Will skills transfer be open to abuse by overseas IT firms?

Strengthening the Points-Based System Changes to the rules regarding oversees workers coming to the UK on Intra Company Transfers are an attempt to control alleged abuses to the system, but will a new element 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 (ICTs).

ICTs 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. This compared to 12,726 during the dotcom boom in 2000.

One rule change states that a worker must have worked for the company involved for at least 12 months, compared to six months previously. This will tighten up alleged abuses.

The government has also introduced a graduate 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 any experience with it. Although these workers can only stay for 6 months it could lead to foreign workers being trained how to do UK jobs, before replacing UK staff and carrying out the jobs in their home countries.

The border agency said the skills transfer should not however 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 coming to take UK-based jobs where local labour is available.

“The UK Border Agency has no control over a company’s commercial decision to outsource their 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, 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 makes it easier.”