A quick round-up of recent immigration law developments.

Home Office statistics published

The Home Office has published new immigration statistics for the year ending December 2022. The statistics include immigration for work, study and family reasons, including new visa routes where these are operational. Overall, numbers of visas granted were down by 11% from pre-pandemic figures in 2019, largely due to a reduction in visitor visas. In the context of work visas:

  • There were around 268,000 grants to main applicants on work visas, almost twice as many (+95%) as in 2019 due to increases in both long-term sponsored work (or ‘Worker’) visas and ‘Temporary Worker’ visas.
  • Grants for ‘Skilled Worker’ and ‘Skilled Worker – Health and Care’ visas represented 86% of long-term sponsored work visas granted and over half (54%) of all work visas granted to main applicants in 2022.
  • Indian nationals were the top nationality granted long-term sponsored work visas in 2022.
  • The proportion of all work-related visas granted to dependants increased from 29% in 2019 to 37% in 2022.

Immigration system statistics, year ending December 2022 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

MAC publishes call for evidence on Shortage Occupation List

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published a call for evidence as part of its review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). The deadline for responses is 26 May 2023 and it is anticipated that the MAC will publish the results of its review in June 2023.

The MAC has been asked by the Home Office to comment on:

  • The minimum salary requirement for roles on the SOL.
  • Which roles should continue to be included and which should be removed.
  • Which jobs should be added to the SOL (including those below Regulated Qualification Framework Level 3 but only in exceptional/compelling circumstances).

The accompanying guidance document confirms that the MAC will recommend that the current SOL salary threshold discount (i.e. 20% of the going rate for occupation codes on the shortage occupation list, where this applies) be abolished. The Government is also planning to uprate salary thresholds across the Skilled Worker routes.

This means that the only occupations that will benefit from being on the SOL, and hence the only occupations that will be considered for inclusion, are those for which the occupation’s going rate falls between £20,480 and £25,600 currently (or £20,960 and £26,200 when thresholds are uprated from 12 April 2023).

Shortage Occupation List: call for evidence 2023 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

MAC publishes expedited review of shortage occupations in construction and hospitality

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its expedited report into labour shortages in the construction and hospitality sectors, following a request by the Home Secretary on 7 February 2023.

The MAC recommends five occupation codes be added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) in relation to the construction sector. It does not recommend any occupation be added in relation to the hospitality sector because, it says, ‘for the few hospitality occupations at skill level RQF 3-5 in-scope, we do not feel that we have sufficiently clear evidence that these specific occupations are in shortage, or, that a lower salary threshold would be sensible’.

Construction and hospitality shortage review – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Seasonal Worker visa inquiry

The Chair of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), Professor Brian Bell, has published a letter written to the Minister of State for Immigration, Robert Jenrick, indicating that the MAC is launching an inquiry into the Seasonal Worker visa.

The inquiry will consider the rules under which the scheme operates, the size and costs of the scheme, the potential for exploitation and poor labour market practice, evidence from international comparisons and the long-run need for such a scheme.

The letter states that, ‘We have no fixed view on the merits of the scheme, but believe it is a good time to review it given that it has been in operation for a number of years.’

Letter to Immigration Minister on Seasonal Worker visa inquiry – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Home Office introduces Seasonal Worker concession

The Home Office has updated its Seasonal Worker sponsor guidance, introducing a concession in relation to the ‘cooling-off’ period. The guidance states that the Home Office will ‘exceptionally permit workers to re-enter the UK five months after their 2022 leave expired, rather than having to wait for the full six months cooling off period to elapse’. This is a ‘one-off re-set’ to enable workers to return at the beginning of the 2023 harvesting season and the normal rules will apply to any leave granted for 2024 onwards.

Other changes include highlighting increases to salary levels, which come into effect for applications that are supported by a Certificate of Sponsorship issued on or after 12 April 2023 (as set out in Statement of Changes, HC 1160).

Sponsor a seasonal worker – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Guidance sets out application routes not eligible for pre-licence priority service

The Home Office has updated its guidance on the pre-licence priority service, which allows employers to prioritise their application for a sponsor licence, by submitting an application by email.

The guidance confirms that the following application routes are not currently eligible for priority service: Global Business Mobility (GBM)-UK Expansion Worker, GBM-Service Supplier, GBM-Secondment Worker, Scale-up, Government Authorised Exchange, International Agreement and Seasonal Worker. The process, fees and service level agreements remain otherwise unchanged.

Pre-licence priority service guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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From visa applications through to settlement and obtaining citizenship, our experienced immigration lawyers can advise on the most appropriate visa route from the earliest stage, and guide and support you throughout the entire journey.

Our team includes specialists in both family and individual immigration, as well as business immigration. If you would like to discuss any of the above changes and how these may affect your business, please contact Tijen Ahmet or Calum Hanrahan.

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Tijen works with global/UK businesses advising on strategic international recruitment and supports with immigration compliance facilitating work assignments and relocation to the UK.

Calum is an immigration law expert and offers advice to individuals and businesses across a variety of sectors including agriculture, manufacturing and sport.

Written By

Published: 26th April 2023
Area: Business Immigration

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