The UK’s Shortage Occupation List is set to undergo significant updates in the upcoming months. We take a look at what led to this overhaul and its implication for sponsors, as well as their migrant employees.

What is the UK’s Shortage Occupation List?

Following the it’s departure from the EU, The UK’s immigration policy underwent significant revisions with the introduction of a revised points-based immigration system.  Under this new policy, the previous Tier 2 (General) work visa was replaced by the Skilled Worker visa.

Foreign workers must accumulate a total of 70 points to be eligible for the Skilled Worker visa. A majority of 50 points are awarded for:

  • Securing a job offer from an approved sponsor - 20 points
  • Meeting the necessary skill level - 20 points
  • Demonstrating proficiency in English - 10 points

The remaining 20 points can be earned through various flexible criteria, one of these being a job offer for an occupation listed on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).

Read more: A complete guide to the UK’s Skilled Worker visa

The SOL identifies specific job roles that are considered in short supply within the UK's domestic labour market. Positions listed under the SOL benefit from more advantageous conditions, such earning 20 points toward a Skilled Worker visa, reduced minimum salary requirements and reduced visa application fees.

Concerns surrounding the Shortage Occupation List

In 2023, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) took a close look at the UK's Shortage Occupation List and found some issues that have significant implications for the UK’s immigration policy and labour market dynamics.

1. The economic effect of low-wage workers

The committee found that people who migrate with their families to the UK for work, especially those earning less, might not always help the economy grow. This is because the money they earn and spend, in addition to the public services they use (like schools, hospitals, and benefits), might not balance out. If the number of such workers is significant, it can put a massive strain on public finances.

2. Expensive for employers

The SOL is designed to help companies recruit workers from outside the UK for occupations where there are not enough resident workers to fill vacancies. However, the committee found that it was expensive and complicated for businesses to employ someone on this list because of the high visa fees, the Immigration Skills Charge and the Immigration Health Surcharge fee. This can be especially hard for small businesses or those that don't make a lot of money, making it less useful than it's supposed to be.

Read more: UK visa fee increases and the effects it has on employers

3. Financial struggles for migrant workers

The report also spoke about how difficult it could be for migrant workers to make ends meet. They would have to pay their own way in terms of immigration costs, which can be expensive when they are not earning much. This can be a hurdle for many and makes the UK a less appealing choice, especially for positions that are critically in need of workers.

Suggested solutions for the Shortage Occupation List

The MAC's report aims to enhance the UK's immigration system by ensuring it meets the country's economic needs, while also ensuring that the process remains affordable and straightforward for sponsoring businesses.

There were concerns about the SOL’s effectiveness and its implications for immigration and employment practices. They stated that if the government didn't want companies to pay workers less than the “going rate”, then the SOL either needed to go or needed a major makeover.

To fix these issues, the MAC came up with 13 ideas that cover six different areas. These ideas included adding certain jobs to the SOL or keeping them there for both the UK and Scotland but changing how some jobs are classified, and giving advice on how the SOL should work as part of the bigger immigration picture.

A timeline of changes to the Shortage Occupation List

  • In October 2023, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published a detailed report on the SOL, which included the recommendation to add occupations to the list and to remove the “going rate” discount for all jobs. It also recommended changing the name of the Shortage Occupation List to the Immigration Salary Discount List to more accurately reflect its purpose.
  • In December 2023, the UK government announced a five-point immigration plan which confirmed that the SOL would be replaced with a new Immigration Salary List. The new list would retain the general threshold discount but would not feature the 20% “going rate” salary discount for shortage occupations. The change is expected to come into effect on 14 March 2024.
  • In January 2024, the Home Office commissioned the MAC to carry out a “rapid review” of the Immigration Salary List, with a view to amending the roles on the list and revising the relevant salary thresholds. The MAC is expected to publish this report by 23 February 2024, with all of these changes coming into effect on 14 March 2024 as part of the Spring immigration rule changes.

The UK immigration landscape is in flux right now, with numerous updates coming in 2024. For sponsor licence holders, our Business Immigration team is here to guide you through these changes. We are committed to helping businesses maintain compliance with Home Office regulations and ensuring a seamless hiring process. If your company recruits from the Immigration Salary List, navigating these changes can be daunting. By engaging our services, we can provide you with the assurance and security needed for your hiring practices.

We help individuals and businesses navigate all aspects of UK immigration and can assist with ongoing employee immigration management. Contact us at +44 (0) 20 7759 5307 or email

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