UK: Amendments To Shortage Occupation List Forthcoming

Last Updated: 30 August 2019
Article by Fragomen  

At a Glance

  • The UK government will accept the Migration Advisory Committee's recommendations on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) in full, and they will become effective between September and December 2019.
  • If the SOL is amended as projected, foreign nationals in recognized shortage occupations will be able to enter the United Kingdom more quickly and with more certainty if in a role on the SOL.
  • The amended SOL is expected to be released between September and December 2019 and will cover a range of highly-skilled occupations including in health and social care, engineering and digital technology occupations.

The situation

The previous Home Secretary of the United Kingdom has confirmed that the UK government will accept the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)'s recommendations on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) in full, and they will become effective between September and December 2019.

A closer look

The MAC recommendations include:

  • Broadening the SOL. The MAC recommended broadening the types of roles that appear on the SOL. Currently the list accounts for approximately 1% of all UK job roles, while the MAC's recommendations expand the coverage to include approximately 9%, which is roughly equivalent to 2.5 million workers.
  • Recommended additions to the list. The MAC recommended adding a number of occupations to the SOL, including all roles related to software development, programmers, web designers, veterinarians, health workers and architects, among other occupations. The full recommended list appears in the MAC's report.
  • Region-specific lists. The MAC recommended creating separate shortage lists for Northern Ireland and Wales, though it did not recommend occupations for these proposed lists. It also recommended retaining the existing Scotland-specific list. In practice, these region-specific lists are expected to be very similar.


The amended Shortage Occupation List will allow employers to more easily hire foreign workers to meet labor shortage demands across a wider range of roles, particularly in the health and social care, engineering and digital technology sector which employers have reported they find difficult to fill.

The revised list is likely to help employers in the additional sectors but may not alleviate many UK businesses' rising concern that they will struggle to hire skilled foreign workers after Brexit if the government retains the current GBP 30,000 minimum annual salary required to sponsor a foreign worker.


  • SOL description. The SOL consists of job roles that are deemed to be in short supply in the United Kingdom, so the government makes it easier for employers to sponsor non-European Economic Area national workers to those roles in a number of ways:

    • Applicants in these roles are given priority over other applicants when it comes to Tier 2 sponsorship;
    • There is no need for an employer to run a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) prior to offering a foreign national Tier 2 sponsorship;
    • Visa application fees can be lower; and
    • The applicant does not need to meet the minimum salary threshold required for settlement (the United Kingdom's form of permanent residence) after five years.
  • Timeline. The below is a history of the progression of the new SOL:

Looking ahead

  • Role of SOL in the future. The MAC further recommended a full study of the purpose of the SOL, in light of a government White Paper published December 2018, in which the government accepted recommendations to abolish the annual numerical cap on Tier 2 (General) migrants and the recommendation to eliminate the RLMT. Though these measures are not due to be introduced until 2021 at the earliest, the MAC noted that the changes raise a question over the future purpose of the SOL, as the only remaining benefits of the SOL would be the lower salary requirement for settlement and lower visa fees. It is likely that once the reforms to the United Kingdom's immigration system become clearer, the role of the SOL will be reviewed again. Potentially the job roles that appear on the SOL could be given preferential treatment in a different way, such as providing a faster pathway to permanent residency.
  • MAC recommendations on salary and future immigration system. The United Kingdom's new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has confirmed that he intends to ask the MAC to further report on the possibility of an Australian style points-based immigration system. The MAC is also expected to report to the UK government by January 2020 on its recommendations for differential salary thresholds, and a new immigration system replacing free movement will take effect from January 2021.
  • New Home Secretary. The previous Home Secretary has been replaced by Priti Patel. Her immigration priorities will become clearer over the coming months and Fragomen will continue to report developments.
  • Labor shortages. It is highly likely that unless the GBP 30,000 salary threshold will be lowered or set regionally, British businesses will continue to report rising concern over access to skilled labor after Brexit.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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