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MAC recommends an update to the Shortage Occupation List to include Digital Sector

The Migration Advisory Committee were asked to perform a partial review of the Short Occupation Lists for the UK and Scotland, focussing on graduate occupations including graduate occupations in the digital technology sector. The MAC has now completed this review and has made several recommendations for roles in the digital technology sector to be added to the shortage occupation list. At the moment this is only a recommendation, and will only become effective if and when the Immigration Rules and the appendices are amended.

This blog will explain what the list is, and what this means for both companies and individuals.

What is the Shortage Occupation List?

If a UK company wants to employ someone from outside the EU who does not have the right to work in the UK, they will need to sponsor that individual through Tier 2 of the Points Based System.

The Shortage Occupation List is a list of job titles in the UK which are deemed to be in shortage across the UK. Normally, a company recruiting a non-EU national will need to demonstrate that they have carried out the ‘resident labour market test’, which involves advertising the job in at least two places, potentially sifting and interviewing candidates and providing evidence that there are no individuals in the settled population who could perform the role. Those roles on the Shortage Occupation List are exempt from this requirement which means that the application process is much simpler and the process can be concluded much quicker than normal.

What Digital Roles have the MAC recommended be added to the List?

The MAC performed an in depth review of the digital technology sector, including contacting government departments, hosting open forum meetings and visiting employers in the UK. The roles which they have recommended for inclusion on the list are:

  • Product manager (someone who has oversight of the design and delivery of the product) – SOC 2133 IT specialist managers
  • Data scientist (someone who carries out analysis of big data sources: this encompasses other roles such as data engineer, big data specialist, data analyst, big data consultant) – SOC 2135 IT business analysts, architects and systems designers
  • Senior developer (someone who can lead a team of developers: this encompasses other developers with skills in areas such as iOS, Andoid, Java, Drupal etc as well as front end and back end developers) – SOC 2136 Programmers and software development professionals
  • Cyber security specialist (someone who applies security measures to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data: this encompasses other roles such as security architect, information assurance consultant, security operational analyst and cyber security consultant) – SOC 2139 Information technology and telecommunications professionals n.e.c.

What affect will this have?

Migrants coming to the UK through the Shortage Occupation route amounted to 1,395 for the year ending September 2014. In the same period there were a total of 45,221 Tier 2 Certificates of Sponsorship issued, so the Shortage Occupation route accounts for a little over 3% of the total. While adding these jobs to the list will undoubtedly ease some of the pressure on companies desperate to recruit from outside of the UK, the numbers able to take advantage of this are likely to be comparatively small.

The MAC have identified these job titles to be of benefit to small start-up companies and have indicated that there is a risk that larger multi-national companies may use this route instead of Intra-company transfers. There has, therefore, been a suggestion that the numbers in the shortage occupation are limited to small companies. This could potentially have a significant effect on the utility of adding these job titles to the list, but we will need to wait to see whether this suggestion is adopted.

It is clear that the government is now slowly starting to realise the importance of immigration to the development of the digital technology sector in the UK. Between adding roles to the shortage occupation list and including digital technology in the exceptional talent category, there is a recognition that the UK needs to be able to attract individuals in this field. The MAC report has hinted, though, that these provisions may not be enough and there may be further discussion in the future of the Tier 1 route.

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