Auteurs
Charlie Pring

Charlie Pring

Senior counsel

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Vikki Wiberg

Vikki Wiberg

Senior counsel

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Auteurs
Charlie Pring

Charlie Pring

Senior counsel

Read More
Vikki Wiberg

Vikki Wiberg

Senior counsel

Read More

24 juin 2019

Home Office advised to radically expand the UK’s Shortage Occupation List

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the advisory body that makes recommendations to the UK government about immigration policy, has released a report on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). The report proposes a significant expansion to the scope of the SOL. If the Home Office accepts the proposals, it will make the process of sponsoring Tier 2 work visas considerably easier for some employers.

What is the SOL?

The SOL lists occupations which require skills that the Home Office accepts are in short supply in the UK. Employers struggle to fill vacancies for those SOL roles, so are granted advantages when sponsoring workers on Tier 2 General visas:

  • Exemption from the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) meaning there is no requirement to demonstrate that the employer has advertised the role and tried to recruit locally
  • Priority in applications by sponsors for 'restricted' certificates of sponsorship against the UK's immigration cap/quota. This effectively guarantees success even when demand is higher than the monthly limit
  • Exemption from the flat rate annual minimum salary (currently £35,800) for permanent residency (ILR) applications
  • Lower visa application fees for applicants and their family members

Highlighting low unemployment and the increasing numbers of EEA departures from the UK since the Brexit vote, which has led to a greater reliance by employers on non-EEA workers, the MAC recommends a broad expansion in the number of roles covered by the SOL. If the Home Office implements the MAC's proposal – it has accepted most of the MAC's recommendations from previous reports – the number of roles covered by the SOL will increase from around 1% to 9% of occupations.

Proposed expansion of SOL

The changes are widespread and not limited to particular sectors. While some new roles have been added to the list – such as biological scientists and biochemists, veterinarians, web designers and architects – in many cases the MAC recommends that the SOL should list all roles covered by a particular broad type of occupation. For example, instead of the specific (narrowly defined) engineering roles in the current SOL, the MAC proposes that all engineering positions that meet Tier 2 skill level requirements in Appendix J will be SOL roles in the future.

The full list of recommendations is in the MAC's report, but we've set out below a comparison extract of the proposed changes to the UK-wide SOL that will be most relevant to you:

SOC Code/occupation

Current SOL

MAC's proposed new SOL

2112 Biological scientists and biochemists

No roles covered

All roles covered

2121 Civil engineers

Specific roles in the construction industry and the oil and gas industry

All roles covered

2122 Mechanical engineers

Only mechanical engineers in the oil and gas industry

All roles covered

2123 Electrical engineers

Electrical engineers in the oil and gas industry and specific roles in the electricity transmission and distribution industry

All roles covered

2124 Electronics engineers>

Specific signalling and other roles in the railway industry and specialist electronic engineers in the automotive manufacturing and design industry

All roles covered

2126 Design and development engineers

Design engineers in the electricity transmission and distribution industry and specific roles in the automotive design and manufacturing industry

All roles covered

2127 Production and process engineers

Chemical engineers, manufacturing engineers (process planning) in the aerospace industry, technical services representative in the decommissioning and waste areas of the nuclear industry

All roles covered

2129 Engineering professionals not elsewhere classified

Specific roles in the electricity transmission and distribution industry, aerospace industry and civil nuclear industry

All roles covered

2135 IT business analysts, architects and systems designers

Systems engineers in visual effects and 2D/3D computer animation for the film, television or video games sectors.
Data scientists employed by a 'digitech' qualifying company, where the job requires a person with a minimum of five years’ relevant experience and demonstrable experience of having led a team

All roles covered

2136 Programmers and software development professionals

Senior developers employed by a digitech company, where the job requires a person with a minimum of five years’ relevant experience and demonstrable experience of having led a team.
Specific jobs in visual effects and 2D/3D computer animation for the film, television or video games sectors, and the electronics system industry

All roles covered

2137 Web design and development professionals

No roles covered

All roles covered

5434 Chefs

Skilled chefs with at least 5 years' experience, but role cannot be sponsored if the establishment is a fast-food outlet, a standard fare outlet or provides any take-away service

Same requirements but restaurant will still qualify even if it also provides a take-away service


The future

We need to wait for the Home Office response to these recommendations, as they will not be implemented unless approved. In the longer term the SOL may become redundant anyway under the Home Office's White Paper proposals, The UK's future skills-based immigration system. From 2021, the Home Office intention is to scrap the RLMT and the UK's immigration cap, and reduce the minimum skill requirement for Tier 2 roles from (broadly) graduate level to a level that would also allow sponsorship of medium-skill jobs. Those changes would remove the need for the SOL. As we transition towards a new regime, employers will welcome any steps to simplify the process of sponsoring skilled workers.

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