A boom in the number of intra-company transfer (ICT) work permits being registered has been recorded in an official report.
Compiled by the Home Office's Migration Advisory Committee (Mac), the figures show that the number of ICT work permits issued has surged over the past two years and now outnumbers people coming to the country on UK work visas by three to one.
According to the latest data, transfers of company staff have risen from 22,000 in 2009 to 29,700 in the 12 months to September 2011.
The increase coincides with the government's introduction of a cap on UK work permits of 21,700. However, it also renders it redundant as businesses are clearly making use of the exempt ICC route to move employees from overseas to work in their UK bases instead of navigating the competitive and capped Tier 1 and Tier 2 work permit routes.
David Metcalf, chair of Mac, urged businesses not to lower the Tier 1 and Tier 2 work permit limit, despite the fact that it has gone largely unused.
He noted that doing so would alter the perception that the UK is an attractive place to do business: “The Tier 2 limit system is set up to prevent the displacement of UK workers but intra-company transfers are not part of that limit and account for the lion's share of visas. The government has put a cap in but it is not biting, so pro tem it is not relevant.”
The ICT route does have some requirements attached to it, with businesses only permitted to bring in staff if they are in jobs earning more than £24,000 a year. Even those that meet this threshold can only remain for six months, while those earning £40,000 or above have the chance to apply to remain for more than a year.