On the eve of a report about the proposed cap on immigration, think-tank Migrationwatch has outlined the abuse of the Intra Company Transfer (ICT) scheme and proposed ways to stop it.
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ICTs are UK visas given to workers from overseas that work for non EU companies that have UK operations.
It was originally designed for people with skills that could not be sourced within the UK and would not replace UK workers. But this has been abused, according to Migrationwatch as well as numerous employment groups. IT professionals are particularly unhappy with how ICTs are used by large offshore suppliers.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which advices the government on immigration issues, is due to publish a report about the proposed immigration cap tomorrow (18 November). The House of Commons is set to debate the matter in December.
Migrationwatch chairman Sir Andrew Green, said the think-tank wanted to get the clear information out to help the debate because it is very complex. The group has given evidence to the MAC.
The Conservatives promised a cap on immigration in the build-up to the general election.
"[ICTs are] being used in the IT sector to replace UK workers on cost grounds, either by helping to relocate the work to India or by filling UK-based jobs with Indian workers. This is an abuse of the ICT visa," said Migrationwatch.
The think-tank said the ICT route should be retained, but returned to its original purpose. It calls for the salary threshold to be raised to £50,000 a year (except for graduate trainees). It also said the cost of certificates for employers used to bring staff to the UK on ICTs should be raised to discourage abuse.
Migrationwatch highlighted the abuse of ICTs in the IT sector, where staff are brought from offshore locations or carry out roles that UK workers could do.
"There is no shortage of IT workers in the UK. IT jobs are not on the shortage occupation list and unemployment among computer science graduates was reported to be the highest of any discipline at 17%."
The following actions could be taken to limit ICT visas in the IT sector, according to Migrationwatch:
The minimum level could be raised
The total number of Certificates of Sponsorship could be capped, they could be auctioned or the cost increased substantially once a threshold for a company has been reached
Expenses and accommodation must be removed from the salary calculations
ICTs must have a certain level of English language skills
A Resident Labour Market Test could be introduced for IT jobs which are most open to abuse. This test would need to be strictly enforced to ensure these roles were advertised widely via the numerous technology job sites and at the proper UK rates
Improve the monitoring and enforcement of the visa conditions. For example, ensuring the salaries and working conditions of foreign workers are fair and do not undercut those of British workers.