Changes to the Immigration rules – The T2G annual limit, PhD level occupations and the Shortage Occupation List
Changes to the Tier 2 (General) annual limit and PhD level occupations
The Tier 2 (General) category is a category used by sponsors/employers in the UK who are looking to recruit for a position that cannot be filled by a settled worker. There is a limit to the number of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) for nationals seeking entry clearance to the UK under the Tier 2 (General) category, and for those who are applying to switch into the Tier 2 (General) category from within the UK as the dependant spouse of a Tier 4 (General) Student. The annual quota is 20,700 across all registered sponsors.
These are known as “restricted” Certificates of Sponsorships. There are some applications that are not subject to the limit and such exceptions include but are not limited to, roles attracting a salary package of £159,600 (figure subject to change). Recent changes to the Immigration Rules have expanded the applications that are not subject to the annual limit to include applicants who are sponsored for a job at PhD level as listed in table 1 in Appendix J of the Immigration Rules.
What does this mean for PhD roles?
This means that a sponsor is able to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship for the PhD role without first applying for permission under the RCoS system.
*Please note that an exemption to an application being an RCoS does not mean an exemption to the Resident Labour Market Test and each case must be assessed on a case by case basis.
The Shortage Occupation List (SOL)
The Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List (SOL) is a list of occupations recognised by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) as being in national shortage and which they believe should be filled, in part, through non-EEA migration. Shortage occupations are skilled roles where there are insufficient numbers of settled workers residing in the resident labour market available to fill jobs in a particular sector.
In most cases where an employer wishes to recruit a non-settled worker under the Tier 2 (General) category to fill a role in the UK, they are firstly required to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) in order to satisfy themselves that there are no settled workers available to fill the role. There are a number of exceptions to the RLMT and one of these exceptions is where a company is looking to recruit into a role that is listed on the SOL. Should the role fall within this list, an RLMT will not be required and the roles on this list are given a higher priority within the Tier 2 (General) annual limit. Individuals whose occupations are listed are also exempt from the relevant Tier 2 earnings threshold when they apply for ILR. They must however still be paid the relevant rate for their Standard Occupational Code (SOC) classification.
* An exception to the above is if the job being recruited for is in the occupation code ‘2231 Nurses’, where an employer must carry out a resident labour market test.
*An exemption to the RLMT does not mean an exemption to the requirement to apply for a Restricted Certificate of Sponsorhsip (RCOS) and it is important to assess this on a case by case basis.
Changes to the SOL
The SOL has been amended following a review by the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). The recent Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules included:
- more occupations were added to the SOL
- a number of SOC codes that were already on the list but were limited to specific job titles within the code were expanded to include all listed jobs in the code
- the restriction that prevented chefs for working for a sponsor/company that provided a takeaway service was lifted
- the qualifying company criteria that applied to occupations in digitech were amended/removed.
This SOL list can be found in Appendix K to the Immigration Rules and is reviewed regularly by the MAC. It is important to note that there is one list for the UK and an additional list for Scotland, and if a company wishes to fill a vacancy which is listed only on the SOL for Scotland, the vacancy must be in Scotland. An employer must also meet any additional criteria for employing individuals in shortage occupations as specified in Appendix K to the Immigration Rules.
How does this affect employers and workers?
For employers/sponsors, this means that they are able to move more quickly and efficiently in recruiting talent.
Individual migrants are able to take up employment more quickly with minimal disruption to their lives.