UK shortage occupation list expansion: good news for tech businesses

Written on 6 Nov 2019

The UK's shortage occupation list (SOL), the official list of jobs that the government believes are in short supply, has been significantly expanded; meaning it is now much easier for businesses in certain sectors to attract, recruit and relocate staff from overseas to the UK.

Under the previous system, not only did employers need to have sponsor licence, they also had to be specifically registered to sponsor such workers. Furthermore, the range of digital and IT professions included was very limited, even if a business was registered.

Now, the list has been expanded to include almost all roles within the digital and IT sector. No specialist registration is required and the expansion covers:

  • all IT business analysts, architects and systems designer roles;
  • all programme and software development roles;
  • all web design and development professional roles; and
  • all IT and communications professionals not elsewhere classified.

The government has listened to and implemented the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee, which specifically singled out the rapid growth and importance to the UK economy of the digital and tech sector. The government responded that these changes will give "British-based businesses the access to the brightest and best global talent... That is why we have made it easier for employers to hire the skilled workers".

What this means in practice

Any employer that holds a sponsor licence (or is considering obtaining one) will now find it much easier, quicker and cheaper to employ people from overseas or relocate staff from overseas offices to the UK in these professions. While the system for sponsorship under Tier 2 (General) is often considered lengthy and bureaucratic, when seeking to employ for a position on the SOL the process has several key advantages, including:

  • not having to conduct a resident labour market test;
  • exemption from the minimum income threshold for settlement;
  • lower visa fees; and
  • priority allocation in the event the cap limit is reached.

This will be a welcome change to many businesses in the tech sector given the known problems of locating suitable UK qualified staff.
If these changes affect you, and you would like to learn more, then please contact one of our immigration specialists. Our immigration team has a particular focus on assisting businesses in the technology, media and communications sectors with their international relocation needs.