Home Office statistics reveal that the number of foreigners arriving on “intra company transfers” (ICTs), which do not count towards the cap total, rose sharply following the Coalition’s announcement of an interim cap in mid-July.
There were 30 per cent more ICTs handed out in between July and September this year than in the same period last year.
Experts said the increase showed that companies were to continuing to import cheap labour despite the Government’s clampdown, and warned that numbers would continue to rise even after a permanent cap on migrant numbers comes into force next April.
Peter Skyte, of the trade union Unite, said: “It is a massive loophole. Our prediction has always been that the immigration cap would be all smoke and mirrors.”
The ICT scheme allows firms to bring non-EU nationals who are already on their payroll into the UK. It is widely used in the IT industry.
One Indian company alone, Tata Consultancy Services, sponsored 4,600 employees to come to Britain in 2008; another, Infosys Technologies Limited, sponsored 3,235 in the same year.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has said she will fulfil a Tory manifesto pledge by capping the “skilled worker” routes at 21,700 a year, but she agreed to exempt ICTs from the new restrictions following pressure from business leaders and Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Business Secretary.
In the third quarter of this year, as the Home Office was restricting other immigration routes, more than 8,000 foreigners came to work in the UK under ICTs – up from 6,000 in the same period last year.
If the current ICT rate is sustained, more than 32,000 immigrants would arrive under the route each year, meaning the true number of migrant workers would be about 54,000 a year when capped routes and ICTs are added together.
Mr Skyte said Unite feared there were significant loopholes in limits imposed on ICTs by the Home Secretary last week.
Under the terms of the permanent cap, ICT workers earning between £24,000 and £40,000 a year will only allowed to remain in Britain for 12 months.
Mr Skyte said: “We think companies will simply transfer lower-paid staff for 11 months and three weeks, for example, and then they will be sent home for a few weeks and re-apply under a new ICT.
“There doesn’t seem to be anything in the rules to stop it.
“In other words, the number of people coming on ICTs could actually rise.
“The Home Office has also failed to take the chance to prevent companies counting allowances for things like accommodation as part of their gross pay, and it looks like some employers have sought to make as much use of the route as possible while current rules are in place.
“The Government’s announcement has squandered a golden opportunity to tackle abuse and misuse of ICTs.”
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the pressure group MigrationWatch, said: “There is clearly a build-up of ICT applications this year.
“While it is essential that staff who are seriously needed can get into Britain, this route will have to be watched very closely to avoid it becoming a loophole in the whole system of economic migration.”
On the possibility of workers exploiting the 12-month ICT rule, he said: “We have yet to see the details of this scheme but if it allows people permitted to come for a year to go home for a few weeks and return then it will rapidly become absurd.”
One British worker, who declined to be named but is employed in IT by a well-known bank, said: “Employers will find plenty of ways to abuse the system.
“Where I work now there are British workers being made redundant and at the same time ICTs are being brought in to replace them. The Government’s measures have had no effect whatsoever.”
Another IT worker said: “Sadly the IT business in this country is doomed, primarily because they have printed ICTs and other visas like confetti.”
Damian Green, the immigration minister, said: “The new immigration limit clearly sets out which workers we will allow into the UK job market.
“It has been drawn up following extensive consultation with businesses and reflects their views. But our view is clear: we need employers to look first to those who are out of work and already live in this country.
“The limit will allow us to protect those businesses which are vital to our economy, allowing them to attract the best and the brightest, but more importantly it will bring immigration down to sustainable levels.”
In the whole of last year there were 22,030 ICTs but in just the first nine months of this year the figure had already reached 22,520.
The quarterly total of ICTs has crept up incrementally since the beginning of last year, when there were 4,355 applications between January and March.
In comparison, in 1992 there were just 7,000 ICTs handed out during the whole year.
Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara – vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika
- Immigration Changes Benefit Intra-Company Transfers To The UK (therelocationconsultancy.wordpress.com)
- Immigration cap ‘valium for the public’ (worldradio.ch)
- Deliberately lax visa rules encouraged RBC outsourcing: Walkom (thestar.com)
- Theresa May relaxes immigration rules for senior executives and elite graduates (timothyoshea1.wordpress.com)
- Safeguard clause could keep cap on immigration (worldradio.ch)
- U.K. immigration norms kick in (thehindu.com)