IT Immigration Cap Exemption Gets Mixed Reception

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The Home Secretary’s exemption of intra-company transfers from the immigration cap is proving to be controversial

The government’s cap on immigration caused a stir in the IT world but clarification from Home Secretary Theresa May has calmed a few fears about it limiting the practice of intra-company transfers.

Transfers of foreign staff into UK-based projects are common practice in the IT industry but the announcement that the cap would not apply to these has received a mixed reception. Even though the minimum salary of £40,000 is expected to cut the number of non-EU entrants to the UK by half, there is concern being expressed that May’s announcement will have little effect in the IT market.

Minimum Salary Is No Barrier For IT Staff

Ann Swain, APSCo

Ann Swain, chief executive at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) said, “Whether the £40,000 minimum salary will reduce the number of intra-company transfers in the IT sector is debatable. The average UK wage for IT professionals is close to £40,000, and it is questionable how many workers earn less than that once they arrive.”

May is keen to stamp out the abuse of the system whereby workers enter the country earning more than the capped income but take lower paid work after entry. As Swain points out this is unlikely to be the case for IT professionals.

However, on its website APSCo points out that work visas last for five years even though IT projects span a much shorter term. When these projects finish migrant workers often remain with their sponsoring companies and are often moved into roles that could be filled by UK workers. APSCo wants to see greater controls, under the auspices of the staffing companies it represents.

“If staffing companies could act as sponsors, non-EU workers could be re-assigned to other businesses with similar requirements, in roles where they use the skills for which they were brought to the UK,” APSCo points out. “In this way the skills requirements of a number of different businesses could be satisfied by a single worker.”

More Jobs For UK Workers

John Cridland, CBI

John Cridland, director-general designate of the lobbying group the CBI, disagrees with Swain and sees the clarification as being a boon to UK workers.

“The new system rightly gives priority to people with a job offer over those without one, so companies will still be able to access talent from around the world,” he said. “Exempting most intra-company transfers from the cap will also allow firms with international operations to manage their global workforce effectively. This will make sure that the UK remains an attractive place to base new projects and investment, which means more jobs for UK workers.”

Announcing the details of the cap, May said, “We have worked closely with businesses while designing this system and listened to their feedback, but we have also made clear that, as the recovery continues, we need employers to look first to people who are out of work and who are already in this country.”

Swain would like to see May go further. “We need full transparency on the pay and terms of conditions of workers entering the UK via the intra-company transfer route,” she argued. “The current system is far too opaque and is open to abuse. These proposals don’t radically change that.”

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