Article Business Practice

Work permits for Non-UK and EU Ground Engineers

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Although there are indications that the supply of UK and EU graduate engineers is increasing, there are still sufficient hard to fill vacancies to indicate a continuing shortage of ground engineers. Although immigration currently has a high press and political profile, it is worth noting that where the Home Office acknowledges that a skill shortage exists, certain work permits can still be fast tracked – despite the tightening of visa rules for migrants from outside Europe.

Recruitment from outside Europe requires the employer to hold a sponsorship licence (see Once this has been obtained, the visa application procedure requires the employer to fulfil the requirements of Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) – i.e. to demonstrate that it is not possible to fill the post from within the UK or EU. This can be time consuming and risks the possibility that the desired applicant finds alternative employment elsewhere before the work permit is received.

The good news, however, is that Ground Engineers are on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). This does not affect the requirement for employers of migrant labour to be licensed, but once this hurdle has been overcome (and the necessary administrative and monitoring structures have been put in place) – the RLMT is not necessary and the issue of a visa should be relatively straightforward and reasonably quick.

A number of things to be aware of:

  • Your HR Department may not be aware that Ground Engineers are on the SOL.  (Civil Engineers were removed from the list some years ago). See Table 1.

    Table of data

    Table 1

  • The visa issuing people do not understand ground engineering. To minimise problems, avoid the temptation to use your company’s job title.  Stick to the generic occupations listed in the SOL. These are (April 2014)
  • A minimum salary applies:  for new entrants this is £19,700 (SOC code 2142);   £20,000 (SOC code 2113); and £20,200 (SOC code 2121).  For experienced people it is £24,600 (Soc Code 2142); £27,000 (SOC Code 2113); and £28,700 (SOC code 2121).  (Higher thresholds may apply if the holder is accompanied by his/her family).
  • The fees for applications via the SOL route are slightly lower than normal Tier 2 application rates.
  • Since 2011 there has been a limit of 20,700 work permits issued each year under the Tier2 regulations.  Applications for job titles on the SOL have priority.
  • For very experienced, very specialist roles who don’t easily fit into the above job titles – it may be possible to get a work permit under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent rules. These require a letter of personal recommendation from someone in the UK who is familiar with the  applicant’s work and his/her contribution to the field, and qualified to assess his/her claim to be a world leader or a potential world leader in the field. Applications will be assessed by the Royal Academy/Royal Academy of Engineers/The Royal Society.

Further information and forms can be found online – and contact numbers are readily available for guidance by UK Visas and Immigration staff.

The Ground Forum would be very interested in receiving feedback (positive and negative) from anyone obtaining visas for ground engineers – and advice that might be helpful to other applicants.

REMEMBER: Recruitment from outside the UK is not a substitute for developing UK talent.  The industry urgently needs more well qualified UK ground engineers.  Many employers are already reaping the rewards of closer liaison with universities and the early recruitment of undergraduate students and recent graduates who can benefit from work experience and specialist training in the ground engineering industry.


Eurocode EC7 National Application Document NAD

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The Ground Forum has received a report that work to prepare a National Application Document (NAD) for Eurocode 7 (EC7) has been delayed and impeded because of lack of funding.

This could have serious implications for the Uk if the NAD for EC7 is not available by January 2007, then EC7 will have to be used in the UK in its current format. This will mean that all geotechnical design in the UK will have to be undertaken using all of the published design methods in EC7. Also, each of these design methods will have to use the general European design parameters, not parameters that have been calibrated for UK design and construction practice, and for UK ground conditions.

The benefit of having the NAD for EC7 will be to reduce the number of design methods applicable for the UK. This will have the obvious result that design time, and thus cost, will be lower with the implementation of the NAD, than without it.

In addition, without UK specific design parameters published in a NAD for EC7, it is likely that designs will either be more safe compared to those produced by current design practice (resulting in uneconomic designs for UK clients) or will be less safe compared to those produced by current design practice (resulting in potential construction failures and associated loss of confidence by the public and UK clients).

It is the view of The Ground Forum that the publication of a National Application Document for EC7 is essential before January 2007



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We have now been a member of Ground Forum for a number of years and the Committee receives regular reports from the AGS representative (usually the Chairman). Most of the matters have been very broad and general as you would expect from this sort of group but the foundation has now been formed and there are some significant initiatives now being developed.

The members of Ground Forum are :

Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS) British Drilling Association (BDA) British Geotechnical Association (BGA) British Tunnelling Society (BTS) Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) Engineering Group of the Geological Society (EGGS) Institute for Mining and Metallurgy (IoM3) Pipe Jacking Association (PJA) UK Chapter of IGS (IGS)

The group was formed to be an umbrella organisation for all ground based associations and to give them a collaborative voice on issues that affected all the industry. It is important to note that members of the Forum have access to the Construction Industry Council and that CIC and other very high level policy making bodies consider Ground Forum to be their route to the associations, societies and hence the professions. We have to make sure that we take advantage of that route to pass our issues and questions back up to the higher authorities.


1) Insurance

Since the problems of September 11th 2001 the insurance market has reduced in size and the problems of obtaining all types of insurance from Employer’s Liability to Professional Indemnity have increased. Discussions between the BTS and the Association of British Insurers have taken the tunnelling industry from a point where tunnel construction was uninsurable to an agreed code of procedures on which insurance can be based.

This form of collaboration between the Association and the Insurance body may well become a common process in the future for all the member groups unless the insurance situation eases.

The development of this draft (at the moment) code is to promote best practice and insurers will require everybody to comply with it. The document will be supplementary to existing legislation and is now well underway towards a more complete draft.

FPS have also had discussions with insurers and the main causes of increased premiums have been given as September 11th, Stock Market performance and catch-up for the last 30 years.

Following the BTS code development there was discussion on codes of conduct in general and all Societies have been asked to submit any documents that they have to see if the whole situation could be eased by the development of a general “Geotechnical Code of Conduct”.

2) Research and Development

Government funding for research is driven by global issues and the EEC is now moving towards large grants for collaborative research between a number of parties.

The “blue-sky” research is not being funded.

The proposal from Ground Forum is to organise a high level seminar with representation from Government, manufacturing, design organisations etc. contributing. All members of Ground Forum would have input and the objective would be to try to influence “UK Limited” research into Ground Engineering in general.

The raising of the profile of Ground Forum is also an aim, not just for self promotion, but to increase the awareness of the importance of the ground-based disciplines.

I hope that AGS Members see this as a conduit to influential places and people and if there are any issues that can usefully be put through this route then we should start to develop them.

Keith Gabriel AGS, Member of Ground Forum