Changes in government regulations could seriously affect the flow of Commonwealth workers to the UK, according to research by recruitment consultancy Morgan McKinley.
Since 8 February 2005, individuals visiting the UK from Commonwealth countries on Working Holiday Visas (WHV) are only permitted to work for 12 months out of their two-year visa term. Prior to that date, restrictions had been lifted on the time that Commonwealth employees were allowed to work, so many worked for the full two years.
It is estimated that in the City, temporary staff on WHVs currently number about 8,000 or 2% of the overall City workforce.
Andrew Evans, operational director of Morgan McKinley, said: “Commonwealth workers are a vital part of the City workforce, providing a much needed source of readily available skilled labour.
“They tend to be well qualified and experienced individuals who can hit the ground running. They are renowned for having an exceptional work ethic and consequently they make an important contribution to their employer and in turn, London’s financial services industry.”
In 2004 alone, the British High Commission issued 47,000 WHVs, with 47% distributed to South African nationals, 43% to Australians, 11% to New Zealanders and small numbers to people from other countries in the Commonwealth.
A survey conducted by Morgan McKinley suggests that the changes to the Working Holidaymaker Visa Scheme could seriously deter Commonwealth citizens from coming to the UK.
Of the 253 Commonwealth temporary workers surveyed, 64% of respondents said that it would definitely have affected their decision to apply for a UK visa, while 27% of those said they would not have applied for a visa at all.
All New Zealanders questioned said the changes would have affected their decision to apply for a UK visa, while 55% of Australians and 33% of South Africans were similarly concerned. More than a third (36%) of Australians, 25% of New Zealanders and 17% of South Africans said they would not have applied for a visa at all.