The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has released its report and recommendations on the Shortage Occupation List.

The report recommends a substantial expansion of the SOL to include a broader range of jobs in health, information technology and STEM fields. The recommendations would expand the SOL from 1% of total jobs (180,000 workers) which it currently covers, to about 9% of all jobs (around 2.5 million workers).

The SOL is the list of skilled jobs for which local workers are deemed to be in shortage and for which employers may hire non-EEA workers without labor market testing and without being subject to the numerical cap on Tier 2 (General) visas if the category is oversubscribed. Non-EEA workers filling jobs on the SOL also pay lower visa fees and are not required to meet the salary threshold of £35,800 for permanent residency (settlement) after five years.

The MAC makes the following recommendations:

  • As soon as possible, the U.K.-wide SOL should be expanded to include numerous additional job titles, particularly in science, medicine and IT. Among the additions, all jobs in the following occupational categories should be added:
    • Programmers and software developers
    • IT business analysts, architects and systems designers
    • Web design and development professionals
    • Civil, mechanical, electrical or electronical engineers
    • Design and development engineers
    • Production and process engineers
    • Medical practitioners
    • Veterinarians
    • Quality control and planning engineers
    • Architects

The complete list of recommended SOL jobs is available in the MAC’s full report.

  • Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales would benefit from the recommended expansion of the U.K.-wide SOL rather than adding job titles to their individual SOLs. To address labor shortages in remote communities, a pilot program could encourage long-term immigration into these areas.
  • When the details of the future U.K. immigration system (post-Brexit) are clearer, the role of the SOL should be studied to determine whether it is still needed or if there are new ways to give preferential treatment to shortage occupations, such as a faster path to permanent residency. The SOL should be studied because the government has already agreed to adopt the MAC’s earlier recommendations to abolish the Resident Labour Market Test and the cap on Tier 2 (General) visas—two of the main advantages of the SOL that would no longer exist under the new immigration system.

Background: On June 14, 2018, the government commissioned the MAC to undertake a full review of the SOL and issue a report with recommendations by spring 2019. The MAC launched a Call for Evidence on Nov. 9, 2018 and accepted comments for nine weeks, as well as conducting stakeholder events. The committee received approximately 600 responses.

The MAC is an independent group of economists that conducts analysis and makes recommendations to the U.K. government on immigration policy. Its policy recommendations are not binding on the government, but are highly influential and often adopted.

Analysis & Comments: The MAC’s recommended expansion of the Shortage Occupation List would be a welcome development to ease the labor shortages currently felt by U.K. companies. In particular, the MAC found that the jobs most in shortage are programmers and software development professionals, and the shortage of these workers affects not only the digital sector but businesses in sectors across the board.

Source: Deloitte LLP. Deloitte LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC303675 and its registered office at 1 New Street Square, London EC4A 3HQ, United Kingdom.