Work Permit Cloud provides sponsor licence applications and HR software services to a range of domestic and international clients.
Work Permit Cloud was set up in September 2020, and specialises in business immigration and UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)-compliant HR systems. It’s an optimum time for such a business, on the back of changes following Brexit and the current staffing crisis affecting the hospitality sector, with many Indian restaurants across the UK reporting struggles with staff recruitment and retention. A sponsor licence is now necessary for those who wish to sponsor foreign workers to come and work in the UK.
Founder Lutfur Rahman, a qualified lawyer who also describes himself as a ‘community activist’, carved out a niche in this area long before, having operated a similar practice in the early 2000s, just prior to the ‘Sector Based Scheme’ being introduced. The Scheme, which came into operation in 2003, allowed UK employers to recruit a limited number of non-EEA workers aged between 18 and 30, for temporary employment (for a maximum of one year) in selected low-skilled jobs in the hospitality and food processing sectors. After a year, these workers could be granted permission to remain, thereby transitioning into a more permanent immigration status. The scheme was open to people from all countries but most applicants came from Eastern Europe and Asia.
“I started with work permits, I wanted to make the employer journey easy,” says Rahman. “It’s an area I love working in.”
A booming business
Rahman’s business at the time, Universal Legal Centre, was set up with two other practitioners. He now practises from Saint Martin Solicitors where he leads the immigration team. We’re meeting at his offices in Whitechapel but such is the demand for his business that Rahman is now planning on opening a second, smaller office within the Gherkin building in the City of London in April.
“When the Sector Based Scheme was introduced, you didn’t need so many skills at that time – people could apply to work as kitchen porters so we captured much of the market for Indian restaurants looking for staff from abroad,” recalls Rahman, “At one stage, I had to recruit extra staff myself – up to 20, we created a real buzz. Post-Brexit, with the skilled service route, demand has picked up again.”
Rahman initially did a trial immigration service, with business initially coming through Saint Martin Solicitors, but within six months and around 150 applications later, it was clear that demand was there, leading him to set up Work Permit Cloud.
Having been in the immigration business for some time, Rahman says he is well known within the local Bengali community. He clearly has a passion for all things immigration – spending most of his working hours researching legal updates, changes in immigration rules and procedures, legal precedents and finding solutions and remedies for his clients.
Demand is heavily weighted towards arranging paperwork for those in Bangladesh, which makes up 80% of the business, while India and Pakistan make up 10% and the remaining 10% is from other countries. Indian restaurants account for around 60% of clients but increasingly, Rahman is seeing demand from other sectors, such as travel agencies and construction firms.
Rahman says the sponsor licence application process takes around eight weeks, and his success rate to date is around 99%. He has scaled the business impressively since 2020, amassing around 500 clients in 18 months. During busy periods, his office can handle between 40 to 50 applications in a month.
“I get so many calls and I am thrilled when people are able to come over,” he says. “I have done something that is good and that will have a positive effect on the local community.”
And Rahman hasn’t stopped at immigration. Last September, he launched a software service that helps businesses put in place a robust human resource (HR) management system, to help manage employees. Essentially, he says he offers three services: a sponsor licensing application, a recruitment service and a visa service. Custom-built software, which took Rahman around a year to develop, helps individuals and organisations to comply with the Home Offices’ UKVI guidance for skilled worker routes. By using the software, businesses can apply for a sponsor licence and once businesses are successful with their application, the cloud-based platform enables them to easily comply with sponsorship duties.
Rahman says the software helps both recruiters and job seekers to attain their personal and business objectives such as finding the right job with a UKVI regulated employer.
“There is a lot more paperwork involved with the current process but the software helps manage this efficiently,” says Rahman. “The Home Office is carrying out checks more often, and this helps keep details in order, as well as providing a range of other HR tools.”
For example, employers can easily make sponsorship licence applications with the correct set of documents, even with a limited understanding of complex sponsorship licence applications and management processes. The software also helps to raise awareness among employers and employees about the importance of recording and reporting any change of circumstances, such as a change of address. It also supports HR best practice across a number of areas, including recruitment, equality and diversity and Inclusion, home working, flexible working, discipline and grievance procedures, working hours, pay and wages, pension, leave, holiday, and sick pay policy.
Pricing for the various services depends on the number of users accessing the software, with fees for micro-businesses (1 to 10 users), small business (1-30 users) and medium business (1 to 50 users), although larger businesses can also be catered for.
Spreading the word
Word of mouth marketing and having a presence at various Asian-themed award events has helped to boost Work Permit Cloud’s reputation among the community and wider afield and Rahman now has a growing number of staff members, from countries as varied as Nigeria, Albania, China and Bangladesh.
It’s clear that he likes to keep himself busy and enjoys the business of immigration. As one employee says: “As a boss he has the vision and the mindset to provide solutions for employers. He’s also a great coach and mentor; whenever we have any queries or need some help, he’s right here.” Alongside his expertise with regards to immigration issues, Rahman has also owned a yoghurt factory and been involved in a cash and carry business. But those are stories for another time.
2nd Floor, 112-116 Whitechapel Road, London, E1 1JE