Employers will find it more difficult to recruit skilled migrants from overseas if the government accepts proposals to further tighten up the immigration system, a law firm has warned.
Alarm bells were sounded by Speechly Bircham following a Migration Advisory Committee report on the points-based immigration system, which outlines how the UK could do more to protect jobs for British workers.
A requirement that migrant workers outside of the EU will earn £20,000 and workers without qualifications will earn at least £32,000
Increasing the application fees for Tier 2 (the skilled workers category for those from outside the EU)
Increasing the period that a role has to be advertised in the UK to four weeks
Increasing the period before an employee can transfer from an overseas branch to the UK via an intra-company transfer from six months to 12 months.
Tracy Evlogidis, head of immigration at Speechly Bircham, said: “It is clear from the recommendations that employers will face an incredibly difficult task in recruiting skilled migrants from overseas, no matter how special they are and who they are.
“Not only are employers likely to incur increased fees, much to the detriment of small and medium enterprises which are reliant on skilled migrants – they must now grapple with more changes, elongated processes and more red tape.”
Amit Kapadia, executive director of HSMP Forum, slammed the recommendation to deny those coming on intra-company transfers under Tier 2 the right to permanent residence.
“We believe such draconian measures will only lead to further exploitation of migrants and would deprive hardworking skilled migrants who are paying their tax and are not a burden to the public funds their due rights after spending five years in the UK.”
Earlier this week, immigration lawyers told the Financial Times that the points-based system was “utterly inflexible”, and pointed to the absurdity of FTSE 100 companies having to advertise senior positions in local job centres to see if a UK resident could fill the role.
Employers’ group the CBI said it strongly supported the points-based system and that the Home Office was responding quickly to problems.
But Neil Carberry, head of employment policy at the CBI, said: “There is growing frustration that rules are getting changed pretty much on a weekly basis, and there is frustration about visa delays.”
The Home Office said nine out of 10 visa applications outside the UK were being processed within three weeks, and Home Office minister Alan West insisted the new points-based system was flexible.
He said: “The government’s points based system has proven itself to be a powerful and flexible tool in meeting the needs of the British workforce and business in these changing economic times.
“In light of the economic downturn, we have taken further steps to be more selective of migrants that come to the UK and to give resident workers every opportunity to fill vacancies.”
The government will now consider the report.