Offshore suppliers 'take the mickey' out of UK law

IT service providers from overseas are bending immigration rules to provide offshore services by stealth as thousands of IT workers join dole queues

IT service providers from overseas are bending immigration rules to provide offshore services by stealth as thousands of IT workers join dole queues, it was claimed today.

Figures on the total UK job cuts and statistics on the number of jobs offshored disguise the true extent of UK IT jobs being carried out by foreign workers, according to an industry body.

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies, which represents UK recruitment agencies, said that in reality, UK jobs were being filled by overseas IT staff brought over to the UK on temporary visas.

According to analysis carried out by the Financial Times just over 4,000 jobs have been cut since July last year as a result of UK businesses offshoring work. This is small compared to the 700,000 total redundancies during that period.

But this can disarm UK workers into thinking there are more opportunities for them when in fact companies are using the 'intra-company transfers' to bring workers into the UK. An intra-company transfer could allow, for example, an Indian IT services provider with a UK division to bring IT staff over for three years without a Visa.

One corporate lawyer said this practice is being used by all offshore service providers. The problem is not about jobs being cut in favour of offshoring, but jobs not being made available to UK workers in the first place, he said.

"In 2008, tens of thousands of people were granted permission to work in the UK through intra-company transfers," he added.

About 29,000 of these were from India.

"If you are an Indian IT supplier and you have a major project starting, as long as the Indian IT professionals have worked for 12 months, they can come to the UK without a Visa for three years."

According to data obtained by Apsco 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. Most of these were low to mid-level workers, which goes against the grain of why this system was set up.

Ann Swain, chief executive of Apsco, said these suppliers are "taking the mickey".

"The intra-company transfer system was originally set up for high-level executives that were crucial to companies over here."

But she said this is being abused. She called for the system to be "policed properly".

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