On 15 March 2023, the Chancellor announced his Spring Budget which prioritised the 4 E’s of:

  • Employment: boosting labour supply to ensure that the economy is well supported to boost growth and improve living standards
  • Education: providing the public with skills and support needed
  • Enterprise: providing the right conditions for businesses to succeed, and
  • Everywhere: ensuring the benefits of economic growth are felt across the UK.

Under the pillar of ‘Employment’, the government announced two key immigration changes relating to the Business Visitor visa framework and the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) in an effort to help ease immediate labour supply pressures and ease business visits to the UK.


What are the changes to the Business Visitor visa?

The government announced that it will simplify the Business Visitor (i.e. those entering on a visitor visa for business purposes only) rules to make it easier and more attractive to do business in the UK. The changes will be implemented from autumn 2023 and will also apply to those who do not need to apply for a Visitor visa to visit the UK (non-Visa nationals).

The changes will include expanding the range of short-term business activities that can be carried out for periods of up to 6 months and reviewing permitted engagements. The government will also consider a wider range of activities linked to negotiations with trade partners.

The UK’s list of permitted activities under the business visitor framework has come under criticism in the past as being too restrictive. We therefore welcome proposals from the Home Office to widen the list of activities a business visitor may undertake in the UK and await to see how wide (or narrow) this list may be.


What is the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) and what changes are being made?

The SOL sets out the occupations where employers face a shortage of suitable labour from within the UK labour market and where it is sensible to hire migrant workers under the Skilled Worker visa route for those roles which are in short supply.

Skilled Workers hired for an occupation on the SOL and sponsoring employers who hire workers for such roles are given certain dispensations within the Immigration Rules, as explained below. This arrangement is intended to make it less cumbersome for employers to hire migrant labour to fill vacancies in areas of shortage.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was commissioned to undertake an assessment of the SOL, the full review of which is to be concluded in autumn this year. In its interim report on the construction and hospitality sector released in March 2023, the MAC recommended that 5 construction occupations be added to the SOL, which the government has accepted.

The 5 construction occupations (along with their SOC codes) that will be added to the SOL before the summer parliamentary recess are:

  • 5312: Bricklayers and masons
  • 5313: Roofers, roof tilers and slaters
  • 5315: Carpenters and joiners
  • 5319: Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified.

The changes were made to ensure the UK labour market has access to skills and talent from abroad where needed. The government has also announced that reviews will be conducted more regularly based on recommendations from the MAC.


What are the advantages for employers and Skilled Workers where a role is on the SOL?

As mentioned above, where a Skilled Worker is employed for a vacancy that falls under the SOL, the Immigration Rules afford certain dispensations to the employer and the proposed worker.

Sponsoring employers are allowed to pay workers who fall within one of the occupations 20% less than the minimum salary threshold for sponsorship. From 12 April 2023, following the recently announced changes to the Immigration Rules, this means such workers are required to be paid a minimum salary of £20,960 instead of £26,200.

Those applying for Skilled Worker visas on the basis of roles on the SOL, along with their partner and children who will be joining them in the UK, will also be subject to lower application fees. A comparison of the application fees for jobs that are on the SOL and those that are not is provided in the table below:

Visa length SOL jobs Non-SOL jobs –  applying from outside the UK Non-SOL jobs – applying from inside the UK
Up to 3 years £479 per person £625 per person £719 per person
More than 3 years £943 per person £1,235 per person £1,423 per person

However, individuals are still required to meet the English language requirement as part of the visa application – a step some workers have found difficult to overcome. Furthermore, employers are still required to pay the Immigration Skills Charge which can be a hefty levy on the employer at the time of sponsoring each worker.

If you require assistance or further information on UK Immigration matters, please do not hesitate to contact the Head of Immigration, Sundeep Rathod.

Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.

Edwin Coe LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership, registered in England & Wales (No.OC326366). The Firm is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. A list of members of the LLP is available for inspection at our registered office address: 2 Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn, London, WC2A 3TH. “Partner” denotes a member of the LLP or an employee or consultant with the equivalent standing.

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