Number of UK IT work visas issued is booming

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Number of UK IT work visas issued is booming

The number of UK work permits issued to foreign IT workers during the last year has increased three times since the peak of the dotcom boom, according to figures obtained by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) under the Freedom of Information Act.

Despite the worsening economic climate and the wave of redundancies affecting IT departments across all industry sectors, 35,430 UK work permits were granted to non-EU technology workers during 2008.

By comparison, 12,726 work visas were issued at the height of the Internet bubble in 2000.

Relocation of staff to the UK by companies with offices based in different countries represented around 80 per cent of work permit applications issued last year.

According to APSCo, the recession and a more restrictive immigration system introduced in 2008 has “barely dented the influx of non-EU foreign IT workers coming to the UK”

“The economic slowdown and a supposedly ‘tougher’ new points-based immigration system seem to have had very little effect on slowing the influx of foreign IT staff into the UK,” said APSCo chief executive Ann Swain.

“A few years ago this may have been overlooked, but with IT jobs much scarcer, this is now a contentious issue,” she said.

“It seems crazy that with the economy in a severe downturn and thousands of IT workers having already lost their jobs we are still bringing three times as many foreign IT workers to the UK than during the dot com boom when we had a chronic skills shortage.”

Currently, companies are not required to advertise job vacancies before bringing staff to the UK under intra-company transfers, but according to Swain the government should review that area and make companies look for UK-based staff first.

According to the trade association, offshoring is to blame for the importing of IT jobs as the sourcing model has eroded the technology skills base in the UK.

“Offshoring has eaten away at the bottom rungs of the skills ladder, making it much harder to get the experience needed for the mid-level jobs which foreign companies are bringing workers into the UK to fill,” said Swain.

“If anything we are going to see more entry-level IT jobs sent offshore in 2009 as recession bites. Is it any wonder that seven per cent fewer students leave British universities with IT qualifications than five years ago when so many jobs are going offshore?”
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