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Intra-company transfers increase following immigration cap

Karl Flinders

The number of overseas workers entering the UK on intra-company transfers (ICTs) has increased since the government introduced its cap on immigration when the coalition came to power in 2010 - with incoming IT staff forming a significant proportion.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said it will keep an eye on the use of ICTs amongst Indian IT companies, which many feel is abuse of a loophole.

ICTs allow businesses with a UK presence to bring workers in without the need for a visa. A significant proportion of these workers are IT professionals, largely from India.

In 2009, the last full year analysis before the immigration cap, there were 22,000 ICTs, according figures from the MAC. For the 12 months up to September 2011, there was an increase to 29,700 workers in the UK on ICTs.

ICTs were exempt from the immigration cap as a result of lobbying. But the government attempted to limit alleged abuse of the ICT scheme by implementing a minimum salary threshold of £40,000 per year for ICT workers in the UK for more than a year. The minimum salary for workers in the UK for up to six months is £24,000.

MAC chair Professor David Metcalf said that some of the transfers were vital to the British economy. 

"Other types of intra-company transfers have evolved over time, particularly those used for third-party contracting in the information technology sector, where it is possible that the UK economy is benefiting in aggregate terms while at the same time some displacement of British workers is occurring," he said.

"They are doing absolutely nothing wrong here, but it is consultancy companies bringing workers in, typically IT workers, typically from India."

He said the committee wanted to keep this under review. Often they were contracted to carry out work in India and then came to the UK to work at the client's base before returning to India to complete the project.

Metcalf said if ICT numbers are to be limited the government could raise the £40,000 pay threshold, raise the skill level from NVQ level 4, or limit the numbers any one company could transfer.

Matt Pollard, executive director at Migrationwatch, said: "The ICT is an uncapped route and is the largest share of work permits under tier two. If the government is going to reduce tier two immigration it has to reduce ICTs. Because IT worker immigration dominates this they have to cut that."


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