Highline - Advice for overseas architects finding work in London

Advice for overseas
Architects struggling

to find work in London

London has high levels of incomers and a hugely diverse population. A look around any London work force will show you that people from anywhere can make it.

As people who filter incoming CV’s the most common mistake is that many non-UK qualified Architects mistakenly promote themselves as Architects, which is a protected title in the UK and requires completion of the Part 3 Exam and registration with the ARB. It is therefore important to identify yourself correctly when seeking a job in the UK (or indeed any country you are looking for a job in) – otherwise it instantly raises questions about someone’s understanding of that country’s system.

For those who are not registered as Architects in the UK our advice on job hunting would be first to change your title (not to claim to be an Architect), and to look for jobs for which you are qualified for (Part 1/2 Assistants, Stage I/II Assistants, Architectural Assistant, etc.), and to then qualify by taking the Part 3 Exam before seeking jobs as Architects. By doing this you promote yourself correctly and your CV will be judged alongside similarly qualified people. Once working within an architectural studio you can demonstrate your skills and abilities, but the most important thing in getting a job is getting an interview which means having the correct details on your application and showing you are competent to work in the UK.

Your Questions

Zain Q – Architectural Assistant Part II via LinkedIn

Even though I have 5-6 years of experience abroad. Coming to the UK to do my M.arch which is Part 2. There is some resistance towards jobs because then you don’t have the “UK experience”. So my question is how can someone in my situation convince a firm to hire someone in my situation.

Response from Alan Sampson – Founder of Highline via LinkedIn
Thanks Zain, great question. It’s a very common response but mainly from lazy studios or recruiters. So many architectural studios in London are proud to highlight how many nationalities work for them and how many languages are spoken in the office. It’s because this culture exchange helps in the design process. So in terms of how you can present your experience gained abroad; I would suggest to put more focus on what your responsibilities were on the projects, how you worked in the team and what challenges you faced and overcame. After all we know the building regulations will be different but in regards to transport projects, hospitals or public buildings the way people interact with these spaces and access the sites remains the same anywhere in the world. Likewise with large scale residential projects – different building regs and processes, yes! But ultimately the goal is to handle housing shortages whilst building or maintaining communities. The same challenges around the globe.

I am currently registered with ARB and hold EEA qualifications, will I be affected?
If you are already registered with ARB, you are entitled to remain on the Register and your registration will not be affected. You do not need to do anything.
You will be required, as always, to renew your registration each year by paying the annual retention fee.

I hold qualifications listed in Annex V.7.1 of the MRPQD, what do the changes for mean for me?
Those who hold qualifications that were listed in the ‘frozen’ Annex V.7.1 and have access to the profession in the state that the qualification was issued (or an ARB prescribed Part 3) are still eligible to apply for registration.

I hold overseas/non-recognised UK qualifications :

If you hold overseas qualifications obtained outside the EU or hold a non-recognised UK qualification you will need to pass ARB’s Examination for Equivalence to Prescribed Qualifications (also known as the ‘Prescribed Examination’) to progress towards registering as an architect in the UK. Once you have satisfied Part 1 and Part 2 requirements, either by obtaining qualifications or by passing the Prescribed Examination, you will then need to obtain a UK Part 3 qualification from a UK school of architecture. Please note if you hold EU qualifications at degree level, that is equivalent to Part 1, you will be required to sit the examination at Part 1 level as the Directive does not provide for qualifications at degree level only.


For Part 1 Examination you must have successfully completed a three year course of study; for Part 2 you must already hold Part 1 and have completed two further years of postgraduate study in architecture.


If you hold qualifications that are not principally in architecture, for example, you have a degree in Interior Architecture, Interior Design or Architectural Technology, it is unlikely you will be eligible to sit the examination unless you fall under the current transitional arrangements.

A Guide for Recruiting Overseas Architectural Talent in a UK Post-Brexit Job Market

It could be useful to understand the process in place for architecture studios when recruiting overseas talent. The Architecture Social on LinkedIn published a considerable amount of information this summer on this subject.

