More construction roles
added to the Shortage
Occupation List

The UK government is introducing changes to the Immigration Rules which could make it easier for employers within the construction sector to recruit skilled workers from overseas.

The 2023 Spring Budget statement released last week sets out steps the government will take to ensure that the UK labour market has access to skills and talent from abroad where needed, to help businesses tackle immediate labour shortages.

The construction sector is one of several that has previously called on the Home Office to relax the immigration rules to make it easier for suitably skilled foreign workers to qualify for UK work visas.

To help ease immediate labour supply pressures, the government commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to undertake a ‘rapid assessment’ of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) for the construction and hospitality sectors, ahead of its full review of the SOL concluding later in 2023. The government has accepted the MAC’s interim recommendations to initially add five construction occupations to the SOL, which will take effect before summer recess.

Construction roles that will be added to the SOL are:

  • Bricklayers and masons
  • Roofers, roof tilers and slaters
  • Carpenters and joiners
  • Plasterers
  • Construction and building trades n.e.c.

What is the SOL?

The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) is a list of skilled occupations where UK employers face a shortage of suitable labour in the resident market, and where it is sensible to fill those shortages with migrant workers.

Occupations on the list are eligible for the Skilled Worker visa, and are subject to more favourable immigration arrangements, enabling employers to access a wider pool of suitably skilled workers more quickly.

Those working in a shortage occupation can be paid 80% of the job’s usual ‘going rate’ and still qualify for a visa, and benefit from a lower visa application fee.

What does this mean for employers in the construction sector?

The changes mean that businesses in the construction sector will soon have greater scope to sponsor overseas workers in a wider range of roles than before. However, employers should note that the process is not as straightforward as advertising a role, identifying a candidate and offering a job.

Employers wishing to take advantage of the relaxed rules will need to ensure that they are approved by the Home Office to sponsor migrant workers. This means applying for and obtaining a sponsor licence if you do not already have one in place.

Providing your business meets the eligibility requirements and has the necessary compliance measures in place, obtaining a sponsor licence is a relatively straightforward process, which involves:

  • Completion of an online application form
  • Submission of supporting corporate documentation
  • Identifying suitable personnel within your business to take on the day-to-day management of the licence.

However, there are significant fees involved with obtaining a licence and onboarding sponsored workers which could be prohibitive for some smaller businesses.

It can also take the Home Office up to 8 weeks to process an application for a sponsor licence, unless you opt to pay an additional fee to utilise the pre-licence priority service.   

If your business does not already hold a sponsor licence, we recommend applying early if you think your business may wish to recruit construction workers from overseas in the near future.

What’s next?

The interim measures for the construction sector are set to come into force before Parliament breaks for its summer recess. However, further changes could be introduced later this year depending on the recommendations put forward by the MAC when it has concluded its full review of the SOL.

In the Spring Budget, the government also pledged to review the SOL more regularly, based on recommendations from the MAC, so that the legal migration system is quicker and more responsive to the needs of businesses and the economy.

UK immigration support for the construction sector

If your business needs support with recruiting construction workers from overseas, Smith Stone Walters can help. To speak to an immigration advisor about your requirements, please contact us today.

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