Statement of changes: another part of a long-term government plan?

Last week I wrote about the expansion and simplification of the Shortage Occupation List (“SOL”). With just over two weeks until the changes come into force, it appears that the latest additions to the SOL may be part of a long term government plan to relieve the burden that the Immigration Rules can place on the National Health Service (“NHS”) or other healthcare providers.

Key themes

Last year, the government announced that doctors and nurses would be taken out of the Tier 2 visa cap “as part of a long term government plan for the NHS” after press criticism because of a high number of rejected visa applications by doctors looking to work in the UK. The government made no announcement that the current changes are part of the same plan, however the changes themselves indicate that the government is continuing along the same track.

Firstly, a number of the occupations that have been newly added to the list will likely be employed in large numbers by the NHS or indeed any other employer in the healthcare sector. These include psychologists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists. Secondly, certain occupations in the medical field that were on the SOL in limited form now have all job titles within their occupation code on the SOL. Anyone employed as a medical practitioner, medical radiographer or paramedic can now enjoy the benefits of the SOL.

Apart from not having to go through the Resident Labour Market Test, the financial advantages of the changes to the NHS and any other employer of those on the SOL are two-fold. In the short term, the application fee for a Tier 2 visa is lower if the role is on the SOL. Secondly, jobs that are on the SOL are exempt from the minimum threshold for settlement in the Tier 2 category, which is currently £35,800 and raising to £40,100 by 2024. This should hopefully prevent the employer from having to make the difficult decision of either offering a pay rise at the end of the employee’s period of sponsorship or risking the employee having to leave the UK.

It cannot be said with certainty whether the government had the healthcare sector in mind when it came to the current changes. However, with Brexit and its potential implications for the sector looming on the horizon, it will be interesting to see if future changes to the Immigration Rules follow a similar pattern.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please contact Chetal Patel, a Partner in the Immigration Department.

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of September 19, 2019.