UK Government publishes details of points-based visa system

Yesterday UK Government announced further details of its points-based visa system. The document includes details of salary thresholds and sponsorship.

In order to obtain a visa, applicants will need:

  • an offer of a job from a licensed sponsor
  • to speak English to an acceptable standard
  • a starting salary of at least £20,400

A higher salary threshold of £25,900 does not apply as archaeology is currently on the Shortage Occupation List – a result of lobbying by CIfA and sector colleagues in 2019, prompted by a need to address urgent skills shortages. Applicants with the offer of a job on the Shortage Occupation List are awarded additional ‘points’ for those not meeting the higher salary threshold, provided that they at least meet the lower £20,400 threshold.

The higher threshold relates to the SOC (Standard Occupational Classification) code 2114 Humanities and Social Scientists, which all archaeology jobs are categorised within. Because the SOC code is so broad, it is problematic to assign a single salary threshold that covers so many different jobs and sectors. The reason that the threshold is set at a high level is to ensure an upwards pressure on domestic wages, which we support, even though this threshold is currently very high when compared to the ‘going rate’ in entry and mid-level archaeological jobs.

Employer sponsorship also adds additional burdens. Currently hardly any archaeological organisations are registered under the sponsorship scheme, largely because free movement has made the burdens uneccessary. Sponsors must pay a licence fee and Immigration Skills Charges (£1000 per year per worker). Government has promised to simplify the sponsorship system but details of this have not yet been announced.

Current visa application fees will continue to apply. The system applies equally to EU and non-EU countries. Jobseekers from the Republic of Ireland are exempt from visa procedures under existing legislation.

CIfA is concerned that it will be much harder to employ skilled non-UK archaeologists in the UK as a result of these reforms. Staff from other countries, notably Italy, Spain, and Poland have made important contributions to the archaeological workforce, particularly in the recent years of rapid sector growth. The ability to employ from outside the UK has been an important contribution to filling short term skills needs in high demand areas. We also want an immigration system that enables UK archaeologists to work in other countries.

Recent figures from the State of the Archaeological Market report, published last week indicate that the proportion of non-UK archaeologists employed in the workforce is already declining – at 11% in March 2019, down from 15% in 2017/18.

Because of the impact of COVID-19, we will be carefully monitoring the demand for jobs in the sector with Registered Organisations and through the Industry Working Group. CIfA will continue to prioritise and promote diverse routes into and through the profession and will step up advocacy on immigration as and when necessary to ensure that Registered Organisations are able to recruit and retain staff with appropriate skills, in order to maintain standards and deliver public benefit.