The UK skills shortage: Why it’s the best time to get a UK work visa

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The UK is currently experiencing a shortage of skilled workers. Here’s how you can use this as your opportunity to immigrate to the UK on a work visa.

The current skill shortages in the UK workforce

In the wake of Brexit, the UK went through a serious skilled worker shortage which shrank the pool of easily available EU workers. This problem was exacerbated when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

UK companies have always looked beyond their borders in order to fill jobs that required skilled workers, and the new immigration system has made this process a bit simpler. This is helpful seeing as there are vacancies spread across most sectors of the economy, with 42,000 in construction, 60,000 in transport, 170,000 in food and accommodation, and 200,000 in care.

The film industry is just one of the many that has been struggling. It finds itself in the interesting position where business is booming, streaming services like Amazon and Netflix have been pouring money into filming studios across Britain, but the lack of qualified crew members is holding up production and costing millions. The answer to this problem is hiring migrant workers with the skills to fulfil these roles.

What is the UK skills shortage list?

The UK shortage occupation list is a detailed list of jobs which the UK government has declared to be in short supply within the resident labour market. These roles are afforded more relaxed eligibility criteria for sponsored work visa applications. For example, under the recently revised points-based system, a job offer for an occupation on the shortage list counts for 20 tradeable points.

Due to the chaos of Brexit and the pandemic, the skills shortage list has grown extensively. Many technical occupations which would not have qualified for the old Tier 2 (General) visa, now qualify for a Skilled Worker visa. For example, occupations such as IT user support technicians, electricians and plumbers. There are far more office jobs that qualify now, such as office managers and sales executives. You will also find estate agents, shopkeepers, ticket inspectors, gardeners, chefs, fitness instructors and teaching assistants on the list.

Health and care careers on the UK skills shortage list

The Home Office has also expanded the shortage occupation list to include more occupations that fall under the healthcare and education category, including:

  • Health services and public health managers and directors
  • Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors
  • Pharmacists
  • Health professionals not elsewhere classified
  • Physiotherapists
  • Laboratory technicians
  • Nursing auxiliaries
  • Senior care workers

Healthcare workers may be eligible to apply for the Health and Care Worker visa. This route is the same as the Skilled Worker visa with lower education requirements, lower application fees and holders do not need to pay the annual health surcharge of £624 per year per person.

Changes made to UK immigration laws since Brexit

On 1 December 2020, when the UK revised the existing points-based immigration system, the Tier 2 (General) category was replaced by the Skilled Worker visa. This visa has some alterations with regard to requirements and it’s now easier to get a Skilled Worker visa than it would have been to get a Tier 2 (General) visa.

Notable changes between the two routes include:

  • The removal of the resident labour market test. Employers no longer have to advertise a vacancy to see if any settled or British workers could fill the role.
  • The suspension of the monthly cap on eligible applicants.
  • The reduction of the minimum skills threshold from NQF Level 6 to Level 3 (A-level standard)
  • The reduction of the minimum salary level to £25,600 or the going rate for the job.
  • The ability to switch to the Skilled Worker visa from another visa without having to leave the UK first.

See more: FAQ: How to immigrate to the UK under the new points-based system.

The Skilled Worker visa requirements

The Skilled Worker visa allows you to live and work in the UK for up to five years before you need to extend it, or apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK should you be eligible. To qualify for the Skilled Worker visa, applicants must obtain 70 points under the UK’s points-based immigration system.

The mandatory requirements are:

You can make up the remaining 20 points by earning a salary at the “going rate” for your occupation, having a job on the shortage list, or by holding a PhD in a subject relevant to your job or in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) subject.

See more: How the UK’s new Skilled Worker visa eligibility calculator works.

Seeking to hire workers in the UK? Geta sponsor licence

The process of hiring migrant workers is highly regulated by the UK government. That means if you are a UK business looking to employ non-settled or migrant workers, including those from the EU and EEA, then you will  be required to get a sponsor licence. The process of getting a sponsorship licence can be tricky, and it can be very helpful to get a qualified service provider to ensure that you have all your documentation in order and that it’s submitted timeously.

A sponsor licence is essentially a form of overarching permission from the UK Home Office that allows UK-based companies to issue Certificates of Sponsorships (CoS) to workers who then need to use this to apply for their Skilled Worker visa.

How our UK immigration consultants can help you

We offer immigration assistance, advice and support to both skilled workers who have job offers and UK businesses who are looking to employ migrant workers.

We can guide your business through the process of applying for a sponsorship licence and help you with the practical management of your compliance duties throughout your licence period. We can also assist with Skilled Worker visas for employees you have sponsored.

We can also assist you with applying for your Skilled Worker visa should you already have a job offer from an eligible sponsor.

Need help with applying to work or start a business in the UK? We help individuals and businesses navigate all aspects of UK immigration and can assist with ongoing employee immigration management. Contact us at +44 (0) 20 7759 5307 or email [email protected].

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