Employers’ groups including the Confederation of British Industry CBI and British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have recommended ministers not to decrease the number of migrant workers allowed into the UK via intra-company transfer (ICT) route, claiming it is important for companies to approach the specialist skills they need.
One firm alone, a major manufacturer, brought in 4,000 workers, majorly from India, under ICTs last year. About two-thirds of ICTs were third-party contractors, and of those two thirds were from India.
The warning came as a study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research showed migrants made optimistic contribution to business operations through their advanced technical knowledge and skills.
It said employers worried that further limits would be “bad for business”, which could send overseas investors somewhere else.
The chairman of the Government migration advisory committee, Professor David Metcalf, said that ministers should evaluate the rules governing ICTs if they want to stick to an oath to bring immigration down to the tens of thousands.
New figures divulge businesses are being permitted to bring in almost 30,000 skilled non-EU workers a year to fill UK jobs under the ICT scheme, which is excused from the annual immigration cap.
The figure, which has gone up by half in two years, dwarfs the 10,000 skilled workers who are being permitted general visas and who do fall within the limit.
CBI director for employment, Neil Carberry, said that the intra-company transfers allow businesses to move their own staff to the UK for a limited period of time to fulfil a particular need, and they strengthen a lot of investment in the UK.
The policy director at the BCC Adam Marshall, said ICTs were vital to how multinational businesses operate.
To limit the number of ICTs, Prof Metcalf suggested raising the £40,000 income threshold.
The ministers said that only those with salaries of more than £40,000 could stay on a long-term basis, of up to five years.
But they also decided that those earning between £24,000 and £40,000 would be allowed to come for a year, paving the way for companies to rotate one employee after another on an annual basis.
Tuesday’s figures showed that the number of workers being brought in to the UK under the ICT scheme had surged from 20,000 in 2009 to 29,700 in the 12 months to September 2011
But the number of tier two visas issued in the 12 months to April 2012 – the first year for which the 21,700 limit applies – is expected to be as low as 10,000.