UK Visa salary thresholds to be reviewed by MAC
The Government has commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to conduct an independent review into salary threshold levels as it works to develop a new UK immigration system.
In its EEA Migration Report in November 2018, the MAC recommended retaining the existing minimum visa salary thresholds within the reformed rules.
However, the salary requirement continues to attract criticism from all areas of the economy. In response, the Home Secretary has commissioned the MAC review to examine closely the levels of visa salary thresholds; how minimum salary thresholds should be calculated; whether regional salary thresholds should be provided for different parts of the UK; and whether there should be exceptions to salary thresholds, for example shortage occupations.
The MAC also recently reported on the Shortage Occupation List – the first review of the list since 2013. The report recommended the number of roles in the economy to be added to the list increase from 1% to almost 9%.
What are the visa salary threshold rules?
The salary requirement is one of the most contentious and problematic requirements of the skilled visa route.
Employers from across sectors continue to highlight that these levels are set too high. The effect of the current threshold is to arbitrarily preclude migrant workers that would otherwise qualify under Tier 2 from being able to take on skilled shortage roles. Roles such as lab technicians, paramedics and junior doctors are affected where the prevailing rates of pay do not meet the minimum threshold.
The effect of shortcomings in the current salary threshold is that certain occupations continue to suffer shortages of workers.
Further concerns have also been raised that the visa salary threshold gives no allowance for regional weighting and the general position that salaries are lower outside of London and the South East. Scotland in particular has been highlighted as being disadvantaged under the current flat-rate threshold.
The Migration Advisory Committee is expected to report on its findings in January 2020, when the Government will consider the recommendations before finalising plans for the new system, which is due to be implemented from 2021.
What is happening with the new immigration system?
The MAC salary threshold review comes as the Government presses ahead with reform of the immigration rules following its white paper published at the end of 2018.
The new immigration system will see the end of EU free movement, with all EU citizens coming to the UK requiring leave to enter and remain, and the introduction of a new route for skilled workers, assessed by ability and experience over nationality.
Measures expected to be included include removal of the cap on skilled visas, abolition of the resident labour market test, broadening skills thresholds to include ‘medium skilled’ roles and expediting skilled visa processing.
The new immigration system will be phased in from 2021.
The Government is currently in the midst of a year-long stakeholder engagement programme, consulting with five advisory groups from across all areas of the economy to ensure closer alignment of the new rules to the needs of industry.
According to the Home Office, it has so far held over 100 events across the UK, engaging 1,500 stakeholders representing businesses and employers.
Separate to the white paper reviews, the Government has also asked the MAC to produce an annual report covering key aspects of the UK’s immigration system such as recommendations for Shortage Occupation List, salary thresholds and other emerging labour market trends.
In our opinion, the visa salary threshold is highly problematic and not conducive to industry needs. The review is an encouraging move to address one of the biggest sources of criticism of the Tier 2 skilled visa route.
There is so much opposition to the current level of £30,000, we expect a reduction to the general level to around £21,000 per annum, certainly where regional allowance is recognised.
If you have any questions about the minimum salary level and its impact on your company’s recruitment, contact us.