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One in ten jobs eligible for work visa priority in proposed new Shortage Occupation List

One in ten jobs eligible for work visa priority in proposed new Shortage Occupation List

An influential government advisory group has recommended a major expansion of the list of jobs that get priority for work visas.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), a crack team of economists that advises the government on immigration, published its recommendation for a new Shortage Occupation List yesterday. Assuming it is accepted by the Home Office, the new list would cover 9% of UK jobs compared to 1% now.

A job being on the Shortage Occupation List makes it easier for employers to hire a non-EU worker under the Tier 2 (General) work visa system. As the review explains:

  • First, there is no need to pass the resident labour market test, i.e. to demonstrate that an attempt has been made to recruit domestically. Not having to undertake this is a saving for the employer in terms of vacancy advertising and recruitment time.
  • Second, roles on the SOL are prioritised if the Tier 2 (General) limit of 20,700 is reached. Jobs on the SOL are automatically granted 320 points, a higher level of points than could possibly be achieved by occupations not on the SOL. In practice, this means that jobs on the SOL cannot be turned down when the cap binds.
  • Third, there is no requirement to meet the £35,800 salary threshold required for settlement after five years. This requirement is waived if the job title has been on the SOL at any point in those five years. 
  • And finally, applicants (and their families) face lower visa application fees if their occupation is on the SOL.

However, expanding the list does not mean that more work visas are available overall, as it not affect the 20,700 annual limit. It just means that there are more jobs that can get priority when the quota is reached. Only exempting jobs from the cap — as with doctors and nurses — allows more workers to come in.

Expansion does help asylum seekers, who can only get permission to work in jobs that are on the Shortage Occupation List.

New to the list are archaeologists, architects, biochemists, occupational therapists, psychologists, speech therapists, vets and web designers. Many other categories of shortage job have been broadened — for example, all kinds of medical doctors are now included, rather than just certain specialisations. The result is a much simpler list than the current version.

The changes would also remove the outdated restriction where chefs were only a shortage occupation if working in a restaurant that didn’t offer a takeway service — belatedly bringing the system into the Deliveroo age.

The table below shows the proposed changes from the current list, with the additions marked up in red text and jobs removed crossed out. The Home Office is very likely to accept the new list in full.

Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code and description Job titles included on the United Kingdom Shortage Occupation List and further criteria
2112 Biological scientists and biochemists All jobs in this occupation code
Production managers and directors in mining and energy (1123) Only the following jobs in this occupation code:

The following jobs in the decommissioning and waste management areas of the nuclear industry: 

managing director 
programme director 
site director
The following jobs in the electricity transmission and distribution industry: 
project manager 
site manager
2113 Physical Scientists Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 

The following jobs in the construction-related ground engineering industry:

engineering geologist 
hydrogeologist 
geophysicist 
The following jobs in the oil and gas industry: 
geophysicist 
geoscientist 
geologist 
geochemist technical services manager in the decommissioning and waste areas of the nuclear industry 
senior resource geologist and staff geologist in the mining sector
2114 Social and Humanities’ Scientists Only the following jobs in this occupation code: Archaeologists
2121 Civil engineers

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 

The following jobs in the construction-related ground engineering industry: 

geotechnical engineer 
tunnelling engineer 

The following jobs in the oil and gas industry: 
petroleum engineer 
drilling engineer 
completions engineer
fluids engineer 
reservoir engineer 
offshore and subsea engineer
control and instrument engineer 
process safety engineer
wells engineer 
senior mining engineer in the mining sector

2122 Mechanical engineers

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following job in this occupation code: 

mechanical engineer in the oil and gas industry

2123 Electrical engineers

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 

electrical engineer in the oil and gas industry 
The following jobs in the electricity transmission and distribution industry:

power system engineer 
control engineer 
protection engineer 
The following jobs in the aerospace industry:
electrical machine design engineer 
power electronics engineer

2124 Electronics Engineers

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 

The following jobs in the railway industry: 

signalling design manager
signalling design engineer 
signalling principles 
designer
senior signalling design
checker
signalling design checker
signalling systems
engineer 
Specialist electronics engineer in the automotive manufacturing and design industry

2126 Design and development engineers

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code:

design engineer in the electricity transmission and distribution industry 
The following jobs in the automotive design and manufacturing industry: 

product development engineer
product design engineer 
The following jobs in the electronics system industry: 
integrated circuit design engineer 
integrated circuit test engineer