Right to Work for EU Nationals


When did the EU national first enter the UK?

– If they entered the UK before 31 December 2020, you should follow the process below.

– If they entered the UK after 01 January 2021, they would need to follow the Skilled Worker Route.


Have they applied for either EU pre-settled or settled status?


If the applicant uses the online checking service, this will generate a share code. Using this share code and date of birth, you must then use the employer’s online service to check their right to work. (https://www.gov.uk/view-right-to-work)


A duty not to discriminate against EU nationals


– You have a duty not to discriminate against EU, EEA or Swiss citizens and cannot require them to show you their status under the EU Settlement Scheme until after 30 June 2021.

– It’s also worth noting that EU Nationals arriving after 01 January 2021 will be entering as visitors and will not be able to work or be self-employed without a visa.


Acceptable documents to provide a right to work for EU Nationals


– EU, EEA or Swiss Citizens can use their passport or national identity card

– Non-EU, EEA or Swiss citizen family members can use an immigration status document.

– EU, EEA and Swiss Citizens and their family members can use the online right to work checking service.


Please be advised if you have not confirmed EU Pre-Settled Status or Settled Status for any EU Nationals on or after 30 June 2021, they will no longer possess the right to work in the UK.


Irish nationals will have a right to work simply upon production of their passport or national identity card in the same way as British/settled persons.


Skilled Worker Visas – The Process


Skilled Worker Visa


The Worker and Temporary Worker Route apply to both:


– EEA nationals who arrive in the UK after 11 pm on 31 December 2020; and

– Non-EEA nationals who apply for entry clearance or permission on or after 01 December 2020.


Sponsoring a worker


– You will need to sponsor any worker you wish to employ if they are not British/Settled in the UK or do not have appropriate immigration permission to work in the UK.

– To sponsor a worker, you must hold a valid sponsor licence for the route you intend to sponsor them. If you do not hold a sponsor licence, you must apply for one before you can sponsor the worker.

– Please note that a recruitment agency cannot hold a sponsor licence to outsource labour to another organisation.

– Employees would need to be on the company’s payroll and cannot work on a self-employed basis.


How do you sponsor a worker?


– You must assign a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) to the worker so that they can make a successful immigration application. You will need to pay a fee of £199 to assign the certificate and may also have to pay the Immigration Skills Surcharge of £364/£1000 per year of sponsorship.


Before you assign a CoS, check the following:

– Check that the role you are employing is eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa (See a list of suitable roles (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendixskilled-occupations).

– Ensure that you will pay the worker appropriately.

– Check that the worker is eligible.


Points Requirement for a Skilled Worker Visa


An applicant must score 50 mandatory points against the following requirements:


– Offer of a Job by a Home Office approved Sponsor- 20 points

– Job at Appropriate Skill Level- 20 points

– Speaks English at required level- 10 points

– In addition, there are up to 20 tradeable points.


Step 1: Assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship


There are two types of CoS: (Cost of Assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship is £199 for the employer)


– Defined CoS – These are for Skilled Workers applying for a visa from outside of the UK. A decision can be obtaining in 1 working day following which the candidate can apply for their skilled worker visa from overseas.

– ‘Undefined CoS’ – These are for Skilled Workers applying for a visa from within the UK or a CoS assigned to existing workers. A Sponsor is likely to have an annual allocation of Undefined CoS they can assign whenever they need to employ a candidate.


The Role – Job at Appropriate Level


You must be able to offer genuine employment that is skilled at RQF Level 3 or above. (A-Level Standard). Applicants would score 20 points out of a requisite 70 points for having a job at the appropriate skill level.


You can only sponsor workers for a job which is listed in Table 1 of 2 of Appendix Skilled Occupations.


You can also sponsor eligible healthcare professionals for Health & Care Visas.


Salary Requirements


You must ensure that you pay any worker you wish to sponsor at least £25,600 or the minimum salary specified in the SOC for their role.


