UK Business organisation claims stricter immigration rules are hurting the economy

Following UK Immigration Minister Damian Green's comments that UK companies need to wean themselves off their 'addiction' to hiring overseas workers, UK Business organisation London First reiterated how important skilled immigrant workers are to the UK economy.

Although Green claims that UK Government immigration policies have not discouraged skilled immigrant workers from moving to the UK, some parts of the business community believe that UK immigration policies that lead to a decrease in net migration do exactly that.

Rob McIvor, London First's communications director, said that immigrant workers are particularly important to the London economy.

"They are absolutely essential. The UK and London in particular has always tended to be what the people colloquially call a 'talent hub' in the sense that you get an awful lot of international businesses that will locate their headquarters or biggest operations in London and they need to bring in people from around the world as needs dictate," he said. "London tends to be the base for that activity and that's what drives the UK economy."

Green said in a recent interview that the UK continues to welcome skilled and talented migrant workers "with open arms", but critics are concerned that the overall UK Government message is being perceived as less than welcoming to future UK immigrants.

"From a business perspective we're concerned about a couple of things. One, is the message that is being received, which may not be the message being sent, particularly on the Indian sub-continent, Asia and so on, is that Britain is not particularly welcoming of non-EU migrants," said McIvor.

"There's this perception that we're closed for business and if you compound that with some of the challenges we have, in particular the high rate of tax, it tends to put off the kind of highly skilled, talented people that we rather need as we start to pull out of the economic downturn," he added. "It's all about perception, we clearly understand what he (Green) is saying, and it's more the perception abroad rather than the reality which is causing the problem."

McIvor did appreciate some of the changes UK immigration was making: "To give the government credit it has made a start and they are doings things like simplifying the visa application process which I think would help a great deal."

Many skilled workers come to the UK under the Tier 2 visa. The Tier 2 visa allows workers from outside the European Economic Area to work in the UK. All workers under this category must be in possession of a UK job offer and fulfill other requirements. There are 4 different Tier 2 visa categories you may come under:
  • General: for people coming to the UK with a job offer to fill a gap that cannot be filled by a settled worker which may or may not be on the Shortage Occupation List.
  • Intra-Company Transfers: for employees of multi-national companies who are being transferred by an overseas employer to a skilled job in a UK-based branch of the organisation.
  • Sports People: for elite sportspeople and coaches whose employment will make a significant contribution to the development of their sport at the highest level.
  • Ministers of Religion: for those people coming to fill a vacancy as a Minister of Religion, Missionary or Member of a Religious Order.
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