Last summer, the UK government commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the occupations that appear on its current Shortage Occupation List (SOL,) which includes job roles that are deemed to be in short supply in the UK.
The government makes it easier for employers to sponsor non-European national workers to work in these roles in a number of ways:
- Applicants in these roles are given priority over non-SOL applicants in relation to the Tier 2 sponsorship monthly cap;
- Sponsors are not obliged to run the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) prior to offering a non-European national workers Tier 2 sponsorship (based on the acknowledgment that there is a dearth of supply within the resident labour market);
- Visa application fees are lower; and
- The applicant does not need to meet the £35,800 salary requirement for settlement / permanent residence.
Recommendations by MAC
The MAC published their findings late last month in a nearly 400 page document. They recommended broadening the types of roles that appear on the SOL, meaning that the roles could cover around nine percent of jobs in the UK labour market (roughly equivalent to 2.5 million workers) compared to one percent under the previous list.
The MAC suggested the addition of a number of occupations to the SOL to include all roles in occupations such as software development professionals, programmers and web designers. The full list appears in the MAC’s report.
They further advised that the government should create devolved SOLs for Northern Ireland and Wales, to meet their specific labour market needs.
The government is not obliged to follow the recommendations of the MAC. However, if adopted, the recommendations would provide employers with more certainty on Tier 2 General visa applications and a refined, more simplistic visa application process for an increased number of roles.
When the government published their proposals for a new skills-based immigration system post Brexit, they indicated that they would both abolish the annual numerical cap on Tier 2 (General) migrants and eliminate the RLMT for the majority of Tier 2 General applications.
However, the new immigration system will be introduced on 1 January 2021 at the earliest, so the MAC’s proposals for expanding the SOL is still very positive for Tier 2 sponsors working in the impacted industries.
If once the new skills-based immigration system is in place, the advantages bestowed upon SOL roles are nullified, it may be that additional dispensations are granted such as an expedited route to settlement / permanent residence.
What does that mean to you?
If the MAC recommendations are adopted, this would mean that Tier 2 General visas for people working in particular areas of the Tech industry could become easier, quicker and cheaper to obtain.
Looking forward to the new skills-based immigration system in 2021, it remains to be seen exactly what further allowances may be applied to the SOL, and we await the government’s updates with interest.