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What is the SOC Code?

The SOC codes, also referred to as Standard Occupational Classification codes, are four-digit numbers used to classify jobs in the UK. SOC codes allow UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to understand the type of work a migrant will be doing in the UK.

UK employers sponsoring overseas workers must ensure that the correct SOC code is entered on the employee’s Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). And when applying for a visa (e.g., Skilled Worker visa), applicants will be asked to provide the corresponding SOC code.

It is important to use the correct SOC code, as failure to do so may result in a visa application being delayed or refused. You can use the ONS Occupation Coding Tool or the Home Office skilled occupation list1 to find the relevant code for a specific role, as explained below.

What happens if you use the wrong job SOC code UK?

As an employee, using the wrong job SOC code can lead to a delay or refusal of your visa application, potentially resulting in the loss of the fee paid. As an employer, entering an incorrect SOC code on a CoS may result in the Home Office taking compliance action against you. This may lead to a sponsor licence suspension, revocation or downgrade.

The temporary loss of a sponsorship licence will mean that you are unable to sponsor new staff from overseas. If this becomes permanent, the visas of your existing sponsored staff may be curtailed, and those staff will be required to leave the country within 60 days. A visa refusal or sponsor licence compliance action may be taken if you:

  • provide the wrong SOC code, even if this was this was a genuine mistake
  • provide an occupation code for a sponsored role, but it is not on the list of eligible occupations
  • provide a suitable occupation code, but the job has a higher ‘going rate’ than the salary being paid to the employee
  • are claiming points for a job on the shortage occupation list, but the SOC code provided is not on the shortage occupation list
  • are claiming points for a PhD qualification but the SOC code provided is not eligible for PhD points

If the Home Office believes that the wrong SOC code has been used, the action they take will depend on a number of factors, including whether:

  • you used an incorrect code, and this was a genuine mistake
  • you have a genuine vacancy for the SOC code provided
  • the sponsored person has the skills, qualifications and experience for the role on the CoS
  • you have continued to remain compliant with the Home Office’s immigration rules

If you discover that you have used the wrong SOC code, it is advisable to inform the Home Office as soon as possible. By proactively notifying UKVI of the error, there is a reduced chance that they will refuse the visa or take compliance action.

We also recommend that sponsoring employers regularly review the use of SOC codes and ensure these align with their recruitment process.

To avoid the possibility of SOC code problems when hiring an overseas worker, ensure that from the outset of the recruitment process, the correct SOC code is used and the salary on offer meets the minimum requirements. Where a suitable SOC code is not available, it may be necessary to review the tasks associated with the job on offer and consider if another code provides a suitable fit.

How to find the right SOC code UK

To find a suitable SOC code, we recommend taking the following steps:

  1. Use the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Occupation Coding Tool2
    This will return a SOC code list and classification names that match a specific search term provided. For example, searching for the term “manager” includes the following results:
    • 1135, “Manager, services, management”
    • 1251, “Manager, property management”
    • 1259, “Manager, management consultancy”
    • 3550, “Ranger”
    • 1121, “Manager, abattoir”
    • 1121, “Manager, brewery”
    • 1121, “Manager, composition”
    • 1121, “Manager, electro-plating”
    • 1121, “Manager, engineering”
    • 1121, “Manager, fabrication”
    • 1121, “Manager, factory”
    • 1121, “Manager, foundry”
    • 1121, “Manager, manufacturing”
    • 1121, “Manager, mill”
    • 1121, “Manager, plant”
    • 1121, “Manager, printing
  2. Check the Skilled Worker list of eligible occupations3
    To ensure you have the correct SOC code for the sponsored role, it is advisable to check the Skilled Worker list of eligible occupations. This provides a full list of all of the Skilled Worker SOC codes, the job type, and related job titles. For example, SOC code 1136 corresponds to the job type “Information technology and telecommunications directors”, which in turn corresponds to three specific job titles; IT Director, technical director (computer services), and telecommunications director.
  3. Check the ‘going rate’ for the job
    Once you have confirmed you have the correct SOC code, it is then advisable to check whether a “going rate” applies to the job. To check the going rate, go to the Home Office’s Skilled Worker visa: going rates for eligible occupation codes4 online. For example, SOC code 1136 has a going rate of £56,100 (£27.66 per hour).

As mentioned above, if you cannot find an exact match for a specific job title, you may need to look at different SOC codes. For example, if you are looking for “Quality analyst (computing) Software tester”, you will not find this under “2136: Programmers and software development professionals” where you may expect it; but you will find it under “2139: Information technology and telecommunications professionals not elsewhere classified.”

Changes in SOC codes

It is important to note that SOC codes and minimum salaries are always subject to change by the UK government. This means that SOC code classifications, SOC codes on the list of eligible occupations, SOC codes on the shortage occupation list, and going rate/salaries for each SOC code may be changed at any time.

For this reason, as an employer, it is imperative to regularly check that your list of SOC codes and job types, job titles, and salaries is kept up to date. By relying on a list which is out of date, you may inadvertently use a SOC code or salary which is no longer valid, resulting in a CoS or visa refusal for a sponsored worker, or worse, the loss of your sponsor licence.

As an employee, the immigration rules state that you must apply to update your Skilled Worker visa5 if you change to a job with a different SOC code. To apply to update your visa, you must still meet all of the eligibility rules (including the salary requirements) and have a new Certificate of Sponsorship from your employer with the new SOC code.

How can Reiss Edwards help?

At Reiss Edwards, we have a team of immigration solicitors who specialise in sponsor licence application, immigration compliance and audit. We are proud to have worked with many national and international brands, including Samsung, TM Lewin, Automation Logic, and Jurassic Fibre,

For assistance on UK immigration matters, whether you are a visa applicant or a sponsor licence holder, please speak to our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or by email at info@reissedwards.co.uk.

References

1 GOV.UK: Skilled worker occupation list

2 ONS Digital: ONS Occupation Coding Tool

3 GOV.UK: Skilled worker occupation codes

4 GOV.UK: Skilled worker going rates

5 GOV.UK: Updating skilled worker visa application

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