MAC recommends all engineering professions to be included in the Shortage Occupation List: a guide for overseas engineers

Industry News
04 July 2019 | Industry News | Guest Author

The British engineering industry is a diverse sector, with both UK nationals and overseas professionals essential to its success. Indeed, shortages reported within the industry have been filled by both EU and non-EU workers, making overseas individuals integral to the sector. After warnings from the CBI last summer that the industry could be left in chaos due to staffing issues, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended a Shortage Occupation List update this May to be more inclusive of all roles within engineering. This will allow for engineers outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) to apply more easily yet does not account for what will happen post-Brexit, once free movement is no longer in place. So, what are the options for budding EEA and non-EEA engineers looking to move to the UK?

What to do if you’re a non-EEA national

It is worth acknowledging that the MAC’s recommendations are positive news for the engineering sector, providing both UK employers and overseas professionals from outside the EEA with more opportunities to recruit and relocate. Non-EEA engineering professionals will benefit from lower visa fees, a reduced waiting time and a less restrictive minimum salary requirement. It certainly looks as if the review’s recommendations will address concerns around skill and staffing gaps.

As a non-EEA national, you must obtain a Skilled Work Visa before entering the UK and taking up a role in the engineering sector, formally the Tier 2 (General) Visa. To do so, you need to fulfil particular requirements, including competency in the English language and demonstrate ability to fund yourself before receiving your first pay slip. You will also require an official job offer from an engineering employer, who must possess a valid Sponsor Licence. It is worth bearing in mind that your Skilled Work Visa will last for approximately three years and it can be extended for up to five years. This extension is only granted if the applicant remains the same engineering employer for the duration of time of the visa.

What to do if you’re an EEA national now

Accounting for approximately 10% of the UK’s engineering work force, according to EngineeringUK, EEA citizens are clearly vital to the engineering sector. It is reported this figure is higher for particular sectors of engineering, European professionals working in the UK’s chemical and process, electrical and aerospace workforces especially. Reviewing the statistics, it is little wonder the sector is concerned that once free movement policies are no more, harsher and far more challenging immigration requirements will see large staff losses with no effective, quick solution to repair it.

An EEA national has the potential to work within any engineering role in the UK without the necessity of this visa, thanks to the current Free Movement Policy, as long as you have the relevant qualifications and experience. As the UK continues to look set to exit the European Union, the Free Movement Policy is highly likely to become obsolete. If you are an EEA national working as an engineer in the UK or are hoping to relocate and join the UK’s engineering industry, it is worth considering the EEA Residence Card. The card can assist by proving your residency in the UK, moving between different employers and applying for new roles within engineering. Thankfully, the application process for a card is easily done and can act as some security in this ever-changing and unsure political climate.

What to do if you’re an EEA national after Brexit

Currently, without any real policy or law in place and good to go in the event of any kind of Brexit deal, it is assumed a hard-deal or no-deal Brexit will be the eventual outcome for the UK. This means all EEA nationals seeking work in the UK post-Brexit must fulfil the visa requirements; key requirements being paying out for high visa fees and being sponsored by a Tier 2 registered employer. All EEA nationals will need to be in a financial position to pay fees and have this sort of job offer confirmed before they can relocate to the UK and join its engineering industry.

In conclusion, the MAC’s recommendations, if implemented, will have limited positive effect. They go some way in welcoming overseas workers by ensuring they do not have to face the laborious, expensive visa process thanks the roles they are applying for being on the Shortage Occupation List. However, Brexit threatens these recommendations, as no sooner than the UK welcomes new professionals it loses them thanks to the loss of free movement. The engineering sector is still left to grapple with far too many unanswered questions as the oncoming Brexit earthquake looks ready to shake the industry.

Alexandra Jarvis is a writer for the Immigration Advice Service, an organisation of UK immigration solicitors which provides legal support for those looking to migrate to the UK or hire overseas workers.

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