By Yash Dubal

It is undoubtedly a good time to be a skilled worker in India, despite some of the headlines you may have seen.

New Zealand, it was reported, has become the latest nation to announce immigration curbs. Earlier this month the government there said that it was making immediate changes to its employment visa program after near-record migration last year, which it said was “unsustainable”.

The changes include measures such as introducing English language requirements for low-skilled jobs and setting a minimum skills and work experience threshold for most employer work visas.

The maximum continuous stay for most low-skilled roles will also be reduced to three years from five years.

However, in announcing these restrictions the immigration minister, Erica Stanford, also reiterated a policy of focusing on attracting and retaining highly skilled migrants such as secondary teachers.

Australia, which has also seen a big jump in migrants, has also said it would halve its migrant intake over the next two years. It announced in December and vowed to limit the numbers of students and low-skilled workers migrating to the country.

Skilled workers were not targeted, however. Indeed, the Australian government is introducing a new specialist visa for highly skilled workers which will be set up with the processing time set at one week, helping businesses recruit top migrants amid tough competition with other developed economies.

Even Canada’s migrant-friendly prime minister Justin Trudeau said recently that immigration levels into his country are too high, and that the number of newcomers must be ‘brought under control’, highlighting that the number of temporary migrants in Canada had more than tripled in the last seven years.

Despite all this, the reality for skilled Indian workers is that the world is still your oyster if you are planning to strike out and build a new life in another country, even in the UK where the landscape for Indian professionals seeking work has arguably undergone the most significant shift of late.

Here, much attention has been focused on the recent politically motivated measures to reduce migration following a record level of net migration in 2023. Much like other developed nations, the British government has taken steps to reduce lower-skilled migration and to curb the number of students from other countries, particularly their dependents.

The UK government recently replaced the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) with the Immigration Salary List (ISL) which comes with implications for Indian workers aiming to migrate through the Skilled Worker visa route.

Previously, the SOL identified occupations facing critical shortages in the UK labour market. Roles on this list offered an advantage – employers could sponsor overseas workers for these positions at a lower salary threshold compared to the standard requirement. This benefitted Indian professionals in specific sectors like engineering, healthcare, and IT.

The new ISL retains a general salary threshold discount for certain occupations but eliminates the 20% reduction previously available for designated shortage roles. This means that the salary offered to a sponsored worker must now meet a higher benchmark.

In effect this narrows the field of opportunity, especially for those in medium-skilled professions such as catering, hospitality and retail. For skilled workers in fields such as engineering and IT, however, where there are still manpower shortages, opportunities still abound, and the UK still competes as one of the top international destinations for migrating Indians.

And for those who do qualify for a Skilled Work visa, there is a fresh advantage. Because the minimum salary threshold has now been considerably raised, Skilled Worker visa holders are likely to be offered higher wages than they previously would have. So, while the changes may pose some initial hurdles, the UK remains a desirable destination for skilled Indian workers. 

(The author is the Director & a Senior Immigration Associate at A Y & J Solicitors, London, United Kingdom and the views expressed are his own)

2024-04-16T08:58:21Z dg43tfdfdgfd