The Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”), the body which advises the UK government on immigration policy, has recommended that the Home Office increase substantially the list of jobs on the Shortage Occupation List (“SOL”), to include vets, architects, psychologists, biochemists and web designers.
The recommendations come on the back of the MAC’s latest review of the SOL, which details the professions which are allowed to bypass the usual requirements for the recruitment of skilled workers from outside Europe. The review has suggested that the sizeable expansion of the professions on the SOL should cover some 9% of the jobs in national labour market, compared with the 1% of jobs covered currently.
Freedom of movement and the right to work in the UK without permission from the Home Office only applies to workers from the EU (and the UK), as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The Home Office operate an annual cap on work visas issued to skilled workers from the rest of the world, and this is currently set at 20,700. If this upper limit is reached, it is the occupations on the SOL which are given priority. The practical ramifications of a profession being on the SOL are that the prospective employer does not have to advertise the position to the resident labour market, certain salary thresholds are waived and the application fees are less.
Having been commissioned to review the SOL last year by the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, the MAC’s chairman, Professor Alan Manning, concluded that “[T]oday’s labour market is very different to the one we reviewed when the last SOL was published in 2013. This is why we have recommended expanding the SOL to cover a range of occupations in health, information and engineering fields”. Commentators have pointed to the fact that the SOL represents a snapshot of exactly where the UK labour market faces skills shortages, and that the list may act as a barometer of the availability and quality of technical and vocational training necessary to keep the UK economy growing.
It should be noted that the government has stated its intention to abolish the distinction between EU and non-EU citizens with respect to working rights after Brexit, and that the UK’s comprehensive post-Brexit immigration policy (as reported to date) will seek to bring EU nationals within any future skilled worker visa regulations.
If you have any questions or would like further details of the Home Office’s current Tier 2 skilled worker visa scheme, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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