The Home Office published their latest Statement of Changes (HC2631) to the Immigration Rules on 9 September 2019. This statement encompasses a huge variety of tweaks and updates, however specific changes to the Shortage Occupation List hint at a more open future for skilled migrants working in IT, engineering and sciences.

Shortage Occupation List

The government has just made significant changes to the Shortage Occupation List (the 'List') in relation to jobs. New roles have been added to the List, and limitations have been removed from other roles on the List. We highlight some of the notable changes below:

  • Jobs under web design and development professionals (SOC code 2137) have just been added to the List.
  • Previous limitations placed on employers when seeking to sponsor IT business analysts, architects and systems designers (SOC code 2135) as well as programmers and software development professionals (SOC code 2136) under the List have been removed.
  • For example, the restrictions on industry sectors (e.g. systems engineer in visual effects and 2D/3D computer animation for the film, television or video games sectors) or having to be sponsored by a qualified company will no longer be in place for migrants who apply for work visas based on a Certificate of Sponsorship assigned from 6 October 2019.
  • Many engineering jobs on the List no longer have sector restrictions. These are civil engineers (SOC code 2121), mechanical engineers (SOC code 2122) and electrical engineers (SOC code 2123 and 2124) and design & development engineers (SOC code 2126).

Having more IT, engineering and science jobs on the List will make it significantly easier to hire skilled migrants from outside of the EU for employers who rely on technology to deliver their services. These jobs will be exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test requirement as well as being given higher priority within the Tier 2 (General) annual limit.

Other Recent Proposals Announced by the Government

Other recently announced proposals bolster the government's plan to open the UK's doors to more skilled migrants.

Firstly, in August 2019, the Home Office announced a new fast track visa for individuals with skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The Global Talent scheme offers an accelerated three-year visa with an option to apply for indefinite leave to remain. There will be no minimum salary requirements, no requirement to have a job before arrival and individuals will be able to bring dependants. If implemented, this scheme will significantly expand the current Tier 1 Exceptional Promise/Talent route as the annual cap will also be removed. This route will allow employers to entice bright individuals with STEM skills to come to the UK as it only takes three years to settle in the UK.

The second proposed change announced this month involves re-introducing the post-study working period of two years for Tier 4 (General) students who complete their degrees from trusted UK universities. The new Graduate Route will help students find their footing in the UK and allow them to explore a wider variety of careers. When implemented, this additional two-year period will provide employers with sufficient time to assess the candidate before switching their status to a Tier 2 (General) visa.

Looking Forward

The recent trend to relax Immigration Rules comes at a very important crossroads for the UK economy with Brexit creating a huge uncertainty for employers and employees. However, the proposed changes are welcome news to many who are affected. Those proposals build on the radical approach to future immigration control outlined in the Immigration White Paper published last year.

Whilst it may be premature to celebrate/rejoice at the positive change in the tone and direction of immigration control, we await further information from the Home Office on how they will implement the proposed changes announced by the government. Employers are advised to be flexible and remain on alert when planning their recruitment strategy given the highly volatile environment.