IT companies exploit gaping loophole in Britain’s immigration system


August 14, 2018

A gaping loophole in Britain’s immigration system is revealed in a paper released by Migration Watch today.

This paper (MW451 - Distortion of the ICT visa system) shows that a small number of multinational IT companies have exploited a system intended for posting senior executives to and from the UK in order to bring in thousands of migrant workers to fulfil contracts with private and public sector organisations.

This is known as third-party contracting and usually involves an international IT company, typically based in India, obtaining a contract to deliver a project or support services to a UK entity and then staffing it with workers from the company’s home country.

Tens of thousands of such workers have entered the UK by being sponsored under the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) route.

This route has no cap on numbers and does not require the sponsoring company even to try to source its workforce within the UK.

This has enabled these companies to undercut British competitors while reducing the opportunities for British computer scientists, graduates and IT professionals to obtain work and to develop their skills.

At a time when the focus has been on the 20,700 cap on Tier 2 (General) visas for skilled workers from outside the EU, this paper reveals that the Tier 2 (ICT) route has been gradually developed into a significant source of immigration.

Since 1992, the number issued has increased eightfold and now constitutes over 60% of all work permits. In 2017, 58,000 of 94,000 Tier 2 work visas issued to migrants and their dependants, were via the ICT route - the majority of which were for third-party contracting.

The Government has shied away from effectively addressing this route despite the fact that its own Migration Advisory Committee has recommended that it should be thoroughly reviewed with the aim of curtailing its use. Use of the route for this purpose is very much against the spirit in which the system was originally devised.

We recommend significant changes to ensure that it is no longer used as a means to by-pass Tier 2 (General) or seen as a mechanism by which to bring unlimited migrant labour into the UK.

If the UK is to protect its IT workforce and ensure that it keeps its place in the front rank of advanced industrialised economies then this use of ICT visas must be strictly limited.

Commenting, Lord Green of Deddington, Chairman of Migration Watch UK:

Many people are asking why non-EU migration has not been reduced. Here is part of the answer. Either the government have taken their eye off the ball or they have been too heavily influenced by a small group of companies and have ignored their own Advisory Committee. Those who have lost out are British workers whose opportunities have been diminished.


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