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Home Office expands shortage occupation list as part of Immigration Rule changes

11 September 2019

The Home Office laid a new Statement of Immigration Rules (HC 2631) on 9 September, immediately before Parliament was prorogued.

The statement does not include any major surprises for employers – in the main they implement changes that have previously been announced.

Changes to the Tier 2 shortage occupation lists

For applications made from 1 October 2019, the Tier 2 shortage occupation lists have been expanded, in line with the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations, published in May this year.

These changes will bring about 2.5 million workers, or about 9 per cent of total employment within the scope of the shortage occupation list, up from 180,000 or less than 1 per cent of total employment.

Inclusion on a shortage occupation list makes it easier for an employer to sponsor a migrant as there is no need to undertake resident labour market testing. This involves advertising the role for 28 days. Sponsorship is only allowed if no suitable resident worker applies for the role.

Some notable new inclusions on the UK-wide list are veterinarians, biological scientists and biochemists, web designers and architects. Some occupations have also been expanded to include all job titles within the Standard Occupation Code and to remove qualifying company criteria from the listed digital technology occupations.

In a move that will be welcomed by the hospitality industry, establishments offering a take-away service are now allowed to sponsor skilled chefs in accordance with the requirements of the shortage occupation list. This is pragmatic development and will finally stop high end restaurants from having to choose between sponsoring skilled chefs and participating in industry-standard app-based ordering services. However, skilled chefs working in fast food or standard fare outlets still fall outside the shortage occupation definition, and cannot be sponsored under Tier 2 at all. The definition of fast food outlet and standard fare outlet have been removed from the Immigration Rules, which may mean that the Home Office intends to assess this on a case-by-case basis, or that the definitions may be contained only in guidance in the future.

A few occupations have been removed from the UK-wide list, namely certain job titles under production managers and directors in mining and energy, IT specialist managers, Aircraft maintenance and related trades and Line repairers and cable jointers. It will no longer be possible to sponsor licensed and military certifying engineers/inspector technicians (Aircraft maintenance and related trades). For the other removed occupations, employers will now need to ensure resident labour market testing is carried out and be aware that employees who make their first Tier 2 application after the changes take effect will need to meet the minimum salary thresholds generally applicable for Tier 2 indefinite leave to remain applications.

Other changes to Tier 2

Other Tier 2 changes in effect from 1 October include:

  • Allowing Tier 2 General migrants in PhD level occupations to undertake research outside the UK without this affecting their eligibility for settlement, provided the research relates to their UK sponsored employment and is authorized by their sponsor
  • Relaxing English-language testing requirements for doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives, by allowing them to rely on English language testing that has been accepted by their professional regulatory body. This will also be accepted when applying for indefinite leave to remain.

Changes in effect for Tier 2 certificates of sponsorship assigned from 6 October include:

  • Exempting PhD level occupations from the Tier 2 General annual 20,700 limit on restricted certificates of sponsorship – this will further reduce the risk that requests for restricted certificates will be oversubscribed in the future
  • Correcting the salary levels for a small number of Tier 2 occupation codes, in line with the latest available salary data. However, a concession outside the Immigration Rules has been operating since March this year which allowed certificates to be issued at the correct salary level in any event.
  • Increasing in the minimum salary that experienced IT specialist managers must be paid, raising this to £42,800 from £36,400
  • Reclassifying chartered architectural technologists as an RQF Level 6 qualification instead of RQF Level 4, allowing them to be sponsored under Tier 2
  • Adding the ‘Teaching Vacancies’ service on GOV.UK as an acceptable advertising medium to meet the resident labour market test for teaching roles at schools located in England

Changes to the EU Settlement Scheme

Amendments have also been made to the EU Settlement Scheme with effect from 1 October 2019. These cover issues such as incorporating the previously published deadlines for applying under the scheme in deal and no deal scenarios, making a range of minor and technical changes and introducing new discretionary grounds for refusing an application in limited circumstances.

If you have any queries about these changes, please do get in touch with a member of the immigration team or your usual contact.

Read the new Statement of changes to the Immigration Rules here.

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