New Migration Advisory Committee review recommends improved options for employers and non-EU workers in shortage occupations

Employment / 12 June 2019

The Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) – a highly influential team of independent economists advising the government on matters of UK immigration – has published a review of the current shortage occupation list (“SOL”) recommending its expansion to cover 9% of UK jobs.


The Points-Based System (“PBS”) requires sponsoring employers to comply with a number of requirements in advance of offering a job to a non-EU migrant.  Failure to comply with strict measures such as the Resident Labour Market Test and salary thresholds could lead to significant delays in the recruitment process, visa refusal or revocation for the employee.  This can also have significant repercussions for the employer, such as fines and sponsor licence suspension.

Sponsoring migrants in SOL roles exempts the employer from some of the more onerous requirements of the process.  Unfortunately, SOL currently only covers 1% of UK jobs.

Key Dates

The announcement was made on 29 May 2019.  The proposed changes do not take immediate effect but we assume they should be in force by the end of 2020. Employers looking to recruit migrant workers may need to obtain a sponsor licence after 1 January 2021.


MAC recommends:

  1. Adding archaeologists, architects, biochemists, occupational therapists, psychologists, speech therapists, web designers to SOL.
  2. Expanding existing SOL categories and to minimise restrictions for occupations such as engineers, web designers, medical and other scientists, artists, producers, directors and chefs.
  3. Updating the Scotland-only SOL to include Gaelic teachers and chemical scientists and engineers in the nuclear industry.
  4. Introducing medium and lower-skilled occupations in SOL to address employers’ concerns in EU-skill reliant sectors.
  5. A further review and assessment of the impact of the new immigration system post-Brexit.


MAC’s recommendations do not come into direct effect without Home Office approval, but are likely to have a strong impact on any future changes to SOL.

Existing sponsor licence holders should keep track of announcements on this point and assess their effect on recruitment policies.  There may be scope for talent expansion in the affected categories.  Some will need to consider requesting further allocation of unrestricted certificates of sponsorship.

Employers interested in expanding their non-EU work force in a SOL category may consider obtaining sponsor licences once MAC’s recommendations are enforced to avoid skill shortages in a potential hard exit reality.

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