The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent body that advises the government on migration, published its 2023 review of the Shortage Occupation List in early October.
The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) is a list of job roles in the UK where demand exceeds supply. Pre-Brexit, the SOL had more significance, as roles which fell under the list were exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test (RMLT) – a 28-day obstacle to sponsorship. With the removal of the RLMT in the new post-Brexit immigration system, the SOL now mainly serves to offer a discount on minimum salary rates and lower Home Office application fees for Skilled Worker visa applications.
Surmising that within the new immigration system, the SOL is no longer fit for purpose, the MAC has recommended it be abolished. The basis of this recommendation is that no employer should be able to pay below the “going rate” irrespective of shortages. Low wage employment is at higher risk of serious exploitation, and more so for migrants reliant on being employed by a sponsoring firm to remain in the UK. It also raises the point that low wage sector businesses are less likely to sponsor individuals due to the administrative burdens and application fees involved in sponsorship. If the “going rate” discount is removed, the SOL essentially becomes redundant. However, if the government decides to retain the SOL, the MAC also recommends that it be renamed “the Salary Discount List” to reflect its true function.
While many businesses may not be affected by the removal of the going rate discount to salary thresholds, those who sponsor workers that fall under the list, such as tech businesses where several roles qualify, will feel the loss of the application fee discount. The Home Office increased application fees in October 2023 by 15-35%. The loss of the discount provided under the Shortage Occupation List will, therefore, serve as another fee hike for these businesses.
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