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Post-Brexit Job Opportunities for Non-UK Residents

There are few who would argue that Brexit was not a landmark event for the UK. After decades as fully paid up members of the European Union (EU), the majority of voters in the 2016 EU referendum decided they would rather leave than remain. We will not know for many years whether this gamble will pay-off, or not, but it may provide new and exciting opportunities for those keen to exploit them. As the old adage goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.

For non-UK nationals wishing to come to the UK to work, the landscape has shifted due to Brexit. Most notably, EU nationals who do not have settled status in the UK will need to apply for a work visa. Non-EU nationals will still need a visa as they always have, but the lowering of the salary and skills thresholds may open up options that were not previously available. In addition, the ending of EU free movement means that many EU nationals have returned to their home country, leaving large gaps in labour supply that need to be filled. In this article, we will discuss some of the top job opportunities for non-UK nationals in the UK.

Healthcare Roles

At present, due to COVID-19, there is no data on the number of job vacancies in the NHS, but in the last statistics report from NHS Digital, there were 23,357 advertised vacancy full-time equivalents in England in March 2020. As such, there is a long-standing and ongoing shortage of healthcare workers in a range of roles, including nurses, midwives, GPs, doctors, and mental health professionals. This has been exacerbated by Brexit. NHS Employers (part of the NHS Confederation) says, “The United Kingdom's vote in the European Union (EU) referendum to leave the EU, and subsequent departure in January 2021, has created significant uncertainty among our NHS workforce”.

Even before the UK’s final departure from the EU, many EU workers in the healthcare sector were leaving in droves. By the end of 2019, it was estimated that around 10,000 EU nationals had left the UK, including 5,000 nurses. The shortage of healthcare workers has also been exacerbated by COVID-19. The very fact that nationals of so many countries are now blocked from entering the UK due to the pandemic, most recently from the UAE, means that the NHS’s supply of non-UK staff is smaller than ever. For all of these reasons, there are now considerable opportunities for those in the following professions (these are the eligible roles for the UK Health and Care visa):

  • biological scientists and biochemists
  • physical scientists
  • medical practitioners
  • psychologists
  • pharmacists
  • ophthalmic opticians
  • dental practitioners
  • medical radiographers
  • podiatrists
  • health professionals that are ‘not elsewhere classified’, such as audiologists and occupational health advisers
  • physiotherapists
  • occupational therapists
  • speech and language therapists
  • therapy professionals that are ‘not elsewhere classified’, such as osteopaths and psychotherapists
  • nurses
  • midwives, and;
  • social workers
  • paramedics

In addition to being in a healthcare role, you also require a salary of at least £20,480 (or the going rate for the role).

STEM Roles

The Home Office’s shortage occupation list (SOL) provides a strong indication as to which skills are in great demand. Roles in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) feature heavily on the latest version of the SOL, including:

  • biological scientists and biochemists
  • engineering geologist
  • hydrogeologist
  • geophysicist
  • civil engineers
  • Mechanical engineers
  • electrical and electronics engineers
  • design and development engineers
  • IT business analysts, architects and systems designers

In part, the Home Office wants to attract specialists in these areas to ensure that large investment projects in the UK can be delivered, and to do so requires strong STEM expertise. It is also because, in the run-up to the UK’s departure from the EU, there was already a large shortage of STEM skilled workers, with nearly 90% of STEM employers struggling to find employees.

Lowering Of The Skill Level Provides More Opportunities For Non-UK Nationals

One of the main changes made to the UK work visa system was to reduce the skills threshold from RQF-6 to RQF-3; i.e. from degree level skills to A-Level skills. This provides a wide variety of opportunities for non-UK nationals who would previously have been unable to work in the UK because they do not have vocational skills which are equivalent to degree level. For 2021, many RQF-3 occupations were added to the list of eligible roles for the Skilled Worker visa, including:

  • Vehicle paint technicians
  • Boat and shipbuilders and repairers
  • Rail and rolling stock builders and repairers
  • Electricians and electrical fitters
  • Telecommunications engineers
  • Roofers, roof tilers and slaters
  • Glaziers, window fabricators and fitters
  • Carpet fitter
  • Ceramic tiler
  • Flooring contractor
  • Mosaic floor layer
  • Painters and decorators
  • Construction and building trades supervisors
  • Weavers and knitters
  • Upholsterers
  • Footwear and leather working trades
  • Tailors and dressmakers
  • Textiles, garments and related trades
  • Pre-press technicians Compositor
  • Printers
  • Print finishing and binding workers
  • Butchers
  • Bakers and flour confectioners
  • Fishmongers and poultry dressers
  • Catering and bar managers
  • Glass and ceramics makers, decorators and finishers
  • Furniture makers and other craft woodworkers
  • Florists
  • Senior care workers

The challenge for many non-UK nationals with any of the above skills will be meeting the minimum salary requirement of £25,600. Where there are considerable shortages of workers in the coming years, it is reasonable to expect wages will rise due to competition for suitable candidates, and a growing willingness by employers to pay more to recruit from outside of the UK.

Final Words

It is a shame that the Home Office did not add senior care workers to the list of roles on the Shortage Occupation List. There is clearly a shortage in this area, and only by adding carers to the SOL, can workers meet the lower salary threshold of £20,480. Putting this aside, there is now a much broader range of roles available to migrant workers not previously available to those outside the EU. If you need any assistance with securing a work visa, speak to an immigration Solicitor who will be able to advise you on your next steps.

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