Salary Thresholds; Shortage Occupation List; Sponsor Licence

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By Sanwar Ali:

In this article, we provide a comprehensive review of the UK immigration changes in March and April 2023, focusing on the impact of the changes on the salary thresholds, the shortage occupation list, and the sponsor licence scheme that employers need to employ overseas workers under the Skilled Worker visa scheme.

Table of Contents

Overview of UK Immigration Changes

The UK government announced important changes to the UK immigration system, which will impact both employers and migrants. Some key changes include updates to the minimum salary thresholds for sponsored migrants, changes to the shortage occupation list, and modifications to the sponsor licence scheme. The Government says that these changes are so that the UK remains competitive in the global market while addressing skills shortages.

Changes to Minimum Salary Thresholds

From April 12, 2023, UK employers sponsoring overseas staff have had to pay higher minimum salary levels, as set out in the Spring Statement of Changes of Immigration Rules. The increase in salary thresholds is intended to ensure that migrant worker salaries keep pace with wages in the UK labour market.

How These Changes Affect Sponsor Licences

When sponsoring immigrant workers, the salary must meet the relevant minimum wage thresholds for the visa type or the going rate of pay, whichever is highest. The going rates for the various occupational classification codes for different jobs have been updated according to the latest Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings data. As a result, employers should ensure they comply with the new National Minimum Wage requirements for all of their workers and that Certificates of Sponsorship assigned from April 1, 2023, comply with both the prevailing hourly rates set out in the Immigration Rules, as well as the National Minimum Wage Regulations (NMWR).

Updates to the Shortage Occupation List

The Shortage Occupation List is a list of jobs deemed to be in short supply in the UK. Employers can hire and sponsor overseas workers in such roles under more favourable criteria than for roles not on the list. The Government's Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) makes recommendations on which jobs should go on the list.

New Shortage Occupations

With current labour shortages in many sectors, employers and others were invited to respond to the Migration Advisory Committee's Call for Evidence for its review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), which closed on May 26th. The MAC is due to update the list in the autumn and has asked for stakeholders to provide well-evidenced submissions.

The MAC has published an urgent interim report on 26 skilled worker occupation codes where going rates of pay may be low in the construction and hospitality industries. These sectors have suffered worker shortages well above average for the labour market. New shortage occupations recommended by the MAC for the construction sector include bricklayers and masons, roofers, roof tilers and slaters, carpenters and joiners, and plasterers. These urgent additions to the list will take effect this summer.

Other Important Changes

Scale-up Sponsor Licences

The Scale-up visa offers a more accessible route for employers to sponsor migrant workers, with no Immigration Skills Charge and a shorter duration of sponsorship required. Scale-up sponsor licences are also cheaper than many other categories and involve less work for employers who qualify.

Changes announced this month add a new route for scale-ups to apply for a Scale-up sponsor licence if they are too young to qualify under the standard route with three years' growth. This became available from April 13, 2023, and involve applying for an endorsement from an endorsing body. The Government hopes this will help businesses grow and compete in the UK market.

Innovator Founder Visa

From April 13, 2023, changes were made to the Innovator visa category, making the Start-up route obsolete. The new Innovator Founder immigration route involve having a business plan endorsed and will be a route to settlement in the UK. It is hoped this change will be beneficial for the UK's tech innovation sector.

Expansion of Permissible Activities for Business Visitors

The Treasury has announced plans for an autumn expansion of permitted activities on a visit visa or by visitors from non-visa countries such as the USA and EU. Business visitors of multinational companies, performers, and global businesspeople will have more scope for commercial activities in the UK for up to six months.

Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) for Visitors

The UK is set to adopt a digital travel authorisation system, similar to the USA's ESTA and the EU's ETIAS. The UK's ETA will allow people two years to visit the UK as many times as they want for up to six months or for up to three months on a Creative Worker visa concession. This new system will impact firms using the current Creative Worker route for productions or with clients visiting and/or international staff attending business meetings in the UK.

Additional Changes and Announcements

More changes to the UK's immigration system are expected over the coming months...

Impact on Employers and Migrants

These immigration changes will have a significant impact on both employers and migrants, particularly in relation to salary thresholds, the shortage occupation list, and the sponsor licence scheme. Employers will need to be aware of the new salary thresholds and ensure they comply with the updated requirements. Migrants seeking to work in the UK may find new opportunities in the updated shortage occupation list, but will also need to be prepared for the increased salary requirements.

How Can Help with Sponsor Licences

If you need help with employing Skilled Workers and help to apply for a Sponsor Licence, including complying with your Sponsor Licence obligations, can help.

For more information and advice, please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at