Immigration implications of the Spring 2023 budget

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Changes to the shortage occupation list

What is the shortage occupation list?

The shortage occupation list is a list of roles in the UK where labour is in short supply. If a role appears on that list, it means a sponsor licence holder can recruit someone on a Skilled Worker visa into a vacancy for that role and the minimum salary requirement for the role is discounted by up to 20%.  The visa application fee for the individual is also slightly less than the standard fee for other skilled worker roles.

When is the list reviewed?

The Migration Advisory Committee (‘MAC’) regularly reviews the list to make sure it reflects current labour shortages in the UK. The government commissioned a review of the list by the MAC in August 2022 but placed the review on pause while the Home Office considered its own stance on migration.  The review was reignited in February 2023 and the Home Office asked the MAC to expedite part of their review focusing on the construction and hospitality sectors – areas where there are well known labour shortages in the UK following Brexit.

What did the recent review say?

The MAC released its interim report (pending a full review this Autumn), recommending that various construction roles be added to the list.

Those roles are:

  • Brick layers and masons 
  • Roofers, roof tilers and slaters 
  • Carpenters and joiners 
  • Plasterers (which should now include dryliners) 
  • Those in the building trades not elsewhere classified 

Unfortunately, the MAC did not recommend that any hospitality roles should be added to the list, which will be very disappointing for businesses in the hospitality sector.

What was the government response?

In response to the MAC’s interim report, the government has announced the construction roles will be added to the shortage occupation list.

What does this mean for businesses in the construction industry?

This is a positive step towards plugging labour gaps in the construction industry.  It enables construction businesses to sponsor workers into certain roles where they might not have previously been able to, because of the high minimum salary requirements.

However, the business must still be a sponsor licence holder and if they do not already hold a licence, they must apply for one before they can recruit sponsored employees into these roles. Sponsorship is expensive and comes with a lot of compliance responsibility which may put a lot of businesses off.

When will these changes take effect?

The exact date is not yet known but it will be ‘before summer recess’.

Changes to the visitor route

What is the visitor route?

This is the immigration route for people wanting to visit the UK mainly for leisure or tourism.

What can business people do in the UK under the visitor route?

Visitors can come to the UK for up to 6 months and carry out certain limited business activities, provided they remain employed and paid outside the UK and they are not seeking to take on a role that would otherwise be filled by a worker in the UK.

There is a defined list of permitted business activities set out in the immigration rules, which include things like attending meetings, carrying out site inspections and negotiating contracts.  There are also some more niche permitted activities, for example an overseas employee may come to the UK to install machinery in certain limited circumstances.

Why is the route helpful for UK businesses?

If you are a UK business and you need someone to come to the UK for a short period of time to carry out a specific activity, this route is a quick and relatively cheap option compared to the sponsored work routes. If the person is a non-visa national (which includes all EU nationals), they do not need to apply for a visitor visa in advance either.

What are the changes?

The list of permitted activities is being expanded, and although details are yet to be released, hopefully the updated list of permitted activities will fill gaps left by Brexit.  So often businesses who were accustomed to bringing EU workers over to the UK for short projects, find themselves unable to do so under the current immigration system. The hope is that this updated list will address some of these challenges.

The government has also said it will review the list of “permitted paid engagements” which are separate activities specifically permitted under the visitor route.

When will the changes take effect?

The exact date is to be confirmed but the changes are planned for Autumn 2023.

If you have any queries on the immigration impacts of the government’s Spring budget, please get in touch with our Business Immigration team.