Call to scrap short-term ICT visa rules

The UK's leading trade body for the financial services industry is calling on the government to scrap visas for overseas staff needed for short-term, intra-company transfer (ICT) projects

overseas worker in meeting
In a report, ‘How to Strengthen the UK’s Short-Term Mobility System’, TheCityUK says that post-Brexit backlogs, increased costs, and complex rules are hampering UK businesses seeking to bring in overseas talent.

The organisation is calling for reforms to the UK’s short-term business mobility rules - specifically regarding ICTs - to allow UK firms to bring over existing overseas employees for productive activity without needing a work visa.

Should businesses be allowed to recruit short term talent without a visa process?

In its report, TheCityUK argues that access to both home-grown and international talent is crucial to unlocking new areas of innovation.

Nicola Watkinson, managing director of international trade and investment at TheCityUK, said: “Being open and accessible to the world’s best talent is what makes the UK a top international financial centre.

"The country’s current, short-term mobility rules make it hard for businesses to draw on the strengths of their global talent for short-term UK-based projects.

"Government should seize the opportunity Brexit has provided to make short-term business mobility easier, strengthening the UK’s competitiveness and capacity for innovation.”

The report says the current system is limiting firms’ ability to leverage their global talent networks to support export opportunities and innovation, and is hampering wider UK plans to become an attractive hub for highly-skilled international talent.
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It says that financial and related professional services businesses often use short-term mobility routes to bring workers from international offices to the UK to support teams on projects. The report cites examples such as:
    •    bringing international managers into the UK to meet new clients and customers
    •    using global subject matter experts to train UK employees to use a new product
    •    asking in-market experts to train UK employees on how to export services to their jurisdiction
    •    allowing technical experts, such as software engineers, to visit the UK for a short training course
    •    and providing employees who moved to the EU to support EU customers and clients, with training and support from their UK office

"Using short-term business mobility routes is not an alternative to hiring people in the UK," said TheCityUK in a statement.

"Short-term business workers do not become UK-based workers who compete with domestic talent: they remain overseas workers and only carry out short, specific projects before returning home to share their positive experience of the UK, ultimately building the attractiveness of the UK as a financial centre."

Overseas workers are struggling to arrive in the UK on time for projects due to the back log visa system since Brexit

The report points out that the volume of visa applications has risen sharply since Brexit and that employees coming from the EU for short UK projects now need to apply for a visa from a system that "is struggling with the additional applications".

It adds: "The current turnaround time for applications does not match with business needs. Firms need to bring individuals in-and-out quickly to service clients, but it can take weeks to get a visa that enables one day’s work."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted in the Spring 2022 issue of Think Global People.

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