Top of the list were Indian workers, who, with 11,474 applications approved, accounted for almost 63 per cent of the total. American specialists came second with 2,034 permits issued, followed by ITers from South Africa (748), Australia (708) and Canada (377).
Workers from New Zealand, China, Russia, Pakistan and Malaysia completed the top 10 country-by-country breakdown, while work permits were also issued on a smaller scale to candidates from countries such as Barbados, Burundi, Croatia, Ghana, Jordan, Turkey and Venezuela.
The government began 'fast tracking' work permit applications last year for people with skills in high-demand areas, such as IT, in an effort to reduce the impact of skills shortages. However the scheme caused controversy among existing UK contractors who feared they would be replaced by 'cheaper labour', and who still argue that demand for their services has dropped as a result.
Despite this however, the government has remained firm in its plan to 'supplement' the UK labour force with skilled workers from abroad.