UK construction and fishing sectors benefit from Shortage Occupation List updates: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Business Immigration, 17 July 2023

The UK Government is introducing changes to the Immigration Rules, effective from 7 August 2023, which will make it easier for UK businesses within the construction and fishing sectors to recruit skilled workers from overseas.

As COVID-19 restrictions were eased, the UK economy was able to recover and construction projects around the country resumed. This exposed a major shortage of skilled and unskilled labourers within the construction sector. As a previous member of the European Union (EU), the sector could previously rely on the free movement of workers from other European countries. However, this ended with Brexit significantly impacting the industry. Before Brexit, about 40% of all construction workers in the UK came from other EU countries and since, such workers have found it difficult to get visas to work in the UK.

Meanwhile, the fishing industry also continues to suffer labour shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and stricter immigration rules post-Brexit.

Addition of new construction and fishing roles to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL)

To help ease labour supply pressures, the government previously commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to undertake a rapid Shortage Occupation List (SOL) assessment. The government previously accepted the MAC’s interim recommendations to initially add five construction occupations to the SOL, and has now also accepted recommendations to add two fishing occupations to the SOL.

What is the Shortage Occupation List (SOL)?

The UK Shortage Occupation List (SOL) lists jobs that the UK Government deems are in short supply within the UK labour market. For jobs on the SOL, the UK’s Immigration Rules for a Skilled Worker visa are more flexible, especially in relation to salary requirements, to make it easier for overseas workers with expertise in shortage occupations to come and work in the UK and tackle labour shortages.

Inclusion on the SOL means jobs qualify at a 20% lower salary threshold (£20,960 instead of £26,200) for a Skilled Worker visa. Applicants also pay lower visa application fees (£551 for a 3-year visa instead of £719 for an application made outside of the UK, or £551 for a 3-year visa instead of £827 for an application made inside of the UK).

Five new construction roles to be added

From 7 August 2023, the government will add the following five construction roles to the SOL for all of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:

  • 5312 Bricklayers and masons – all jobs
  • 5313 Roofers, roof tilers and slaters – all jobs
  • 5315 Carpenters and joiners – all jobs
  • 5319 Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified – all jobs
  • 5321 Plasterers – all jobs

Following a further recommendation by the MAC, dryliners are being reclassified to the same occupation code as plasterers, making dryliners also eligible to be sponsored for the Skilled Worker route.

Two new fishing roles to be added

To support the fishing industry, jobs in the following occupations are also being added to the SOL for all of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on 7 August 2023:

  • 5119 Agriculture and fishing trades not elsewhere classified – only jobs in the fishing industry
  • 9119 Fishing and other elementary agriculture occupations not elsewhere classified – only deckhands on large fishing vessels (9 metres and above) where the job requires the worker to have at least 3 years’ full-time experience in using their skills

Implications for the construction and fishing industries

The construction sector is a major contributor to the UK economy generating over £110 billion per year and as such, the addition of the above roles to the SOL will ensure that construction projects can run smoothly. The UK also has a thriving fishing sector with exports of salmon – one of the UK’s most important and biggest food exports – worth around £600 million annually and the fishing sector additions will ensure that the fishing sector can continue to access the talent it needs at a reduced rate.

The government will also review the SOL more regularly, based on recommendations from the MAC, especially post-Brexit, so that the legal migration system is quicker and more responsive to the needs of businesses and the economy.

How can we help?

UK businesses which wish to take advantage of the relaxed rules for hiring foreign national construction and fishing sector workers must ensure that they hold a valid Sponsor Licence in the Skilled Worker visa category. We can assist businesses in the construction and fishing sectors with the Sponsor Licence application and with obtaining Skilled Worker visas for foreign nationals in these sectors.

We can also provide comprehensive advice and support to individuals globally seeking to apply for a Skilled Worker visa for the UK construction and fishing sectors.

For more detailed UK immigration advice and for any other questions on this and other UK immigration developments, please contact us at