An Immigration Solicitor’s Look at the 2022 Migration Advisory Committee Report banner


An Immigration Solicitor’s Look at the 2022 Migration Advisory Committee Report

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The Migration Advisory Committee has released its annual report on migration. Our immigration solicitors have looked at the 2022 MAC report with particular care and attention as Paul Gulbenkian of OTS Solicitors has often been approached for his wealth of business immigration and individual immigration law expertise and has contributed to the MAC reports over the years.

In this article, we take a look at the key points in the 2022 Migration Advisory Committee report and what it means for immigration in 2023.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors 

For advice on immigration law call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

What is the Migration Advisory Committee?

The Migration Advisory Committee is an independent non-government body tasked to provide migration-related advice to the government. The committee produces an annual report looking at migration figures, the work undertaken by the committee over the preceding year, and makes recommendations. The government does not have to follow the annual report recommendations as they are advisory in nature.

The 2022 Migration Advisory Committee Report Acknowledges Problems Faced by UK Employers

Unsurprisingly the 2022 MAC report acknowledges the:

  • UK skills shortage
  • The high level of UK job vacancies
  • The UK employer recruitment needs

The acknowledgment of these 3 issues in the MAC report isn’t surprising as there are daily media reports about chronic staff shortages. For example, some London restaurants have had to reduce their opening hours because they can't get enough staff to operate their business on 6 or 7 days per week. In addition, because of Brexit and the end of free movement, some UK businesses who traditionally relied on migrant workers from the EU to meet their recruitment needs, have had to apply for a sponsor licence so that they can employ staff on skilled worker visas because of the limited recruitment pool of skilled UK and settled workers.

These staff shortage issues were highlighted by Tony Danker, the director general of the CBI, at the November 2022 CBI conference. He, on behalf of CBI members, called for a practical and flexible approach to UK immigration policy. Mr Danker pressed for immigration policy to reflect the needs of UK employers with work visas to fill the recruitment gaps that UK employers can't fill from within the UK.

The CBI represents around 190,000 UK businesses of various sizes. Its membership was surveyed and nearly three-quarters of CBI businesses said they’d experienced staff shortages in the past 12 months and almost half said they wanted the government to authorise the general use of temporary work visas rather than to continue the current restrictions on the use of seasonal or temporary worker visas for a limited category of jobs.

The 2022 Migration Advisory Committee Recommendations on Business Immigration and Work Visas

Sadly, from the perspective of many CBI members and Sponsorship Licence lawyers, the Migration Advisory Committee report does not recommend the expansion of work type categories for seasonal or temporary work visas to more general jobs. The current specialist limited agricultural and other temporary work visas remain the recommendation of the Migration Advisory Committee as they fear changes to the temporary work visa regime would lead to the increased exploitation of migrants.

In addition, the Migration Advisory Committee report does not recommend the introduction of a lower-skilled work visa or a more flexible approach to the minimum salary threshold or the skills eligibility criteria required for the skilled worker visa. The conclusion of the report is that the introduction of a low-skilled visa would fly in the face of Brexit and the intentions behind the end of the free movement of EU nationals as well as potentially expose migrant workers to exploitation.

The view of the Migration Advisory Committee is that net migration will fall from its current figure of around 500,000 people. That is because the committee thinks that given the economic situation in the UK the likelihood is that businesses will not need to recruit as many employees over the next 12 months. From the perspective of Sponsorship Licence lawyers that approach isn’t allowing UK businesses to achieve increased growth through international talent.

Has Business Immigration and Work Visas Pushed up the UK Net UK Migration Figure?

The MAC concluded that the big rise in net migration in 2022 was not wholly down to the end of free movement and the requirement for all overseas workers to secure a work visa to come to the UK to work. Instead, the Migration Advisory Committee put the rise down to a combination of:

  • The war in Ukraine and the Ukraine refugee and sponsorship schemes
  • The situation in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) (BNO) route
  • International students returning to study in the UK on student visas
  • The number of dependant visa applications associated with student visa applications
  • The reliance of the NHS on the health and care worker visa to recruit overseas staff
  • The use of the skilled worker visa route by UK businesses to recruit from overseas following the end of free movement and the closure of the EU Settlement Scheme

A work visa for the lower skilled

The 2022 Migration Advisory Committee report has again ruled out a work visa for the lower skilled citing the fact that the pressing need to recruit from overseas will reduce in 2023 if the economy stumbles as anticipated by economists. MAC also indicates visas for the lower skilled could lead to labour exploitation. The MAC recommendations will be a disappointment for those businesses struggling to fill jobs now and who had pressed the government for help in meeting their 2023 recruitment needs.

The shortage occupation list

The shortage occupation list is always carefully considered by Sponsorship Licence lawyers and UK businesses because  if a job is on the government shortage occupation list it is easier for a job applicant from overseas to secure a skilled worker visa. However, although the Home Office asked the Migration Advisory Committee in August 2022 to review the shortage occupation list the review process remains on hold until there is government clarification on migration policy.

A rural visa

Whilst the Migration Advisory Committee did not recommend a lower-skilled visa or an expansion of the scope of the temporary or seasonal visa, MAC has suggested a rural visa pilot because the skilled worker visa is skewed towards visa applicants securing sponsored employment in London and other cities rather than in rural areas. A rural pilot scheme may help with the government-stated policy to level up and combat the depopulation of rural areas.

Asylum seekers and employment

Immigration solicitors and charities have long argued that asylum seekers should be allowed to find work whilst their asylum claims are pending. The Migration Advisory Committee report says preventing asylum seekers from legally working potentially places them at greater risk of exploitation as the only employment they can find is with employers who are willing to ignore the illegal working legislation and the requirement to conduct a right to work check before employing a job applicant.

To sum up

We will leave you to come to your own views on the Migration Advisory Committee 2022 report but business immigration solicitors anticipate a busy year in 2023 as UK employers will continue to need immigration law advice on the complexities and restrictions on the skilled worker visa and their options to overcome the lack of work visa for the lower skilled.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors 

For advice on immigration law call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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