Immigration Rule Updates: Skilled Workers
As of 7th August 2023, the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) has been expanded, granting eligible workers enhanced immigration permissions. Additionally, GPs undergoing speciality training now receive immigration permission for a specific period. This allows them to secure additional permits. The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) has also seen significant changes allowing for the automatic extension of pre-settled status without a valid application. Additionally, the EUSS has made reasonable grounds for late applications an application validity requirement. Throughout the article, we explore the implications of these immigration rule updates on employers and individuals, providing insight into potential challenges and the support available through our Immigration Team.
Immigration Rule Updates to Shortage Occupation List
As of August 7, 2023, an update has been implemented regarding the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). This expansion applies to all immigration applications submitted on or after the mentioned date. The following construction industry occupations are added to the list:
- 5312 Bricklayers and masons
- 5313 Roofers, roof tilers and slaters
- 5315 Carpenters and joiners
- 5319 Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified.
- 5321 Plasterers (including classifying dryliners as plasterers, enabling them to be eligible for sponsorship)
Additionally, two fishing industry occupations have been added:
- 5119 Agriculture and fishing trades not elsewhere classified – fishing industry jobs only.
- 9119 Fishing and other elementary agriculture occupations not elsewhere classified – deckhands only, working on fishing vessels nine metres long or more, and where the job requires at least three years’ full-time experience as a deckhand, and the experience must have been gained while working lawfully.
Currently the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is undertaking a full review of the SOL. It is anticipated that they will be publishing the report in Autumn 2023. The Home Office will then consider their recommendations. Updates to the SOL are likely to be made in Autumn 2023 or Spring 2024.
Changes to Immigration Permission for GPs for Speciality Training
Specialty training General Practitioners (GPs) will now be granted immigration permission. The permission lasts for four months after the end date of their Certificate of Sponsorship. As a result, GPs with a licenced sponsor should have ample time to secure additional immigration permission.
Updates to EU Settlement Scheme
As of August 9, 2023, several modifications have been made to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). Among these changes, two key updates are particularly relevant to employers and are outlined below.
Immigration Rule Updates for Automatic Extension of Pre-settled Status
New updates allow for the automatic extension of pre-settled status without needing a valid application. This change comes as the first step in implementing the results of a successful legal challenge by the Independent Monitoring Authority.
According to the new Immigration Rule, individuals with pre-settled status can have their status extended. This comes regardless of whether they have applied for settled status with the Home Office. A press release from the Home Office has provided further details. They state that those with pre-settled status who haven’t applied for settled status will receive an automatic two-year extension. They will be notified directly, and their digital status will be updated. The update will enable them to prove their status to employers using an online right-to-work check.
However, the press release does not confirm whether visa nationals holding pre-settled status as family members of EEA/Swiss nationals will automatically receive a new physical Biometric Residence Card. This card would confirm their extended permission. Therefore, they may need to apply for one to prove their immigration permission to an airline or other carrier when traveling to the UK.
The Rules do not yet include provisions for the settlement conversion process. However, the press release indicates that the Home Office intends to establish a process to automatically convert pre-settled status holders to settled status if they are eligible. Safeguards will be in place to prevent grants to ineligible individuals.
The proposed settlement conversion process is expected to use automated checks. This is including examinations of HMRC and DWP records. In addition, they will check Passenger Name Record data to identify instances of international travel. This raises concerns about the consequences for individuals who may be deemed to have broken the continuity of their residence in the UK. Consequently, these people will become ineligible for settled status.
Implications for Employers
The Home Office’s stance on this matter remains unclear. However, it’s worth noting they may have implications for employers. If an affected individual is required to get their status through another route or leave the UK, employers may be approached for sponsorship or other assistance. Additionally, they may need to consider hiring a replacement worker.
Immigration Rule Updates Regarding Criteria for Considering Late Applications During the Validation Stage
The requirement for reasonable grounds for making a late application under the EUSS will change from being an eligibility requirement to becoming an application validity requirement. This means that some applications will not proceed to full assessment if the grounds for making a late application are not accepted. A potential impact of this for employers is that where an existing employee has an EUSS application assessed as invalid. As a result, they may need to apply for alternative immigration permission or leave the UK. Depending on the circumstances, they may not have permission to work while an alternative application is considered.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding these updates, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of our Immigration Team. They will be happy to assist you.
All advice is correct at time of publication.