Immigration Salary List 2024

UK Immigration Salary List 

IN THIS SECTION

The Immigration Salary List (ISL) has replaced the Shortage Occupation List with effect from 4 April 2024. This change comes as a result of recommendations by the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

In this guide to the UK Immigration Salary List, we share what we know to date about this new feature of visa sponsorship, and what it means for employers hiring sponsored workers.

 

What is the UK Immigration Salary List?

The UK Immigration Salary List is the replacement for the Shortage Occupation List under the Skilled Worker route of the UK’s Immigration Rules. This is the official list of skilled jobs for which workers are deemed to be in short supply. The Shortage Occupation List will be renamed the Immigration Salary List, although the former list will remain in place until various higher salary thresholds are implemented on 4 April 2024. The creation of the new list is part of a package of immigration measures announced by the government on 4 December 2023 to curb immigration abuse and cut net migration in the UK.

The net effect of the ISL is to abolish the 20% ‘going rate’ salary discount, previously a benefit for occupations on the Shortage Occupation List, where applicants in shortage occupations could be paid 80% of the going rate for their occupation code. The abolition of the going rate discount is designed to prevent employers from undercutting domestic workers and the exploitation of migrants. 

Placement on the Immigration Salary List will still give occupations a 20% discount on the general salary threshold, subject to not reducing salaries below the level of the occupation-specific threshold. However, given the new increased general threshold, this in effect will mean that the Skilled Worker route will now become unavailable for many occupations.

 

Immigration Salary List Minimum Thresholds

In addition to removing the 20% ‘going rate’ salary discount, the general salary threshold for occupations on the Immigration Salary List is now £30,960. This means that an occupation on the new list will either need to pay £30,960 or the occupation-specific threshold, whichever is higher.

The minimum earnings threshold for occupations not on the Immigration Salary List has been increased by 48%, while the individual occupation ‘going rate’ thresholds have been raised in line with the median full-time wage for equivalent jobs in 2023. Specifically:

  • the general salary threshold for those arriving on the Skilled Worker route is now £38,700, representing an increase from the 25th to 50th percentile (median) of eligible Skilled Worker occupations under the latest nominal wage data, and
  • the occupation-specific thresholds are being raised from the 25th to the 50th percentile (median) full-time salary of the occupation or the national pay scale, where applicable.

 

For those already in the UK on the Skilled Worker route prior to the relevant changes being made to the Immigration Rules, they should be exempt from the new median salary levels when they apply to change sponsor, extend or settle. However, they should still expect their pay to progress at the same rate as resident workers in the UK, where they will be subject to the updated 25th percentiles using the latest pay data when they next make an application to change employment, extend their stay or settle in line with normal practice.

Any migrants seeking entry clearance to the UK via the Health and Care Worker Visa route will be exempt from the specific £38,700 salary threshold requirement applied to Skilled Workers, so that the UK government can continue to bring the healthcare workers that the UK’s care sector and NHS need. Workers in national pay scale occupations will also be exempt, where they will continue to be subject to their relevant occupational pay scales. This is because pay scale occupations would not receive any meaningful benefit from inclusion on the Immigration Salary List, as their occupation-specific thresholds are in all cases above the £23,200 general threshold that applies to pay scale occupations.

However, even though pay scale occupations have been excluded from the Immigration Salary List, this does not mean that these occupations are not in shortage, nor does it undermine the public value of many of these occupations, but rather their inclusion on the list would not help these occupations to utilise the immigration system any more effectively.

 

How to use the UK Immigration Salary List

As with the Shortage Occupation List, the Immigration Salary List represents a list of occupations where UK-based employers face a shortage of suitable labour and where migration is considered a sensible response to that shortage. As such, job roles will only be included on this list where they are suitably skilled, there is a shortage of available resident workers and it is sensible for immigration to be a part of the solution, at least short term.

Importantly, no sector should be permanently reliant on immigration, where roles should not remain on the Immigration Salary List forever. Generally, roles will only be included where they will meaningfully benefit from the discount to the salary threshold and where it is sensible to offer this discount to employers. This means that the discount must not put any downwards pressure on pay, such that it is likely to undermine efforts to recruit resident workers. Part of the consideration for adding a role to the list may also be whether the sector has a realistic and sustainable strategy for what happens when it is removed.

 

Benefits of a role being on the Immigration Salary List

The main benefit of inclusion on the Immigration Salary List is to allow UK-based employers to recruit skilled overseas nationals on a salary below the general threshold, with the discount being a maximum of 20%. It is also expected that roles on the list will have marginally reduced visa fees, although any visa fee reduction is likely to be a relatively negligible benefit, even more so in the context of increased salary thresholds and the recently increased Immigration Health Surcharge. Equally, roles on the Health and Care Worker visa already have lower associated visa fees and therefore will not benefit. 

In due course, aside from the more technical aspects of the Immigration Salary List, the government will need to more carefully consider its benefits and longer-term function, laying out the role that it wants this list to play within the wider immigration system. This could include, for example, whether the primary purpose of the list is to fill shortages in the short term with overseas labour or whether the list is being implemented for a wider purpose. A wider purpose could include supporting government priority sectors and broader government policies, or even to support sectors in the UK where there are broader benefits and certain spillovers into society, independent of labour shortage considerations.

Arguably, there are diminishing benefits to an Immigration Salary List, where this really only serves a minor function in the context of immigration policy, without supporting other government policies. There is even an argument for abolishing this list in light of several factors, including the removal of both the Resident Labour Market Test and the cap on work visas with the introduction of the current immigration system, as well as the exclusion of occupations where there is a negligible benefit of appearing on the list.

 

Current status of the ISL following the MAC’s rapid review?

On the 17 January 2024, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was commissioned by the UK’s Home Secretary to rapid review the new Immigration Salary List, specifically to consider the composition of that list in line with the increased salary thresholds.

Dated 23 February 2024, the MAC’s report makes recommendations as to which of the occupations on the Shortage Occupation List, together with those previously recommended for inclusion by the MAC in its 2023 Shortage Occupation List review, should be temporarily added to the Immigration Salary List. This comprised the 51 occupations on the Shortage Occupation List and the 10 occupations recently recommended in the MAC’s 2023 review, 6 of which were already included on that list. The MAC also highlights the details of the new salary thresholds and potential benefits of the new list that will need to be clarified prior to a full review, together with recommendations for the future of this list.

However, due to time constraints in the publication timeline that the MAC was asked to meet, it was unable to undertake the usual stakeholder consultation carried out in response to government commissions. In order to perform the necessary analysis, the MAC instead utilised the available data and extensive stakeholder engagement carried out as part of its major review of the Shortage Occupation List in 2023. The recommendations made by the MAC are intended to be only an interim measure for the implementation of the new rules in April, ahead of a fuller review of the Immigration Salary List starting later in the year. 

As at the time of writing, and following its rapid review, the MAC is expecting to receive a commission for a wider review of the UK Immigration Salary List and have asked the government to consider the points outlined in its initial report prior to that commission. As part of a more substantive review of the Immigration Salary List, anticipated to start later in 2024, the MAC intends to carry out extensive stakeholder engagement, including a call for evidence and stakeholder roundtables, alongside a renewed assessment of labour market conditions and quantitative data against the newly-implemented salary thresholds.

 

Which Roles are on the Immigration Salary List in 2024?

Under the initial Immigration Salary List, effective from 4 April 2024, 21 occupations have been recommended by the MAC for inclusion on the list, representing 8% of job roles eligible for the Skilled Worker route by employment. Previously, approximately 30% of job roles eligible for the Skilled Worker route were on the Shortage Occupation List. 

The MAC has recommended 11 Skilled Worker occupations for the Immigration Salary List that were previously included in the 2023 recommendations for the Shortage Occupation List. The proposed occupations are those likely to make a material difference to employers and applicants, where the occupation-specific threshold is below the general threshold. The MAC also recommends 10 additional occupations due to increased salary thresholds.

The 21 occupations for the Immigration Salary List consist of 18 recommendations for the UK-wide list and 3 recommendations for the Scotland-only list, including:

Role on Immigration Salary List

SOC Code

Additional information

Managers and proprietors in forestry, fishing and related services 1212 Scotland only, and only fishing boat masters
Laboratory technicians 3111 UK-wide, with 3 years or more experience
Pharmaceutical technicians 3212 UK-wide
Boat and ship builders and repairers 5235 Scotland only
Stonemasons and related trades 5312 UK-wide
Bricklayers 5313 UK-wide
Roofers, roof tilers and slaters 5314 UK-wide
Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified 5319 UK-wide, but only retrofitters
Animal care services occupations not elsewhere classified 6129 UK-wide, but only racing/stud grooms, stallion handlers, stud hands/handlers and work riders
Care workers and home carers 6135 UK-wide
Senior care workers 6136 UK-wide
Chemical scientists 2111 Scotland only, and only nuclear industry jobs
Biological scientists 2112 UK-wide
Social and humanities scientists 2115 UK-wide, but only archaeologists
Artists 3411 UK-wide
Dancers and choreographers 3414 UK-wide, but only skilled classical ballet or contemporary dancers meeting the standard required by internationally recognised UK ballet or contemporary dance companies
Musicians 3415 UK-wide, but only skilled orchestral musicians who are either leaders, principals, sub-principals or numbered string positions meeting the standard required by internationally recognised UK orchestras
Arts officers, producers and directors 3416 UK-wide
Graphic and multimedia designers 2142 UK-wide
Welding trades 5213 UK-wide, but only high integrity pipe welders, where the role requires 3 or more years related on-the-job experience
Carpenters and joiners 5316 UK-wide.

 

The Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) codes listed above relate to the SOC 2020 coding system where, from April 2024, the Home Office will be moving from the SOC 2010 coding system to the SOC 2020 coding system. This updated system contains the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) pay data. This will mean that some SOC codes regularly used by UK-based employers will be changing, where employers will need to ensure that any Certificates of Sponsorship issued from 4 April onwards use the new coding system.

Employers and applicants alike should also bear in mind that given the increased level of salary thresholds, use of the Skilled Worker route will now be mainly for graduate-level occupations, as the levels of pay may be out of reach for many RQF 3-5 occupations, except for pay-scale and social care occupations which have exemptions.

 

Need assistance?

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris advises employers on all aspects of work visa sponsorship, in particular hiring workers under the Skilled Worker visa route. With the Immigration Salary List a relatively new feature, and since it remains subject to change, employers may find this a complex area to navigate.  For advice on the ISL, its implications on your recruitment processes, visa eligibility, assigning SOC codes or any issue relating to hiring points-based visa workers, contact us.

Last updated: 4 April 2024

Author

Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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