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Budget Day business immigration news: construction, hospitality, business visits to the UK

Budget Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

15 March 2023

Not a mention in the Chancellor’s Budget Day speech but the Treasury’s Spring Budget 2023 factsheet on Labour Market Measures published today revealed some major business immigration news for UK employers.

On migration measures, the Treasury announced: “we are supporting business to tackle labour shortages and improving business mobility by:

  • Accepting the recommendations of the independent Migration Advisory Committee: we are adding five construction occupations to the Shortage Occupation List following their rapid review of the SOL for the construction and hospitality sectors. This will take effect later this summer ahead of the MAC’s wider review of the SOL reporting in the autumn.
  • Simplifying and expanding the UK’s business visit visa offer: we are expanding the range of short-term business activities that can be carried out for periods of up to 6 months and reviewing permitted paid engagements from Autumn 2023. We will also consider further enhanced provisions linked to trade negotiations.”

Shortage Occupation List news for Construction and Hospitality sponsors

The interim review of the construction and hospitality industries need for occupations to join the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) will take effect later this summer ahead of the MAC’s wider review of the Shortage Occupation List reporting in the autumn, in which further occupations may be added to the SOL, providing more relief to employers facing skills shortages they find hard to fill from the domestic jobs market.

The benefit to industries of having jobs on the SOL is being able to sponsor migrants in such jobs on a lower pay threshold and also a 20% reduction on the going rate. While some construction sector jobs were added today, there was no relief for hospitality employers.

The construction and hospitality industries are facing higher skills shortages than average, but the committee said that occupations it reviewed in the hospitality industry were of a lower skills threshold and would not join the Shortage Occupation List for now. There was hope that chefs may go back on the SOL, but the committee said the catering industry should improve pay and conditions to encourage and retain applicants from the domestic labour market.

The Committee did however call on stakeholders to submit more robust evidenced submissions to its Call for Evidence, ahead of a further review later this year.

For its report published to coincide with Jeremy Hunt’s Budget, the MAC looked at 26 occupations with going rates below the general threshold to be sponsored by an employer on a Skilled Worker visa. (The new threshold is £26,200.)

The building industry occupations recommended for the SOL are bricklayers and masons; roofers, roof tilers and slaters; carpenters and joiners; plasterers – including dryliners now; as well as construction and building trades undertaking a variety of tasks in the construction, alteration, maintenance and repair of buildings, steeples, industrial chimneys and other tall structures, and of underwater structures, such as acoustician, builder, building contractor, fencer, maintenance manager (buildings and other structures); property developer (building construction).

The MAC did not recommend adding steel erectors to the Shortage Occupation List “based on projected pay growth it is likely that this occupation’s pay will be high enough for most jobs to meet the general threshold and therefore there is little justification for a SOL salary discount, which would risk undercutting domestic workers’ pay.”

Other construction occupations the MAC did not approve include scaffolders, stagers and riggers; road construction operatives; mobile machine drivers and operatives; and elementary construction occupations.

Business visitors to the UK

Employees of multinational companies, performers and global business people will have more scope for commercial activities in the UK of up to six months hinted at in today’s announcements, with an Autumn expansion of permitted activities on a visit visa or by visitors from non-visa countries such as the USA and EU. Expect more bilateral agreements for cross-border business to come out of the UK’s post-Brexit trade deals too.

For more detailed immigration, sponsorship and right to work advice and for any other questions on these and other UK immigration developments, please contact us on +44(0)207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com. Vanessa Ganguin Immigration Law is highly ranked in all the top legal guides for business immigration.