October 2, 2020

UK: Results and Recommendations from the Shortage Occupation List Review

The UK’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published a review of the Shortage Occupation List. The review includes the addition of new occupations to the list and recommends creating separate lists for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What has changed?

In early 2020, the Home Secretary commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), a UK public body established by the British Home Office, to conduct a review of the composition of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). A shortage occupation is identified when employers are finding it problematic to secure adequate numbers of workers with the required skills to fill their vacancies. A summary of the results of the findings include:

Jobs on the SOL currently have certain advantages in using Tier 2 (general) visas:

    • There is no need to pass the resident labor market test (RLMT), i.e. to demonstrate that an attempt has been made to recruit domestically.
    • Roles on the SOL are prioritized if the Tier 2 (general) annual limit of 20,700 visas is reached.
    • There is no requirement to meet the £35,800 salary threshold needed for settlement after five years. This requirement is waived if the job title has been on the SOL at any point in those five years.
    • Applicants (and their families) face lower visa application fees if their occupation is on the SOL.
    • The SOL also has another, less widely known, application within the UK. Asylum seekers, who are generally not allowed to work in the UK while their claim is being processed, can apply for permission to work in occupations which are included on the SOL after 12 months in the UK.

Once the new skilled worker route has been introduced later this year, the first two above points will no longer apply, and will not be benefits specific to the SOL.

However, under the new skilled worker route, positions on the SOL will attract a lower minimum salary threshold: £20,480, in comparison to the £25,600 associated with other occupations.

All occupations are eligible for inclusion on the UK-wide SOL and on SOLs specific to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. MAC considered whether any occupation not suitable for inclusion on the UK-wide SOL should be included in one of the devolved nations’ SOLs and, for the first time, MAC included occupations on each of these. In recognition of the differences across UK nations in how shortages impact the labor markets, the report also recommends additions to separate shortage lists for the devolved nations, including fishmongers, bakers and horticultural workers for Northern Ireland, childminders and nursery nurses for Scotland and health professionals for Wales.

For the purposes of this report, MAC divided occupations into three broad groups:

    • RQF6+ occupations. Roles at RQF6+ level currently qualify for Tier 2 sponsorship. Given the pressures on employers as a result of Covid-19, MAC decided not to consider any RQF6+ occupations for removal from the SOL in this review. MAC recommended inclusion of—
      • Three new occupations on the UK-wide SOL: SOC 1181 health services and public health managers and directors; SOC 2213 pharmacists; and SOC 2221 physiotherapists
      • One additional inclusion of a specific job title on the UK-wide SOL: 2314 secondary education and teaching professionals – modern foreign language teachers only, and
      • One occupation to be included on the Wales-only SOL: 2219 Health professionals n.e.c.
    • RQF3-5 occupations. Roles at RQF3+ will be eligible for sponsorship under the new skilled worker route. MAC recommended around 20 entire occupations, or job titles within them, at this skill level for inclusion on the UK-wide SOL, with some further recommendations for the devolved nations’ SOLs. Examples of these include nursing auxiliaries and assistants; residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors; senior care workers; butchers; and bricklayers and masons.
    • RQF1-2 occupations. Roles at this level have never been eligible for the current Tier 2 (general) route and will not be eligible for the new skilled worker route. Given the shorter training period involved (compared to RQF3-5 and RQF6+) in these occupations, MAC concluded there is a weaker argument that immigration would be an appropriate response to shortages in these roles.

As a result of the review there are around 70 entire occupations, or job titles within them, that are now recommended for inclusion on the SOL, either at a UK-wide or devolved nation level.

What you need to do

For further information on the above, please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team.


Leanne Cottrell

Leanne Cottrell

As Head of Immigration with Sterling Lexicon, Leanne leads a team of specialists who are responsible for ensuring the entire immigration process is smooth and stress-free for clients, assignees and their accompanying family members. She brings over ten years of experience in strategic immigration management, planning and consultation to her role, and has cultivated invaluable knowledge and experience in processing countless global migration applications. As a trusted partner, she consults with clients on everything from policy considerations and cost or efficiency improvements, to the impact of opening offices in new locations. Leanne is a frequent presenter and author on global immigration topics and trends.

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