Rules regarding oversees workers coming to the UK on intra-company transfers have been changed in an attempt to control alleged abuse of the system, but one new element could open it up to more abuse.
The border agency has changed the rules of the points-based system, which could reduce the number of IT workers in the UK on intra-company transfers.
Intra-company transfers are allegedly being abused by overseas IT suppliers. According to data obtained by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies from the Home Office under the Freedom of Information Act, 35,430 non-EU IT workers came to work in the UK last year, compared with 12,726 during the dotcom boom in 2000.
Seven of the top 10 importers of IT workers to the UK in 2008 were Indian companies, according to data obtained by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (Apsco) under the Freedom of Information Act.
One rule change states that a worker must have worked for the company involved for at least 12 months, compared with the six months previously required. This will tighten up alleged abuses.
The government has also introduced a scheme for new graduates who need to come to the UK as part of a structured training programme. This is limited to three months and only five are permitted per company, which will not be open to abuse.
But a new rule, known as the skills transfer, is being brought in, which enables companies to bring workers to the UK without previous company experience. Although these workers can only stay for six months, the rule could lead to foreign workers being trained how to do UK jobs, before replacing UK staff by carrying out the jobs in their home country.
The border agency said the skills transfer should not be used as a means of replacing UK staff.
Jeremy Oppenheim, national lead for temporary migration at the UK Border Agency, said: "Our tough points-based system gives us an unprecedented level of control over those who wish to come to the UK to work and study, and prevents migrants taking UK-based jobs where local labour is available.
"The UK Border Agency has no control over a company's commercial decision to outsource its operations. Furthermore, we do not accept that enabling a temporary transfer of workers to the UK would be conclusive in any such decision."
But Mark Lewis, a lawyer at Berwin Leighton Paisner, said the skills transfer could be open to potential abuse unless the rules are properly enforced. "The government says that it should not be used to displace UK staff, but this [new rule] makes it easier."