After it was determined that there was a shortage of construction workers, visa requirements for foreign bricklayers, roofers, carpenters, and plasterers were reportedly relaxed today.
For a limited time, the Home Office will loosen rules to encourage more foreign builders to work in the United Kingdom.
It comes after a number of positions in the construction industry were suggested for inclusion on the “shortage occupation list” by the group that counsels governments on immigration matters.
But the move risks angering Tory MPs as it comes just weeks after net migration to Britain was revealed to have reached record levels.
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics showed net migration – the number of arrivals to the UK minus the number of departures – rose to 606,000 in the year to December 2022.
Conservative MPs said today’s announcement of visa rules being relaxed for foreign builders ‘underlined the need’ for Britain to better train its own workforce to fill vacancies.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman used a speech in May to claim there was ‘no good reason’ why the UK cannot train its own lorry drivers, butchers or fruit pickers – three sectors that have also had visa restrictions eased – in order to bring immigration down.
She insisted Britain must not ‘forget how to do things for ourselves’.
The Home Office this afternoon announced that bricklayers, masons, roofers, roof tilers, slaters, carpenters, joiners and plasterers were among the roles being added to the shortage occupation list ‘to stimulate development, attract new talent and grow the economy’.
It follows recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee, which found earlier this year that vacancies in the construction sector had ‘risen substantially’ relative to pre-pandemic levels.
For those roles for which there are deemed to be a shortage of workers, new recruits can be paid 80 per cent of the job’s usual ‘going rate’ and still qualify for a visa.
They will also benefit from a lower visa application fee.
But they will still need a sponsored job offer from an employer and to meet English language requirements under the Government’s post-Brexit immigration system.
A wider review of the shortage occupation list by the Migration Advisory Committee is expected this autumn.
Senior Tory backbencher David Jones, a former Brexit minister, told MailOnine that today’s Home Office announcement ‘simply underlines the need for more homegrown highly skilled workers’.
‘The Prime Minister is therefore right to point out that, for up to 20 per cent of graduates, they’d be much better off with a good quality apprenticeship,’ he added, in reference to Rishi Sunak’s efforts to crack down on ‘rip-off’ degrees and to boost apprenticeships.
Marco Longhi, Tory MP for Dudley North, posted on Twitter in response to the Home Office announcement: ‘This is nuts.’
Suzannah Nichol, chief executive of industry body Build UK, said: ‘It is vital that construction is able to fill vacancies and quickly address shortages around particular 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.’