Carpenters, bricklayers and roofers are among migrant workers who will be allowed to apply for work visas and get a discount on fees in a bid to fill UK job shortages.
The Home Office said it was “temporarily easing visa restrictions” for a string of construction roles by adding them to the shortage occupation list.
This means foreign workers trained in certain professions qualify for a work visa and are allowed to pay a reduced application fee.
The government hopes the move will help boost the economy, “stimulate development” and “attract new talent”, the department said.
The announcement comes in the wake of calls from some Tory MPs who urged prime minister Rishi Sunak to cut immigration and cut back on temporary visa schemes.
Shortage occupation list
Downing Street defended the move and said it did not contradict home secretary Suella Braverman’s ambition to cut immigration figures and end reliance on overseas workers.
Bricklayers, masons, roofers, roof tilers, slaters, carpenters, joiners, plasterers and other “construction and building trades not elsewhere classified” have all been added.
Those working in a shortage occupation can be paid 80 per cent of the usual going rate.
Applicants still need a sponsored job offer from an employer and have to meet English language requirements under the government’s points-based immigration system.
The roles on the shortage occupation list remain under review, the Home Office added.
It comes after the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which advises the government on immigration, recommended the plan.
Previously the independent body warned replacing freedom of movement with a points-based immigration system after Brexit could cut economic growth and have “zero effect” on providing more British jobs for British workers.
At the time, industry leaders warned builders could be one of the industries hit the hardest 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: “We’ve always acknowledged in the short term we will need to flex and use our Brexit freedoms 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.
Press Association – by Flora Thompson