UK Screen Alliance successful lobbied MAC to expand the Shortage Occupation List for roles in VFX and animation. We also want roles on the list to be exempt from the Immigration Skills Charge.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was commissioned by the Home Office to conduct a review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). UK Screen Alliance responded to the consultation in January 2019 asking to retain the 17 roles that relevant to VFX and animation and to add 11 more shortage roles. MAC published the results of this review on 29th May 2019 when they recommended retaining all the VFX and animation roles and adding all of our new requested roles by opening up entire SOC codes for Artists, Graphic Designers, Producers, Directors and Arts Officers. On July 23rd, the Home Secretary in a written statement, accepted the MAC recommendations and the necessary amendments were made in the October 2019 Immigration Rules changes.
There are advantages in having roles on the SOL in the current pre-Brexit visa system when recruiting non-EEA skilled workers using Tier 2 (General) visas. There’s a quota of just 20,700 restricted Tier 2 visas issued each year for skilled migration in the current system and roles in the SOL take priority in the monthly allocation. The SOL also give employers exemption from a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) requirement to advertise thees roles locally for 30 days before recruiting from abroad.
There were 17 roles on the existing SOL that are relevant to VFX, post-production and animation and this allows the recruitment of vital skilled non-EEA talent to these sectors.
In December 2019 the UK government published the Immigration White Paper which contains its proposals for a post-Brexit visa system to be intoduced after the Brexit transition period. This new system is scheduled to apply from 1st January 2021 for both EEA and non-EEA migration. The Immigration White Paper details a new Skilled Worker Visa to replace Tier 2 and the propsals seem to neutralise many of the advantages of having roles on the SOL, as there will be no quota and therefore no need for priority allocation. The White Paper also proposes the abolition of the RLMT.
13% of the VFX workforce is made up of non-EEA workers for whom Tier 2 visas provide a common route for permission to work in the UK. The SOL will remain important to non-EEA recruitment until 1st January 2021 and therefore it was vital to respond to this review.
We also propose a future purpose for the SOL that is not evident in the Immigration White Paper, which would mitigate the impact of the applying the proposed expensive visa charges and high minimum salary thresholds onto EEA as well as non-EEA skilled workers. Read our full reponse to the Immigration White Paper.
Our key points in response to the Shortage Occupation List review were:
- We asked that the 17 roles that are relevant to VFX and Animation on the current SOL are retained on the reviewed List. They remain in shortage and after Brexit this shortage is likely to increase.
- We asked that a further 11 roles are added to the SOL as they are already difficult to recruit into using UK workers alone and these shortages will exacerbate following Brexit. See Table 2 for a full list of roles which we consider are in shortage.
- The VFX and animation roles that are retained or added to the UK SOL, should also be applicable in Scotland which has its own SOL.
- MAC agreed with us and all the roles are now on the SOL.
Our response to the Immigration White Paper includes the follow points related to the SOL:
- Roles on the Shortage Occupation List should be exempt from the Immigration Skills Charge
- The proposed minimum salary threshold of £30,000 for Skilled Worker Visas is too high and should be set in line with the Living Wage. (~£20k in London and ~£16k elsewhere)
However, should that not be possible, appropriate minimum rates should be set for SOL roles. To enable this:-
- We ask that the rules for the Tier 2 Points Based System regarding the Appropriate Salary Attribute for the 20 points necessary to qualify for a visa should be amended from “£30,000 or the appropriate rate for the job, whichever is the higher” to read “£30,000 or the appropriate rate for the job, whichever is the lowest”, thereby allowing any appropriate minimum rates set below the £30,000 overall threshold to come into play.
- Appropriate rates for minimum salaries for Tier 2 visas should be set at the job role level rather than at the level of the SOC code, thereby allowing greater granularity and sectoral differences to be taken into account.
- UK Screen Alliance has the most comprehensive and current dataset regarding salaries in VFX and Animation and would be willing to act as a Competent Body to set or advise on appropriate minimum rates for this sub-sector.
Existing and new roles on the Shortage Occupation List
- Roles already on the List
- VFX Supervisor
- 2D Supervisor
- 3D Supervisor
- CG Supervisor
- VFX Producer
- VFX Production Manager
- Technical Director (includes specialisms – Effects TD, Crowd TD, Creature TD, Lighting TD, Pipeline TD and Generalist TD)
- Compositing Artist
- Matte Painter
- Rigger (Animation)
- Stereo Artist
- Texture Artist
- Systems Engineer
- Software Development
- Shader Writer
- Requested new roles which were added in October 2019
- Creative Director
- Concept Artist
- Storyboard Artist
- Technical Artist
- Layout Artist
- Pre-viz Artist (current applications use Animator role)
- VFX Editor
- Production Coordinator (Brexit will create a shortage in this role)
- Assistant Technical Director
- VFX Trainer
- Render Supervisor