UK eases visa regulations for overseas construction workers

The UK government has included bricklayers, plasterers, and other construction roles in the „shortage occupation list,” simplifying the process for foreign construction workers to enter the country. This move comes as Britain experiences labour shortages, partly attributed to the effects of Brexit.

In response to critical labour shortages in several sectors, the UK government has decided to ease visa restrictions. They have specifically included bricklayers, masons, roofers, roof tilers, slaters, carpenters, joiners, plasterers, and various other construction workers on the list. Additionally, fishing jobs have been incorporated into the list as well.

The Home Office explained that this measure aims to support the development of essential national infrastructure and promote growth in related industries. Individuals engaged in professions facing labour shortages can now receive a skilled worker visa by being paid 80% of the job’s standard rate. Moreover, they can take advantage of a reduced application fee, provided they have a sponsored job offer from an employer and meet the required English language proficiency.

In March, the independent migration advisory committee proposed the addition of construction workers to the shortage occupation list, which already encompassed various professions such as care workers, engineers, web designers, and laboratory technicians, as well as roles in healthcare.

This inclusion permits employers to hire staff from overseas, offering salaries as low as £14,880 for senior care workers and starting from £15,120 for laboratory technicians.

As a result of this decision, Rishi Sunak is confronted with increasing criticism from Conservative Members of Parliament, as he had previously pledged to decrease immigration. Conservative governments have consistently committed to reducing net migration since 2010.

Last year, overall migration to the UK reached a record high of 606,000, representing a 24% increase from the previous year. Simultaneously, the backlog of asylum cases has also reached an unprecedented level.

The construction industry in Britain has been grappling with labour shortages for an extended period, but the situation escalated following Brexit. With the end of free movement, EU citizens can no longer work in the UK without visas as they could previously. Furthermore, during the Covid-19 pandemic, a considerable number of EU workers returned to their home countries, exacerbating the existing gaps in the workforce.

According to Suzannah Nichol, Build UK’s chief executive, it is crucial for the construction industry to swiftly fill job vacancies and promptly address shortages in specific roles.

“So we welcome the news that five occupations will be added to the shortage occupations list, which will help the industry continue to deliver the schools, homes, hospitals and infrastructure that we need.”

Nevertheless, Sir John Hayes, a former minister and a supporter of the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, expressed that the government should focus on „training the British workforce” instead of relying on foreign labour.

 

Author: Patrycja Bodzek-Kurzyńska

Photo: Michael Gaida / Pixabay

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