Expanding the UK Shortage Occupation List: call for evidence begins

Out-Law Analysis | 20 May 2020 | 10:52 am | 2 min. read

The UK’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has opened a call for evidence on expanding the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) as part of the new immigration system due to come into force from 2021.

The MAC is seeking views and evidence from anyone with relevant knowledge, expertise or experience in relation to roles where businesses often experience skill shortages, to help inform a review it has been commissioned to carry out by the UK government. This exercise is likely to shape the SOL appearing in the post-Brexit immigration system, and we encourage employers of workers from the European Economic Area (EEA) and beyond to respond.

On 17 March, the home secretary wrote to the MAC commissioning it to review the current composition of the SOL to accommodate the changes to the skilled worker route planned from the future immigration system, which will cover all occupations at RQF3 and above from 1 January 2021. The MAC has been asked to compile a list which will cover all occupations in the RQF3-5 (medium skill) bracket, and to consider whether any amendments are needed to the existing SOL for occupations at RQF6 since its previous report.

The home secretary also sought the MAC’s advice on how the SOL can be kept under regular review, and updated to reflect the changing needs of the UK labour market.

Louisa Cole

Senior Associate

This exercise is likely to shape the shortage occupation list appearing in the post-Brexit immigration system, and we encourage employers of migrant workers to respond.

Different industry sectors have varying recruitment needs, skills shortages and challenges. The call for evidence provides employers with an opportunity to convey those issues to the MAC so they can be factored into its recommendations. Responses are sought by 24 June 2020.

Changes to the Shortage Occupation List from 2021

The Shortage Occupation List is relevant for Tier 2 General sponsorship and visa applications. Currently, the main benefit to employers of a role being on the SOL is that the employer is exempt from conducting a resident labour market test (RMLT). This means means that considerably less administrative work and time is required to sponsor a migrant in a new role which appears on the SOL.

The RLMT is to be abolished under the post-2021 points-based immigration system (PBS). From then, the main benefit will be the tradeable points a migrant would acquire by undertaking an SOL role. The concept of tradeable points is a new one being introduced in the post-2021 skilled worker migration route, and whether an occupation is in shortage will be one of the key factors for which a migrant will be able to score these.

SOL roles also enjoy and exemption from the minimum income threshold for settlement, and lower application fees. Although it is yet to be confirmed if these benefits will be retained in the new immigration system, they will be particularly important in a system where minimum salary thresholds may otherwise rule certain roles out in the absence of tradeable points to meet the requirements, despite the proposal that the skills threshold for sponsorship will be lowered.

Employers and potential future sponsors will therefore have a keen eye on the shape of the future SOL.