25 Jul How to find the correct SOC code for migrants?
A Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code is a 4-digit number that classifies occupations into job types and related job titles. The SOC is a common classification of occupations developed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS): https://www.ons.gov.uk/methodology/classificationsandstandards/standardoccupationalclassificationsoc/soc2010. The SOC codes are used to identify the relevant going rate and salary threshold for each job, both at ‘new entrant’ and ‘experienced’ rates, and provides details, for example, job titles associated with that specific occupation code.
When recruiting a migrant under the Skilled Worker or the Global Business Mobility (GBM) visa scheme, employers must allocate the correct SOC code to ensure the role they are hiring meets the visa requirements. For instance, the role is at the required skilled level and meets the relevant minimum salary threshold.
Once the sponsor has selected the relevant SOC code, they will be able to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to the migrant.
Using the wrong SOC code
Sponsors must allocate the correct SOC code to avoid issues with the Home Office (HO) and potential delays or refusal of the visa application.
If a visa application were to be refused due to the wrong SOC code, the individual will need to submit a new application with a corrected code, and the employer or migrant will need to pay again for the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC), Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) and the UKVI fees.
If a shortage occupation code had initially been used and the lower application fees had been paid, however, the Home Office subsequently determines the wrong SOC code was used and the role is a non-shortage occupation, the sponsor will have to pay the fee difference before the application can be processed.
If the incorrect SOC code is used and it is found to have been a genuine error, the HO can investigate further and depending on their findings, may take enforcement action against the company by, for instance, suspending the sponsor licence. If the HO determines the sponsor had provided false information, they may take action to revoke the company’s licence.
How does the HO investigate SOC codes?
The HO caseworker can check against the job title, job description and SOC code to make sure the correct code has been selected and the correct fees have been paid. However, they have powers to investigate the codes provided within the visa application by examining information such as:
- Whether the CoS been assigned for the role to match the job description?
- Does the stated salary meet the minimum salary threshold?
- Has the appropriate occupation code been used to meet the skill level?
Caseworkers have access to the Sponsor Management System (SMS) and can check against the information given on the visa application form and the assigned CoS. They can also request to review documents such as the individual’s employment contract and job description and can also interview the sponsored individual to verify the actual responsibilities of the job.
If they dispute whether the code chosen is the most relevant for the role, they can request an explanation as to why it was selected when another code might be more suitable.
Wrong SOC codes can also be identified following a HO compliance inspection.
How to find the right SOC code for migrants?
Appendix Skilled Occupations to the Immigration Rules contains information about each occupation code, including example job titles that fit within each code: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-skilled-occupations.
However, it is not always obvious for employers to know which SOC code to use. In this situation, sponsors can use the occupation coding tool on the ONS website to search job title: https://onsdigital.github.io/dp-classification-tools/standard-occupational-classification/ONS_SOC_occupation_coding_tool.html. Once the tool has identified possible occupation codes, employers should read the descriptions to identify the correct SOC code for the job they are offering.
In addition, sponsors can search through the alphabetical index of job titles in ‘volume 2’ https://www.ons.gov.uk/methodology/classificationsandstandards/standardoccupationalclassificationsoc/soc2020, or using the website https://cascotweb.warwick.ac.uk/#/classification/soc2020 to assist with the employment research. There are also some excels can be downloaded via ‘volume2’ including jobs in Major Groups, Sub-Major Groups, Minor Groups and Unit Groups.
Please note that when selecting a SOC code, employers should focus on the duties and responsibilities of the role, rather than the job title.
Meanwhile, employers need to check the latest version of the SOC code list each time when they issue a CoS to a migrant as it is subject to change. For example, the code they had previously relied on has been taken off from the list, or the minimum salary threshold under the code has been changed, or a code they have used previously has been moved onto the Shortage Occupation List etc.
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