Migration experts back CaSE on sunset clause

Nicola Davis is a freelance science journalist and current CaSE intern

Last month CaSE warned the Government that its proposals to introduce a ‘sunset clause’ for the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) could damage the science and engineering sector – and last week the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the Home Office’s independent advisory group on immigration, agreed with our concerns. If the Government follows the new recommendation, it will be a victory for common sense.

The SOL exists to safeguard the provision of a skilled workforce in selected jobs while strategies are implemented to reduce the shortage of UK workers. If the job you wish to advertise for is on the SOL, it’s easier for the employee to get a visa.

Friday saw the release of a new report from the MAC regarding a range of the Government’s proposed changes to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).  While the report recommends a reduction in the overall number of jobs covered by the SOL, including the removal of 19 jobs related to the health sector due to successful up-skilling of the workforce, its proposal to increase in the number of engineering jobs on the list will receive a warm reception by the STEM sector. In addition the SOL sees the proposed inclusion of Informaticians and Bio- Informaticians, as recommended by RCUK and the MRC.

Significantly, the MAC has advised against the introduction of a “sunset clause” whereby jobs are automatically removed from the SOL after two years.

“We believe that immigration via the shortage occupation list should not be used as a substitute for investing in British human capital. But equally we conclude that an automatic sunset clause, particularly after a duration as short as two years on the shortage occupation list, would be a disproportionate response,” the report stated.

The sunset clause had previously raised concerns within the science and engineering community, with two years considered too short a duration in which up-skill the country’s workforce in the many strategically important STEM positions presently included on the SOL which currently range from maths teachers to civil engineers. In January CaSE wrote to the Immigration Minister, Mark Harper, voicing these concerns and explaining how skilled immigrants are vital to maintaining a thriving scientific community and workforce in the UK.

The new report echoes the views put forward by CaSE, acknowledging that removal of jobs from the SOL after two years could cause damage to the British economy. However while it advocates maintaining current review processes, alternative suggestions include a 4-year sunset clause with the option for a case to be made to retain particular jobs on the list for a longer duration.

While it may be expected that strategies to draw greater numbers into the science and engineering sectors will mirror the success seen in up-skilling the health sector over time, the MAC’s decision to advise against the sunset clause is to be welcomed by the UK’s science and engineering community.

To see an archive of CaSE’s campaigning on immigration, click here

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