Navigating SOC Codes

Published on: 18/05/2023


SOC Codes

When it comes to UK immigration, understanding the intricacies of the system is vital. One significant aspect of the process revolves around Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes. SOC codes play a crucial role in determining the eligibility for an individual to apply for a work visa (e.g., Skilled Worker visaGlobal Business Mobility visa ‘GBM’: Senior or Specialist Worker visa, etc.), assessing skill levels, and matching individuals to appropriate job roles.

The burden is on the sponsor to allocate the correct SOC code on the worker’s Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to prevent issues and/or delays with the corresponding visa application.

What is a SOC code

SOC codes are used to classify occupations across various industries. They serve as a method to categorise job roles based on the job’s responsibilities, qualifications, and skill levels. SOC codes are the primary tool used by UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) to assess an individual’s eligibility to carry out their sponsored role. The codes provide a consistent framework which ensure clarity and accuracy in evaluating an applicant’s background and professional expertise.

What is an example of a SOC code?

Sponsors must ensure that the role on offer meets the description of the selected corresponding SOC code. For example, if sponsoring a Business Development Manager, the most appropriate SOC code would be 3545, which covers sales, accounts, and business or product development managers.

Another common SOC code is 1139 (Functional managers and directors not elsewhere classified), which can be used for a broad range of managerial roles not covered in the other more specific manager/director level SOC codes e.g., 1121 (Production managers and manufacturing directors), 1131 (Financial managers and directors), 1132 (Marketing and sales directors), etc.

A tricky area within the SOC codes are the ones relating to engineers, the majority of which are included on the Shortage occupations list. It is important for sponsors to carefully select the correct category of engineering SOC code to ensure an incorrect SOC code selection does not cause any reason for delay e.g., when applying for a Defined CoS or when the Home Office is considering the sponsored worker’s visa application.

Consequences of using the wrong SOC code

When a sponsor assigns a CoS with the incorrect SOC code, it can be detrimental for the migrant worker, possibly resulting in UKVI questioning the genuineness of the role and therefore the credibility of the visa application.

Moreover, assigning a CoS and applying for a visa with an incorrect SOC code can be viewed as a deliberate attempt to deceive UKVI. Such misrepresentation can have severe repercussions, including being barred from making future immigration applications, legal penalties, and even potential deportation of the migrant worker in extreme cases.

SOC codes and UKVI

When a CoS is applied for or assigned to a migrant worker on the SMS, UKVI scrutinise the provided SOC code to verify its accuracy in line with the proposed role. This investigation may involve cross-referencing the stated job title and accompanying job description with the corresponding SOC code, verifying educational qualifications, work experience, and conducting background checks.

In cases where UKVI suspects an incorrect SOC code has been used, they may request additional evidence or clarification from the applicant and/or the sponsor. This can delay the application process and may trigger further scrutiny of the application. In the worst case, UKVI may then rely on the discrepancies identified and refuse the application based on misrepresentation or lack of credibility.

Finding the right SOC code

Here are some steps to assist you in finding the appropriate SOC code:

  1. Research: Start by researching the specific duties, responsibilities, and qualifications required for the proposed occupation. This will help you identify the most suitable SOC code for the job role.
  2. Official resources: Use official resources such as the ONS occupation coding tool. These contain detailed information about various occupations and their corresponding SOC codes.
  3. Self-assessment tools: Online tools and questionnaires provided by Gov.UK can help determine the most relevant SOC code based on an individual’s qualifications and job responsibilities.
  4. Seek expert advice: If you are unsure about the appropriate SOC code for the role you are seeking to sponsor, consult an immigration lawyer, who can provide invaluable guidance based on their expertise and experience.

SOC codes play a critical role in immigration applications and selecting an incorrect SOC code can result in serious consequences, leading to application rejection, potential legal penalties, and even deportation. Here at Clarkslegal our experienced immigration solicitors are available to offer practical, prompt and high-quality advice and support your business in all aspects of sponsorship.


This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking professional and legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.