An influential government advisory group has recommended a major expansion of the list of jobs that get priority for work visas. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), a team of economists that advises the government on immigration, published its recommendation for a new Shortage Occupation List yesterday. Assuming it is accepted by the Home Office, the new list would cover 9% of UK jobs compared to 1% now.

New to the list are archaeologists, architects, biochemists, occupational therapists, psychologists, speech therapists, vets and web designers. Many other categories of shortage job have been broadened.

A job being on the Shortage Occupation List makes it easier for employers to hire a non-EU worker under the Tier 2 (General) work visa system in several ways:

  • There is no need to pass the resident labour market test,
  • Roles on the SOL are prioritised if the Tier 2 (General) limit of 20,700 is reached.
  • There is no requirement to meet the £35,800 salary threshold required for settlement after five years.
  • And finally, applicants (and their families) face lower visa application fees if their occupation is on the SOL.

However, expanding the list does not mean that more work visas are available overall, as it not affect the 20,700 annual limit. It just means that there are more jobs that can get priority when the quota is reached. Only exempting jobs from the cap — as with doctors and nurses — allows more workers to come in.