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Recruiters face delays as contractors claim victory

Ross Bentley
The Home Office's decision to drop its fast-track visa scheme for overseas IT workers could create slower and more costly recruitment processes, some IT directors fear.

Having reviewed the state of the IT labour market, the Home Office's IT skills sector panel last week announced that "all occupations should be removed from the Work Permits UK IT shortage occupation list".

This means that organisations looking to employ IT workers must first advertise the position within the UK and European Union before looking further afield.

Chris Cook, IT director at Autoglass, is among those with reservations about the change. "Fundamentally it does go against the general trends in the IT development market because a lot of companies are working on a global basis. In this respect you could say that it is a backward step. With more red tape, recruitment processes will become slower and less cost-effective," he said.

However, Cook added, "I think the new ruling is not unreasonable, especially when you bear in mind the kind of protectionism practised by the likes of the US."

The decision will make it harder for IT workers outside the EU to get work permits. Home Office figures show that in the past year more than 14,000 IT workers have entered the UK via the shortage occupation list.

Simon Higson, immigration adviser at expatriate management consultancy the Essentials Group, said the decision could delay companies that want to recruit from as broad a base as possible.

"This could lead to delays for employers as the application process will take at least an extra four weeks to process owing to the advertising [in the UK] requirement," Higson said.

However, some senior IT professionals felt employers have a duty towards UK contractors. Roger Ellis, former IT director at Blue Circle, said, "By definition, it does narrow the choice for IT directors, but in the current climate I believe we should be looking to employ our colleagues in the UK and EU first and foremost."

The news has also been welcomed by the Professional Contractors Group (PCG), which represents UK contractors. "This is good news for both contractors and permanent IT workers in the UK," said Jane Akshar, chairwoman of the PCG. "The original list was based on misleading statistics from Jobserve ads and the like. This has left rafts of contractors out of contract and the system open to abuse."

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