2127 Production and process engineers

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code:

chemical engineer 
manufacturing engineer (process planning) in the aerospace industry technical services 
representative in the decommissioning and waste areas of the nuclear industry

2129 Engineering professionals not elsewhere classified

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 

The following jobs in the electricity transmission and distribution industry: 

project engineer
proposals engineer 
The following jobs in the aerospace industry: 
aerothermal engineer 
stress engineer 
chief of engineering
advance tool and fixturing engineer
The following jobs in the decommissioning and waste management areas of the civil nuclear industry: 
operations manager 
decommissioning specialist manager 
project/planning engineer 
radioactive waste manager 
radiological protection
advisor 
The following jobs in the civil nuclear industry: 
nuclear safety case 
engineer 
mechanical design engineer (pressure vehicles) 
piping design engineer 
mechanical design engineer (stress) 
thermofluids/process engineer

2133 IT specialist managers Only the following job in this occupation code:

IT product manager employed by a qualifying company, where the job requires a person with a minimum of five years’ relevant experience and demonstrable experience of having led a team.
2135 IT business analysts, architects and systems designers

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code:

systems engineer in visual effects and 2D/3D computer animation for the film, television or video games sectors 

data scientist employed by a qualifying company, where the job requires a person with a minimum of five years’ relevant experience and demonstrable experience of having led a team.

2136 Programmers and software development professionals

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 

Senior developer employed by a qualifying company, where the job requires a person with a minimum of five years’ relevant experience and demonstrable experience of having led a team. 

The following jobs in visual effects and 2D/3D computer animation for the film, television or video games sectors: 

software developer 
shader writer 
games designer 
The following jobs in the electronics system industry: 
driver developer 
embedded communications engineer

2137 Web design and development professionals All jobs in this occupation code
2139 Information technology and communications professionals not elsewhere classified Only the following job in this occupation code: 

Cyber security specialist employed by a qualifying company, where the job requires a person with a minimum of five years’ relevant experience and demonstrable experience of having led a team.
2142 Environmental Professionals Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 

the following jobs in the construction-related ground engineering industry: 
contaminated land specialist 
geoenvironmental specialist 
landfill engineer
2211 Medical practitioners

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code:

Consultants in the following specialities: 

clinical radiology 
emergency medicine 
old age psychiatry 
CT3 trainee and ST4 to ST7 trainee in emergency medicine 
Core trainee in psychiatry 

Non-consultant, non-training, medical staff posts in the following specialities: 
emergency medicine (including specialist doctors working in accident and emergency) 
old age psychiatry 
paediatrics

2212 Psychologists All jobs in this occupation code
2216 Veterinarians All jobs in this occupation code
2217 Medical Radiographers

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 

HPC registered diagnostic radiographer 
nuclear medicine practitioner 
radiotherapy physics practitioner 
radiotherapy physics scientist 
sonographer 
Sponsors must retain evidence of the individual’s HPC registration and provide this to the Home Office on request. (Registration may need to be done after the individual has entered the United Kingdom but must be done before starting work).

2219 Health professionals not elsewhere classified Only the following job in this occupation code: 
neurophysiology healthcare scientist 
neurophysiology practitioner 
Nuclear medicine scientist 
orthotist 
prosthetist
2222 Occupational therapists All jobs in this occupation code
2223 Speech and language therapists All jobs in this occupation code
2231 Nurses All jobs in this occupation code
2314 Secondary education teaching professionals Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 

[S]econdary education teachers in the subjects of maths, physics, science (where an element of physics will be taught), computer science and Mandarin
2425 Actuaries, economists and statisticians Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 
bio-informatician and informatician
2431 Architects All jobs in this occupation code
2442 Social workers

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 

social worker working in children’s and family services

2461 Quality control and planning engineers

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code:

The following jobs in the electricity transmission and distribution industry: 
planning / development engineer 
quality, health, safety and environment (QHSE) engineer

3113 Engineering technicians Only the following jobs in this occupation code:

The following jobs in the electricity transmission and distribution industry: 

commissioning engineer 
substation electrical engineer
3213 Paramedics All jobs in this occupation code
3411 Artists

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 

Animator in visual effects and 2D/3D computer animation for the film, television or video games sectors

3414 Dancers and choreographers Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 

Skilled classical ballet dancers who meet the standard required by internationally recognised United Kingdom ballet companies (e.g. Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre, The Royal Ballet and Scottish Ballet)

