Immigration reform is high on the agenda for the UK Government, and they have made a number of announcements in recent weeks that will impact the ability of the architecture sector to recruit in the future. This includes:
- The inclusion of Architects on the Shortage Occupation List
- The re-introduction of the post-study work visa, starting with the 2020/21 student intake
This follows on from the establishment of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) and (Exceptional Promise) visas for architects in January 2019.
A quarter of registered architects in the UK are international, the majority of whom are from the EU. Architects have identified immigration and access to international talent as a top priority for the sector, allowing the UK to access a diversity of talent and skills. In January 2019, the RIBA published Powered by People: Building a Post-Brexit Immigration System that works for Architecture, making a number of recommendations to ensure the UK can attract and retain international talent.
Architects added to the Shortage Occupation List
In September 2019, the UK Government announced changes to the Immigration Rules which included the addition of Architects to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). Jobs on the Shortage Occupation List have the following advantages:
- the Resident Labour Market Test is not applicable
- roles are prioritised if the limit on Tier 2 visas is reached
- no requirement to meet a salary threshold of £35,800 required to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain
- lower fees for applicants and their families
This came after the RIBA submitted evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee – the public body charged with giving independent advice to the UK Government on immigration – as part of its review on the SOL.
Commenting on the announcement, RIBA Chief Executive Alan Vallance said: “The UK’s immigration system can be expensive and opaque, and the official inclusion of architects on the Shortage Occupation List means the sector will now benefit from reduced administration and cost.
However, we know that the burden remains high, especially for smaller practices, and the RIBA will continue to lobby for government to reduce the barriers practices looking to recruit international talent.”
Re-introduction of the post-study work visa
The 2020 to 2021 intake of international students will be able to stay in the UK for up to two years after graduation, if they have completed an undergraduate or postgraduate degree from a trusted UK university or higher education provider. At the present time, graduates only have four months after completion of their course, as the visa was previously abolished in 2012.
The RIBA has long called for the re-establishment of the visa to ensure that international students studying architecture could undertake Part 1 and Part 2 training in the UK. A third of students entering schools of architecture come from outside of the UK.
Welcoming the move, RIBA President Alan Jones said: “This a very welcome announcement for architects. The RIBA has long-recommended the return of the Post Study Work Visa, to ensure that we can attract and retain new talent to our world class schools of architecture. The revocation of this visa has significantly impacted international students studying in the UK, over the past seven years.”
EU, EEA and Swiss Architects currently working in the UK can also apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. If you haven’t done so already, the RIBA encourage members and practices that are interested to learn more about this.