Demystifying VISA Processes for Digital Marketers

Through speaking to seasoned HR specialist, Carol Smith, we sought to demystify the worker VISA process, whilst clearing up some of the misconceptions - from cost to length of application processes.

Each year, we speak to talented and experienced digital marketers that have found themselves at a loss in their UK job search – and not through lack of skills and experience.

Many are actually impeded by their need for sponsorship which is seemingly impossible to obtain at the moment. We regularly speak to agency founders and hiring managers for eCommerce brands, and the common thread is that people just don’t understand enough about the processes involved and assume they are too cumbersome, and thus they essentially just opt to stay away from them all together. The result? Solid talent is missed and very qualified job seekers miss out on opportunities. 

We wanted to demystify things, so that in the very least, people are as best educated as they can be in order to make the decision on whether or not to sponsor. To do this, we enlisted the expertise of seasoned HR specialist, Carol Smith of

Carol was able to help us to unravel the intricacies of VISA processes in order to, in the very least, help digital businesses to understand them enough in order to make an educated decision on whether or not to sponsor. 

With over two decades of rich experience in HR, Carol is our trusted navigator through the complexities of integrating international talent into businesses.

The Hiring Conundrum: why are we avoiding sponsoring?

Picture this: you’ve got a stellar digital marketing role, and you stumble upon a candidate with a CV that could redefine your team. The catch? They need sponsorship. It’s a scenario we encounter often. As Carol aptly puts it, “The complexities, costs, and legal intricacies involved in sponsoring overseas professionals can make companies hesitant, even when faced with outstanding talent.” This hesitation is a paradox in the dynamic landscape of digital marketing, where global perspectives can be the catalyst for groundbreaking campaigns.

Is it expensive and does it take ages?

“For businesses that are concerned about investing in global talents, I would strongly recommend weighing these costs against the benefits of having the very best talent available working for your business – a huge competitive advantage.”, says Carol.

Addressing common misconceptions, Carol underscores, “While there are costs associated with sponsorship, it’s a misconception that it is always prohibitively expensive.” She emphasises that small to medium-sized enterprises can also become licensed sponsors, dispelling the notion that it’s exclusive to larger companies. 

In order to get a full idea of cost then you can see the basic prices for applications here on the government website.

The costs associated with sponsoring visas in the UK vary depending on the type of visa and the specific circumstances of the application. The costs that need to be considered would be the cost of the application itself plus any additional charges for partners or other family members that are attached to the application’s visa, the Healthcare Surcharge plus any legal or professional fees that may be incurred.   It may be worth seeing if there are any Government grants that could support this (for example the Tech Nation Visa Scheme).

Furthermore, she highlights that visa application processes, while requiring time, are not necessarily excessively lengthy. Planning ahead and implementing streamlined internal processes can expedite the timeline. Importantly, sponsorship is not limited to high-level positions; it extends across various roles based on eligibility.

Brexit’s Ripple Effect on how businesses hire

The aftermath of Brexit has cast a new light on hiring strategies. As Carol elaborates, “In response to the changes in free movement and the introduction of a Points-Based Immigration System, businesses are compelled to reassess their global talent acquisition approaches.” 

This seismic shift has led (some) companies to explore the creation of tech hubs in diverse locations and establish collaborative partnerships with educational institutions. It’s a strategic response to the evolving dynamics of talent acquisition in the post-Brexit era.

Reality Check on VISA Processes: Let’s take a proper look at what is involved

Let’s peel back the layers of the VISA application process. Many perceive it to be inconvenient, and the honest truth is that it can be. 

“It involves detailed documentation, financial checks, and adherence to strict deadlines,” emphasises Carol. Navigating this intricate maze often demands more than just HR expertise; it requires the guiding hand of immigration experts or legal professionals who can navigate the complexities.. It’s not just about filling roles; it’s about orchestrating a symphony of international talent seamlessly.

So let’s break down the specifics: if you are interested in sponsoring, what do you need to actually do?

Acknowledging the complexities, Carol offers pragmatic advice for employers navigating the VISA process in order to streamline and simplify the process to make it more manageable:

 “Use Immigration Experts: Employing or consulting with immigration experts or legal professionals who specialise in UK immigration can significantly ease the burden. These experts can provide guidance, ensure compliance, and handle the paperwork on behalf of the company.

Obtain a Sponsor Licence: Companies that plan to hire  workers from overseas on a regular basis can apply for a sponsor licence from the UK Home Office. Having a sponsor licence simplifies the process by allowing the company to issue Certificates of Sponsorship (COS) directly to employees without a wider drawn out process..

Implement Efficient HR Practices: Establish clear internal processes for managing visa applications. Ensure People teams are well-trained and knowledgeable about the immigration requirements to avoid errors or delays.

Stay Informed: Keep abreast of changes in immigration regulations and policies. The UK government periodically updates immigration rules, and being informed can help companies adapt to new requirements.

Plan Ahead: Start the visa application process well in advance to allow for sufficient processing time. Rushing through the process can lead to mistakes and delays.

Document Management: Maintain organised records of all visa-related documents, including COS, job offers, and compliance documents. Proper record-keeping is crucial for audits and inspections.”

The emphasis here is not just on fulfilling roles but on doing so strategically and seamlessly.

When looking at visa sponsorship, it’s encouraged that UK companies familiarise themselves with the intricacies of the Points-Based Immigration System and the specific visa categories available. It’s vital to assess your organisation’s talent needs thoroughly, aligning them with suitable visa categories to meet specific business objectives. Initiating the process involves applying for a sponsor licence from the UK Home Office, a step that should be approached with careful consideration.

Once secured, understanding and preparing for compliance is key—this includes establishing internal processes, staying informed about immigration regulations, and conducting regular compliance audits. Transparent communication throughout the process ensures clarity for both employers and prospective employees.

Are there any specific schemes for the Digital Media Industry?

For digital media, there are various immigration routes and initiatives that play a crucial role. As Carol notes, “the ‘Skilled Worker Visa’ is utilised by employers in various sectors, including digital media, to sponsor skilled workers from outside the UK.” The ‘Global Talent Visa’, designed to attract highly skilled individuals in fields like digital technology and media, is another avenue. Additionally, the Tech Nation Visa Scheme, primarily focused on technology and digital tech, can be advantageous.

Carol emphasises that active participation in industry-specific associations and networks provides valuable connections and information on talent and sponsorship opportunities in the digital media sector.

Advantages of Setting Up Visa Sponsorship

According to Carol, setting up visa sponsorship presents several advantages for businesses. 

  1. “Access to a global talent pool is a significant benefit,” she notes, allowing companies to recruit highly skilled professionals from around the world, addressing local talent shortages. The infusion of diverse perspectives from international employees enhances creativity and innovation within the organisation.

    2. Being known for sponsoring visas can give companies a competitive edge, attracting top global talent. Culturally, a diverse workforce improves the company’s understanding of different markets, a valuable asset for global expansion. Finally, visa sponsorship provides flexibility in hiring decisions, especially in industries with fluctuating demand, offering a strategic advantage.

As we wrap up this insightful journey, Carol leaves us with some golden nuggets: “Understand the sponsorship system, evaluate needs, and stay informed.” These are not just steps in a process; they are strategic manoeuvres to turn challenges into opportunities. A proactive approach and investment in global talent can transform what might seem like a maze into a path of innovation and growth.

A huge thank you to Carol for demystifying this crucial aspect of hiring in the digital landscape! Stay tuned for more insights as we navigate the dynamic world of digital marketing.