UK relaxes visa rules in bid to attract foreign workers to construction industry

18 July 2023, 00:27

Carpenters, bricklayers and roofers are among migrant workers who will be allowed to apply for work visas
Carpenters, bricklayers and roofers are among migrant workers who will be allowed to apply for work visas. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The UK has relaxed its visa rules in a bid to attract foreign workers to the construction industry.

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The government is "temporarily easing visa restrictions" for a string of construction roles by adding them to the shortage occupation list, the Home Office said.

It means foreign workers trained in certain professions - such as carpenters, bricklayers and roofers - will qualify for a work visa and be allowed to pay a reduced application fee.

Applicants still need a sponsored job offer from an employer and have to meet English language requirements under the points-based immigration system.

The move is intended to help boost the economy, "stimulate development" and "attract new talent".

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It comes after the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which advises the Government on immigration, recommended the plan.

The independent body previously warned that replacing freedom of movement with a points-based immigration system after Brexit could cut economic growth and may have "zero effect" on providing more British jobs for British workers.

Industry leaders warned builders could be one of the worst hit by the changes to the UK's immigration rules which meant visas would not routinely be offered to migrant workers in jobs which were considered by ministers and officials to be low-skilled.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I think we've always acknowledged that in the short term we will need to flex and use our our Brexit freedoms to enable us to fill short-term occupation numbers.

"Obviously, the shortage occupation list is counted differently to the overall net migration figures.

"Long-term it's right, as the Home Secretary said. We do want to ensure we have a specially trained domestic workforce."

He said that the Department for Work and Pensions "are doing a lot of work to that end to ensure that those who are inactive or off on long-term sick are being helped back into the workforce to fill some of these gaps".