Cambridge tech startups handed masterclass on hiring outside EU
Vishal Chatrath, CEO of one of the fastest growing Artificial Intelligence companies in the world – Cambridge-based PROWLER.io – says the very first dollar he spent after launching the start-up was in hiring the services of a leading immigration lawyer.
He was moved to use his personal money as he felt the expertise he needed would be so critical to the company’s recruitment strategy. He has told Business Weekly that it was the best dollar he has ever spent.
Step forward Eba Kamaly, an entrepreneur in her own right and founder of Kamaly Consultancy, which provides bespoke immigration advice to high net-worth individuals, multi-national organisations and innovative tech startups.
Eba has serious pedigree. She worked 10 years in the City for top international law firms and during that time met Vishal who was working with Cambridge speech technology business VocalIQ – eventually to be bought by Apple for $100 million.
Safely out of stealth with the embryonic PROWLER.io, Vishal became Eba’s first client with her new enterprise. The working relationship has clearly thrived as Eba is now expanding her own firm to cope with the growing workload that complex immigration law is creating. Toss the immigrant employment aspects of Brexit into the mix and one can understand why Kamaly Consultancy is so busy.
The consultancy is regulated by The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). The OISC – an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Home Office – regulates immigration advisers, ensuring they are fit and competent and act in the best interest of their clients. Kamaly Consultancy is also a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA).
Eba says the overall cost to UK companies hiring international recruits is escalating and can easily run into several thousand pounds.
Remember, remember the 5th November
From 5th November 2018 the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) will double from £200 per applicant/per year of permission requested. The IHS is mandatory for migrants relocating to the UK to work for a period of six months or more.
The surcharge is in addition to the government application fee and Immigration Skills charge (ISC). Applicants and their family members pay the IHS irrespective of whether they already have private medical insurance and/or whether they access the NHS during their stay in the UK.
For instance, IHS for a family of four applying for a three-year work visa will rise from £2,400 to £4,800. All relevant fees are paid prior to lodging an application for consideration. Small innovative tech companies unable to identify a specific skill-set within the local labour market are forced to cast their net wider and will be hard hit by these changes.
Companies need to know precisely not just how immigration applications should be filed but also when they should be filed, she says, adding that the process can prove especially difficult and lengthy for companies without an existing licence to sponsor migrants under the Points Based System.
It was Eba who helped PROWLER.io – which currently employs 27 nationalities – secure a Home Office Tier 2 General Sponsor Licence and bring into the company, after overcoming various Home Office bureaucracy, an outstanding mathematician from Kenya who had been identified by chairman Carl Rasmussen as a ‘must hire.’
As Eba explains, a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence is mandatory for any UK organisation looking to recruit internationally and it can take up to four months or so to secure.
The Home Office may conduct a pre-licence site audit (announced or unannounced) before granting a licence. Typically the local workforce needs to be scanned for a suitably qualified British/EEA/Swiss national before the role is offered to an identified Tier 2 migrant.
Specific work permission is requested from the Home Office by way of a Tier 2 (General - restricted) Certificate of Sponsorship. These certificates are subject to an annual quota of 20,700 globally and are allocated to sponsors on a monthly basis.
The man sought by PROWLER.io fell within this restricted work category. PROWLER.io first requested permission to sponsor him in December 2017 and was turned down. In all, his application was rejected six times before PROWLER.io got its man.
Companies without a licence may consider the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route, says Eba. A lot of the talented Machine Learning researchers, Data Scientists and AI engineers hired at PROWLER.io fall within this visa category. But, again, this process is paper intensive and neither particularly fast nor straightforward.
Eba says: “Unlike the Tier 2 visa category you do not need sponsorship from a UK employer but you do need to demonstrate a substantial plan of what you will do in the UK and how your specific skill-set will contribute to the growth of the UK digital tech industry.
“To apply, applicant’s must be endorsed in their field: science, humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology or the arts as a recognised leader (exceptional talent) or an emerging leader (exceptional promise).
“There’s a two-stage application process to get this visa. You first need to apply to a designated body for endorsement within your particular field and then the official endorsement letter is used to support an application to the Home Office for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa.”
She adds ominously that there is a limit of 2,000 endorsements each year – 200 of which have been allocated to Tech Nation, the designated body for the innovative digital technology industry.
PROWLER.io is fortunate in two regards, according to Eba. Firstly, it has engaged with legal professionals and the Home Office to smooth the passage of incomers to the business from outside the EU and secondly, in her words: “It has raised and is continuing to raise levels of investment which allows the company, once they have identified the talent, to offer competitive salaries – giving them an edge over competitors also bringing talent in from overseas.”
At Eba’s behest, PROWLER.io chose to engage with the Home Office rather than endeavouring to battle the system. The company signed up for the highest level of customer service with the Home Office – Premium Customer Service – meaning it now has access to a dedicated account manager at the Home Office seven days a week, 365 days a year.
The account manager provides tailored immigration advice and support with any immigration related query. The service mitigates needless, unforeseen and aggravating delays in processing applications.
This is proving to be hugely beneficial to the PROWLER.io European staff (and their family members) when seeking to evidence their stay in the UK under the current European Regulations.
Premium Customer Service costs PROWLER.io £8k a year, but the benefits far outweigh the outlay. It is worth re-emphasising Eba’s credentials. She has supported thousands of people around the world from Canada to South Korea in recruiting staff within the often vastly different laws of various countries, right up to CEO level.
She eagerly awaits the final outcome of Brexit negotiations and is braced to deal with whatever issues UK companies face when final battle lines are drawn regarding the import of workers from within a fractured EU and outside of the Union.
Companies relying on international recruitment outside the EU to underpin their long-term business prospects can email: eba [at] kamalyconsultancy.com