The company must either: 
have performed at or been invited to perform at venues of the calibre of the Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells or Barbican, either in the United Kingdom or overseas; 
or attract dancers and/or choreographers and other artists from other countries; 
or be endorsed as being internationally recognised by a United Kingdom industry body such as the Arts Councils (of England, Scotland and/or Wales) 

Skilled contemporary dancers who meet the standard required by internationally recognised United Kingdom contemporary dance companies (e.g. Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, Scottish Dance Theatre and Rambert Dance Company)

The company must either: 
have performed at or been invited to perform at venues of the calibre of Sadler’s Wells, the Southbank Centre or The Place, either in the United Kingdom or overseas; 
or attract dancers and/or choreographers and other artists from all over the world; or be endorsed as being internationally recognised by a United Kingdom industry body such as the Arts Councils (of England, Scotland and/or Wales)
3415 Musicians Only the following jobs in this occupation code:

skilled orchestral musicians who are leaders, principals, sub-principals or numbered string positions, and who meet the standard required by internationally recognised UK orchestras. (including London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra). The orchestra must be endorsed as being internationally recognised by the Association of British Orchestras
3416 Arts officers, producers and directors

All jobs in this occupation code

Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 
The following jobs in visual effects and 2D/3D computer animation for the film, television or video games sectors: 

2D supervisor 
3D supervisor 
computer graphics 
supervisor
producer 
production manager 
technical director 
visual effects supervisor

3421 Graphic designers Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 
The following jobs in visual effects and 2D/3D computer animation for the film, television or video games sectors: 

compositing artist matte painter modeller rigger stereo artist texture artist
3541 Buyers and purchasing officers Only the following job in this occupation code: 

manufacturing engineer 
(purchasing) in the aerospace industry
5215 Welding trades Only the following job in this occupation code: 

high integrity pipe welders where the job requires three or more years’ related on-the-job experience
5235 Aircraft maintenance and related trades Only the following jobs in this occupation code: 

licensed and military certifying engineer/inspector technician
5249 Line repairers and cable jointers Only the following job in this occupation code:

overhead linesworker,at Linesman Erector 2 (LE2) level and above, where the pay is at least £32,000 per year
5434 Chefs Only the following job in this occupation code: 

Skilled chef where: 

the pay is at least £29,570 per year after deductions for accommodation, meals etc; and 
the job requires five or more years relevant experience in a role of at least equivalent status to the one they are entering; and the job is not in either a fast food outlet, a standard fare outlet, or an establishment which provides a take-away service; and 

The job is in one of the following roles: 

executive chef – limited to one per establishment 
head chef – limited to one per establishment 
sous chef – limited to one for every four kitchen staff per establishment 
specialist chef – limited to one per speciality per establishment 

A fast food outlet is one where food is prepared in bulk for speed of service, rather than to individual order. 
A standard fare outlet is one where the menu is designed centrally for outlets in a chain / franchise, rather than by a chef or chefs in the individual restaurant. Standard fare outlets also include those where dishes and / or cooking sauces are bought in ready-made, rather than prepared from fresh / raw ingredients.

There is also a Scotland-only list, which at the moment only contains certain doctors and radiographers. These two professions are now fully covered by the UK-wide list, but some new Scotland-specific roles have been added.

Proposed Scotland-only Shortage Occupation List

Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code and description Job titles included on the Scotland-only Shortage Occupation List and further criteria
2314 Secondary education teaching professionals Only the following jobs in this occupation code: Gaelic Teachers
2315 Primary and nursery education teaching professionals Only the following jobs in this occupation code: Gaelic-medium teachers
2111 Chemical scientists Only the following jobs in this occupation code: Chemical scientists within the nuclear industry
2127 Production and process engineers Only the following jobs in this occupation code: Chemical engineers within the nuclear industry

The committee also recommended putting in place separate lists for Wales and Northern Ireland as well, although “most of the shortages we identified seem UK-wide”.

After Brexit, the list will likely need to be overhauled against as a new immigration system comes in requiring EU citizens to have work visas too. Yesterday’s review was only about adjustments to the current system, in the context of record low UK unemployment.

CJ McKinney

CJ is Free Movement's deputy editor. He's here to make sure that the website is on top of everything that happens in the world of immigration law, whether by writing articles, commissioning them out or considering submissions. When not writing about immigration law, CJ covers wider legal affairs at the website Legal Cheek and on Twitter: follow him @mckinneytweets.

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