Personal Immigration

Changes to the shortage occupation list

The number of specialist UK jobs that need to be filled by workers from outside the European Economic Area is falling, according to a recent report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

Migration Advisory Committee

The MAC is a non-statutory, non-time-limited, non-departmental public body, sponsored by the UK Border Agency of the Home Office. Its purpose is to advise the government on migration issues. 

In August 2012, the Minister for Immigration commissioned the MAC to:

  • undertake a review of the shortage occupation list for the UK. The shortage occupation list is an official list of jobs for which there are not enough national workers.
  • advise on proposals to automatically remove occupations from the shortage occupation list after two years (sunset clause), and
  • assess whether creative occupations should continue to be included in Tier 2 of the points-based system.

The MAC has now concluded this review and has published a report setting out its recommendations and findings.

MAC findings

In its report, the MAC has recommended a reduction in employment covered by the UK's shortage occupation list to 180,000 employees, less than 1% of the total workforce. 

It has also recommended increasing the number of engineering jobs on the list for the second year running. However, 19 jobs in the health sector should be removed from the list, it says, due to the investment in health training that has taken place in the UK over the past ten years.

The sunset clause

There had been a suggestion that jobs should be automatically removed from the shortage occupation list after two years. The Government had asked the MAC for its recommendations regarding this so called ‘sunset clause’.

In its report, the MAC has advised against the proposal, arguing that either the status quo or a four year time period with an opportunity to appeal against removal would be more proportionate.

The MAC expressed four main concerns over the implementation of a two year sunset clause:

  • The numbers involved are small and the effect of an automatic sunset clause would be disproportionate.
  • The MAC's review of the shortage occupation list, which is carried out periodically, acts as a de – facto sunset clause, removing job titles that no longer meet the criteria. The MAC has removed over 100 job titles from the list over the past four years.
  • Automatic removal from the list after two years would cause significant difficulties in some key areas for UK Plc. These include: teaching maths, electricity distribution and world class performing arts.
  • Removal from the shortage occupation list could lead some employers to increase their use of the other available migration routes, chiefly the resident labour market test.

The MAC expressed its confidence in the current process, but acknowledged that imposing a degree of time restriction may have the benefit of focusing employers’ minds on the need to up-skill in certain sectors.

Tier 2 creative occupations

Applicants for a Tier 2 visa are usually required to have reached the skill level of the National Qualifications Framework level 6 (NQF6) to qualify for a visa. The Government had asked the MAC to investigate whether there should be a separate route within the Tier 2 visa system for creative occupations that don’t require the NQF6.

In its report, the MAC recommended that the present system should continue, under which some specified creative occupations, such as actors, dancers and authors, do not have to pass the skill threshold.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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