– Any changes to a worker’s salary must be reported via your Sponsor Management System (SMS).

– The Home Office will undertake regular checks via HMRC via your Employer PAYE

– Reference and compliance visits to ensure that you are paying the amount you said you would.

– Allowances and guaranteed bonuses can be included but not performance-related bonuses.


Immigration Skills Surcharge


– You may have to pay the Immigration Skills Surcharge each time to assign a certificate of sponsorship. If you are deemed a small sponsor, you will pay £364 or £1000 if you are deemed a large sponsor.

– You do not need to pay the Skills Surcharge in the following circumstances:

– They are applying for entry clearance for less than 6 months.

– They are being sponsored under certain exempt SOC occupations.

– They are a Student who is switching to a Skilled Worker visa

– They had been assigned a CoS under Tier 2 (General) or (ICT) before 06 April 2017 and they

– Have continued to hold leave under the Tier 2/Skilled Worker category.


English Language Requirement – 10 Points


All applicants must score 10 points for English language by either:


–  Being a national of a majority English-speaking country.

– Holding a degree that was taught in English and has been deemed by UK Naric as being equivalent to a UK Bachelors/Master’s degree and taught in English

– Passing a Home Office-approved English Language test in all four components (reading, writing, speaking and listening).


Maintenance Requirement


All Applicants must also have at least £1270 in their bank account to show they can support themselves in the UK. They will need to have had the money available for at least 28 days in a row prior to their application. Day 28 must be within 31 days of applying for this visa. If they have been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months or their employer has certified their maintenance requirement for the first month in the UK they will not need to show their bank statements as proof of maintenance.


Step 2: After you have assigned a certificate of sponsorship


Once you have assigned a valid CoS to a worker and have paid and Immigration Skills Surcharge the worker can then use the CoS to make an application for entry clearance or leave to remain within three months of the date, you assign it.


How to make an immigration application


– If the Worker you wish to sponsor is based outside of the United Kingdom, you must assign a Defined CoS and obtain entry clearance in the relevant route before they come to the UK.

– If the worker is already in the UK, you must assign an Undefined CoS, and they must apply for permission to either continue working with you; change employment or to switch from a different immigration route.

– If you want to sponsor a worker who is already in the UK on another immigration route you should check that their current immigration status allows them to switch.

– Individuals can only switch to the Worker Routes if they were not last granted permission as:

– Visitor

– Short-term student

– Parent of a Child Student

– Seasonal Worker

– Domestic Worker in a Private Household

– Outside of the Immigration Rules


Application Fees and Timelines


Sponsor Licence: If a company does not possess a Sponsor Licence, the Home Office processing time to approve an application is either eight weeks under a Standard service or ten working days under a Priority Service.


– Sponsor Licence: If a company does not possess a Sponsor Licence, the Home Office processing time to approve an application is either eight weeks under a Standard service or ten working days under a Priority Service.

– Fees: £536 for a Small company (typically if any 2 of the following apply-less than 50 employees,

– Turnover of £10.2m or less; £5.1 m or less on its balance sheet; or £1476 for medium to large companies. 10 Day priority service – £500)

– CoS: £199

– Immigration Skills Surcharge: £364 or £1000 if medium/large employer per year of sponsorship (e.g. a 3 year sponsorship will be £1092 or £3000)

– Skilled Worker Visa Application: £610 when applying overseas or £704 in the country for a 3-year visa. If you assign a certificate for more than three years, the fees are £1220 (when applying overseas) or £1408(when applying from within the UK.

– Roles within the Shortage Occupation List: £464 for a 3 year visa. If you assign a certificate for more than 3 years, the fees are £928.

– Health Surcharge Fee: £624 per year of visa.

– Priority Service for Skilled Worker Visa: £283 for a 5 day service for out of country applications; £500 for a 5 day priority service or £800 for a 24 hour service in country. Standard turnaround from outside of the UK is a 15 working days or 8 weeks if applying from within the UK.

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