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UNITED KINGDOM – Spring Budget Migration Announcements
March 24, 2023
HM Treasury announced its spring budget 2023 on 15 March 2023 including the upcoming changes to the business visitor visa requirements and the addition of construction workers to the Shortage Occupation List. Additional language supporting Ukraine Visa Scheme holders was also announced. The announcement aims to tackle the current labour shortage issues in the UK.
Easing labour supply shortage, particularly in the construction sector:
To help ease immediate labour supply pressures, the government commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to undertake a rapid Shortage Occupation List (SOL) assessment 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.
Five construction occupations are to be added to the shortage occupation list:
- Bricklayers and masons;
- Roofers, roof tilers and slaters;
- Carpenters and joiners;
- Plasters and dryliners; and
- construction and building trades not elsewhere classified’.
The government will also 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.
Under the Skilled Worker rules, migrants need to satisfy the English language requirement, meet the minimum salary thresholds and satisfy the English language requirement. Employers need to pay the fees associated with visa applications.
The five construction occupations be added to the shortage occupation will allow sponsoring companies to pay workers in the roles 20% less than the mandatory minimum salary for sponsorship; £20,960 rather than £26,200.
However, employers will still be subject to other government fees per year and there is no exemption from the English language requirement which can be issues for companies to locate suitable candidates.
Simplification of business visitor rules:
The changes are expected to take place in autumn 2023 to make it easier and more attractive to do business in the UK, the government will simplify business visitor rules. The changes will include expanding the range of short-term business activities that can be carried out for periods of up to six months, as well as a review of permitted paid engagements. In addition, the government will consider further in the coming months to enhanced provisions linked to negotiations with trade partners, including a wider range of activities.
The changes will apply to both visa and non-visa national business visitors.
However, the scope of these changes is not yet clear and businesses will still need to thoroughly review the range of the business activities as they often are subject broad range of interpretations. It still remains unclear how much benefits this can bring to facilitate labour for UK companies.
Ukraine Visa Scheme English support:
Since March 2022, over 165,000 Ukrainians have been welcomed to the UK through the Ukraine Visa Schemes. While a large number of adults who have arrived through the schemes are now employed in the UK, 56% of arrivals recently surveyed, who have faced difficulty finding work, reported limited English language skills as an ongoing barrier to taking up work or moving into roles more suited to their skills and qualifications.
In an extension of the government’s support for Ukrainians fleeing the war who have arrived in the UK under the Ukraine Visa Schemes, the government is providing £11.5 million to offer intensive English language courses and employment support to up to 10,000 individuals.
This new funding is expected to boost the number of Ukrainians entering the labour market for the first time, as well as helping those already employed into higher-skilled roles.
However, the Ukraine scheme visas only last a maximum of three years and does not led to settlement in the UK. Unlike visas which would lead to settlement in the UK, employers are unlikely to invest in staff unless they wish to sponsor their work visa in the future which could add to the difficulty for Ukrainian Nationals to enter higher-skilled roles. The government should take into consideration how to support Ukraine nationals in the long term and future on their visas.
If you have any compliance queries on the above or which are more nuanced please contact us directly on [email protected]. For general advice and information on immigration and business travel to the UK, please contact us.