Immigration Update – The Shortage Occupation List

In what may well turn out to be one of its last meaningful acts before a possible snap election, the government has announced that it has accepted the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) which called for an expansion of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). Here, Wellers’ immigration solicitors in London take a look at the recommendations and what they mean for employers in the UK.

What is the Shortage Occupation List?

The shortage occupation list is the government’s official list of occupations that cannot be sufficiently staffed by UK residents. In order to appear on the list there are three key requirements of a job:

  • there is a level of skill required for the job
  • there is a shortage of people employed at the job in the UK
  • there is sense in reducing the shortage through immigration

The Migration Advisory Committee carries out regular evidence-based reviews of the list and then makes recommendations which the government examines before deciding whether to ratify any suggestions for addition.

UK employers who wish to fill a vacancy for a position featured on the SOL with a person from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland must issue a Tier 2 certificate of sponsorship (CoS) and this can be done without any need to demonstrate that the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) has been met. In contrast, employers wishing to recruit a worker from overseas for a position which does not feature on the SOL list, must ensure that the person meets the Resident Labour Market Test.

The updated list

Prior to the latest MAC recommendations being accepted, the SOL list was most recently updated in 2013. However, in their most recent review the Migration Advisory Committee looked at potential changes to the British labour market which are likely to occur after Brexit and has, against this background, now provided an updated list of SOL occupations.

This updated list adds many roles, including those in the following sectors:

  • Medicine
  • Engineering
  • Teaching
  • Technology
  • Architecture
  • Science
  • Web design

The government has also said that it will look into another important MAC recommendation to pilot a scheme in which the SOL would be extended to meet some of the challenges faced by remote communities. Currently there is a Scotland-only SOL to accompany the UK list, and a 2018 White Paper made calls for SOLs to be drawn up for Wales and Northern Island. However, Professor Alan Manning, Chair of the committee, said that while the MAC recommends keeping the option open for additional lists, most of the shortages identified appeared to be occurring across all nations of the UK.

A parting gift

On 23 July 2019, Home Secretary, Sajid Javid told the Houses of Common in a statement, “The MAC recommended a number of changes to the main UK-wide SOL, expanding the list to cover a range of high-skilled occupations, including a number of health and social care, engineering and digital technology occupations…The Government is happy to accept all of the MAC’s recommendations on the composition of the SOL and the necessary amendments will be made in the autumn immigration rules changes.”

What this means for employers

The expanded SOL list is good news for employers as it means that they will no longer need to carry out the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) advertisement process for Tier 2 applications for those job roles newly listed under the SOL. Furthermore, occupations on the SOL will attract lower visa and application fees. The move should also lead to reduced sponsorship timescales.

Although the SOL changes have not yet taken effect, it is likely only a matter of time before the new home secretary makes the necessary announcement of changes to Immigration Rules in this respect.

Wellers Lawyers’ Immigration Services

Wellers Law Group can help you ensure that you are fully compliant with all the immigration rules that affect your business and your ability to employ foreign workers. Please call Rosalind Nunoo on 020 8290 7982.

We provide an immigration service UK wide and our immigration solicitors in London offer pragmatic assistance with the Points Based System (PBS), Tier 1 visas, Tier 2 visas, the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) and more.

For more information, contact our immigration lawyer team today.