US

May 29 2019

Migration Advisory Committee Publishes Recommended Changes to Shortage Occupation List

United Kingdom

At a Glance

  • The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its review of the United Kingdom’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL). Foreign nationals in recognized shortage occupations can enter the UK more quickly and with more certainty under Tier 2 (General).
  • The MAC recommends broadening the types of roles that appear on the SOL. Currently the list accounts for approximately 1% of all job roles in the United Kingdom. The MAC’s recommendations would increase the list's coverage to approximately 9%.
  • The MAC recommends adding a number of occupations to the SOL, including all roles related to software development, programmers, web designers, veterinarians, health workers and architects, among others.

The situation

Last summer, the UK government commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the occupations and job titles that appear on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). The MAC today published its review in a nearly 400-page report.

Background

The SOL is comprised of job roles that are deemed to be in short supply in the United Kingdom, so the government makes it easier for employers to sponsor non-European Economic Area national workers to work in these roles in a number of ways:

  • Applicants in these roles are given priority over other applicants when it comes to Tier 2 sponsorship;
  • There is no need for an employer to run a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) prior to offering a foreign national Tier 2 sponsorship;
  • Visa application fees can be lower; and
  • The applicant does not need to meet the GBP 35,800 salary threshold required for settlement (the United Kingdom’s form of permanent residence) after five years.

 

The UK government requested that the MAC review the SOL in June of last year. In November, the MAC invited stakeholders to provide feedback on the current SOL.

A closer look

  • Broadening the SOL. The MAC recommended broadening the types of roles that appear on the SOL. Currently the list accounts for approximately 1% of all UK job roles, while the MAC’s recommendations would expand the coverage to include approximately 9%, which is roughly equivalent to 2.5 million workers.
  • Recommended additions to the list. The MAC recommends adding a number of occupations to the SOL, including all roles related to software development, programmers, web designers, veterinarians, health workers and architects, among other occupations. The full recommended list appears in the MAC’s report.
  • Region-specific lists. The MAC recommended creating separate shortage lists for Northern Ireland and Wales, though it did not recommend occupations for these proposed lists. It also recommended retaining the existing Scotland-specific list. In practice, these region-specific lists are expected to be very similar.

 

Looking ahead

The MAC further recommended a full study of the purpose of the SOL, in light of a government White Paper published last December, in which the government accepted recommendations to abolish the annual numerical cap on Tier 2 (General) migrants and the recommendation to eliminate the RLMT. Though these measures are not due to be introduced until 2021 at the earliest, the MAC noted that the changes raise a question over the future purpose of the SOL, as the only remaining benefits of the SOL would be the lower salary requirement for settlement and lower visa fees.

It is likely that once the reforms to the United Kingdom's immigration system become clearer, the role of the SOL will be reviewed again. Potentially the job roles that appear on the SOL could be given preferential treatment in a different way, such as providing a faster pathway to permanent residency.

The UK government is not required to adopt recommendations from the MAC. However, the recommendations would provide employers with greater certainty and a welcome simplification of the Tier 2 sponsorship process for those workers in shortest supply.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to londoninfo@fragomen.com.