News

Future sponsorship advantages for shortage roles in the UK

Posted: 30 Sep 2020

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its recommendations on what jobs should be included on the Shortage Occupation List when new immigration rules for sponsored workers come into effect on 1 January 2021. Under the new rules, all medium-skilled roles will be eligible for sponsorship, in addition to the highly skilled roles currently eligible.

Skill level is determined by the duration of training or experience and the qualifications normally required.

The MAC has assessed the swathe of medium skill-level roles that will be eligible for sponsorship and made recommendations as to which ones should be added to the shortage occupation list.

It is worth stressing that inclusion on the shortage occupation list only confers advantages in the sponsorship system. All medium-skilled roles will be eligible for sponsorship from 1 January 2021, if they otherwise satisfy sponsorship requirements, even if they are not on the shortage occupation list.

The MAC also recommends adding a small number of highly-skilled roles to the shortage occupation list in its report.

What is the significance of a role being on the shortage occupation list?

Under the current Immigration Rules, the following advantages flow from inclusion on the shortage occupation list:

  • The sponsoring employer is exempted from resident labour market test requirements, e.g. advertising the role;
  • The individual is exempted from having to meet a minimum salary threshold for settlement in the UK; and
  • A lower visa application fee applies.

The main advantage to be gained from inclusion on the shortage occupation list in the future immigration system is a reduced salary threshold for sponsored workers. Contrary to the MAC’s advice, the Home Office is introducing a points calculation into the salary calculations for sponsored migrants. Where a job is on the shortage occupation list, a sponsoring employer will be able to offer a salary 20% lower than the ‘going rate’ for the role. The ‘going rate’ will be set at the 25th percentile of salaries for each occupation.

Having a PhD or being a ‘new entrant’ to the labour market will offer similar advantages. However, a sponsor will not be able to combine these advantages and an absolute minimum salary of £20,480 will apply.

The Government is abolishing the Resident Labour Market Test so the advantage of an exemption from this Test will not be relevant in the future immigration system. The minimum salary threshold for settlement is currently paused, i.e. it is not going to continue to rise as had previously been provided for in the immigration rules. Although it is unclear whether the current settlement salary threshold policy and lower visa application fees will apply in the future immigration system, our guess is that the government will retain these policies.

What roles are recommended for inclusion on the shortage occupation list?

The MAC has recommended that all roles falling under 20 medium-skilled occupations, or specific roles within medium-skilled occupations, be included.

Among the medium-skilled occupations and roles recommended for inclusion are the following:

  • Data analyst
  • Business analyst
  • IT operations technicians
  • Bricklayers and masons
  • Vehicle technicians, mechanics and electricians
  • Electricians and electrical fitters
  • Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors
  • Artists
  • Authors, writers and translators
  • Skilled ballet and contemporary dancers who meet internationally recognised standards
  • Graphic designers
  • Certain roles within fishing trades

Highly skilled roles that are being added to the shortage occupation list include health services and public health managers and directors, pharmacists and physiotherapists, and modern foreign language secondary education and teaching professionals.

The MAC does not recommend removal of any highly-skilled roles currently on the shortage occupation list.

How to calculate salary requirements for sponsored workers in the future immigration system

At a minimum, applicants who are not ‘new entrants’ need to earn at least £20,480 or at least 80% of the going rate of their profession, whichever is higher, for the Skilled Worker visa category. They must earn at least 20 points from characteristics in the following two tables combined:

General salary threshold Going rate Points
Salary of at least £20,480 At least 80% of the going rate for the profession (70% if a new entrant). 0
Salary of at least £23,040 At least 90% of the going rate for the profession. 10
Salary of at least £25,600 At least the going rate for the profession. 20
Salary of at least £20,480 Listed health/education job and meets the relevant national pay scale. 20
Characteristic Points
Education qualification: PhD in a subject relenvat to the job 10
Education qualification: PhD in a STEM suject relenvat to the job 20
Job in a shortage occupation (as designed by the MAC) 20
Applicant is a new entrant to the labour market (as designated by the MAC) 20

Source: UK points-based immigration system: further details statement, 13 July 2020

Case study

A UK building management company would like to sponsor a bricklayer. The ‘going rate’ for a bricklayer is £23,000. Because the job will be on the shortage occupation list, the building management company would be able to reduce the salary by 20%, to 80% of the going rate or £18,400. However, the absolute minimum salary of £20,480 would kick in and so £20,480 is the minimum salary that could be paid to a bricklayer sponsored under the future Skilled Worker visa route.

Conclusion

The shortage occupation list is proposed as a salary reduction tool because the Home Office insists on shoe-horning a points calculation into the visa route for sponsored Skilled Workers. At this point, businesses will be grateful for the finalisation of the list regardless. Together with the imminent publication of the new rules for the Sponsored Worker route replacing Tier 2 General, the finalised shortage occupation list will provide a point of certainty in a volatile period.

If you need help with sponsoring skilled workers please contact a member of the Spencer West Immigration and Global Mobility team.


Article written by: