The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has been commissioned by the Home Secretary to undertake an initial, ‘rapid review’ of the UK Shortage Occupation List (SOL), which is to be renamed the Immigration Salary List (ISL).
The review follows a formal undertaking by the Government to overhaul the SOL in light of the MAC’s October 2023 report, which included a recommendation to abolish the SOL, among other substantive changes to the skilled worker sponsorship system.
The Home Secretary has now asked the committee to consider which occupations from the current shortage occupation list and/or the committee’s recommended list in their October 2023 report should be included on a temporary basis on the new Immigration Salary List, pending a wider review to be commissioned in the near future.
Scope of the ISL rapid review
The Home Office states that the shortage list is being reformed with the aim of streamlining skilled worker visa applications based on salary thresholds. As such, the MAC’s initial review will prioritise specific aspects of the ISL:
- Shortage occupations: The MAC have been tasked with reviewing the current list of shortage occupations as well as its own recommendations in its October 2023 report to produce a temporary Immigration Salary List of shortage roles which will be subject to a wide, more in-depth review.
- Salary threshold scrutiny: The MAC will assess the chosen salary thresholds, evaluating their accuracy in reflecting market rates and ensuring they attract genuinely skilled workers.
- Benefits and potential glitches: The review will delve into the benefits of the ISL compared to the old SOL, identifying areas for improvement and potential unintended consequences.
Based on the review’s findings, the ISL is expected to be amended to include additional occupations and revised salary thresholds. More fundamental, structural changes could also follow, depending on the MAC’s recommendations.
The MAC is expected to publish its report by 23 February 2024.
The MAC’s findings will be reviewed by the Government, but are largely expected to form the basis of the new ISL, which should come into force in April 2024 as part of the Spring Immigration Rules.
This rapid review is set to be followed by a more comprehensive analysis of the entire skilled worker visa system in the near future.
Discounted salary roles abolished
The ability to sponsor workers using a discounted salary for shortage roles will also be abolished as part of the new rules in the Spring.
Occupational Coding System
The Home Office has also accepted the MAC’s recommendation in its October 2023 report to use the National Statistics’ Standard Occupational Code 2020 coding system to update the going salary rates for occupations. These updated figures will apply from April 2024.
The UK’s skilled worker immigration system continues to attract criticism from all stakeholders. While review and reform will generally be welcomed, the focus must remain on creating a system that benefits both employers and migrants while supporting the UK’s economic needs.
As well as this rapid review, employers and visa applicants should be aware of the wider review and potential changes to the ISL in the coming months – the findings of which could significantly impact future immigration policies.
Staying informed about updates and potentially adjusting recruitment strategies or application plans will be critical to ensuring compliance with any new rules and to optimise overseas talent mobility and recruitment programmes and budgets.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists for employers. For expert guidance on the impact to your organisation of changes to the rules on sponsoring overseas workers, contact us.
Last updated: 22 January 2024