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In a significant landmark moment for the ATC’s and our stakeholders’ lobby to secure continued access to the linguistic skills of translators and interpreters in post-Brexit Britain, the Migration Advisory Committee’s latest review recommends the inclusion of interpreters on the Shortage Occupation List. 

The ATC’s Chair Ruth Partington celebrates the moment: 

The ATC has actively campaigned to ensure that the route to the skilled roles of translator and interpreter remain accessible post-Brexit. In our linguistically diverse society, language services underpin the fair and equitable treatment of speakers of more than 300 different languages. The MAC’s recommendation of including interpreters on the Shortage Occupation List is a hugely important recognition of language services’ completely unique position within the UK. 

MAC’s recommendations 

The Migration Advisory Committee, an independent body advising the UK Government on immigration, recommends in their new Review of the Shortage Occupation List: 2020 that the profession of ‘interpreter’ on the SOC code 3412 (authors, writers and translators) is added to the Shortage Occupation List. 

Stakeholder evidence from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages and the ATC, among others, is quoted by the MAC in their review as a strong for interpreters, but that further evidence would be required for translators to be included:  

[…] the nature of the stakeholder evidence, which persistently mentioned the shortage of foreign language skills, the change in circumstances occasioned by the ending of free movement, the lack of ability to meet these skills from the domestic labour market, and the fact that the APPG has indicated that inclusion on the SOL would help to remove one of the recruitment barriers, we recommend inclusion on the SOL for interpreters. 

However, we would need further evidence that translation and writing roles requiring foreign language skills need to be carried out in the UK and would also need further evidence that non-foreign-language writing roles are in shortage. Therefore, we do not recommend at present that these roles are included. 

The MAC’s recommendations have yet to be reviewed and accepted by the UK Government. 

The Shortage Occupation List 

The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) is a list of occupations in ‘shortage’, that is, occupations where employers find it problematic to employ adequate numbers of workers with the required skills to fill vacancies, and where migration is judged to be a sensible response to that shortage. 

Assignment of an occupation to SOL is dependent on a number of factors and indicators, drawing from a range of datasets which look at wages, vacancies and employment, combined with evidence from stakeholders. 

Within the UK’s new post-Brexit immigration system, inclusion on the SOL reduces a visa applicant’s and their family’s application fees by approximately 25%, thus lowering the overall cost of migration. 

Inclusion on the SOL for a shortage occupation also awards visa applicants 20 tradeable points, which for many shortage occupations serves to offset the otherwise required 20 points for a salary level not necessarily attainable in that occupation. 

A further benefit for occupations on the SOL is lower salary thresholds required for settlement (i.e. indefinite leave to remain or citizenship), although this has not been confirmed by the Government for the new immigration system. 

What does this mean for the language services industry? 

The inclusion of interpreters on the Shortage Occupation List is an important milestone in the language services industry’s lobby to secure continued access to the linguistic skills of translators and interpreters in post-Brexit Britain. 

As most interpreters currently work as self-employed freelancers, the inclusion of interpreters on the SOL is not expected to have an immediate impact on the UK’s interpreting landscape,” explains ATC CEO Raisa McNab. 

However, as there are no routes into the UK for self-employed freelance interpreters in the new immigration system, an open door through the SOL may in the coming years facilitate a transition towards more interpreters being employed by language service companies, and thus ensure the delivery of critical language services in the UK.” 

“Beyond interpreting, we must continue to lobby for the inclusion of translators on the SOL in the next major review expected in 2022.” 

For companies employing interpreters in-house, the inclusion of interpreters on the SOL reduces the applicant’s visa fees, and lowers the required minimum salary from £25,600 to £20,480. 

For further information on the new immigration system’s impact on language service companies, see the ATC’s recent analysis of the post-Brexit immigration system.

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