information on UK Expansions work sponsor licence can be read here;
    • Graduate Trainee: this route is for overseas workers who are required to undertake a work placement in the UK as part of a graduate training programme leading to a senior management or specialist position;

Contact Our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance in relation to a Sponsor Licence application or Skilled Worker visa application, contact our  immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via the enquiry form below.


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