Allow visa-free ICTs for six months, says report

Proposals for a dramatic overhaul of the UK’s immigration system, aimed at giving companies the freedom they badly need to hire talent from around the world, have been laid out in a far-reaching review.

UK visa
The report from the London finance lobby group TheCityUK and EY put forward a nine-point plan that the government should implement “urgently”. It included the creation of a new, short-term immigration category that would enable companies’ overseas staff to work in Britain for up to six months without the need for a visa.Such intra-company transfers (ICTs) would apply both to employees from outside the European Economic Area and to staff from the EU, who will lose their freedom-of-movement rights once the UK exits the bloc.

Tier 2 visa caps

Other proposals in the report, ‘The UK’s Future Immigration System and Access to Talent’, included a new ‘dynamic’ Shortage Occupation List – which would give immunity from the current Tier 2 visa cap – that reflected the actual shortages employers face, including digital and cyber security skills; and a new post-study work visa to allow graduates in STEM subjects to work in the UK for up to two years.The report also called for a specialist branch of the Tier 2 visa category to cover overseas experts, and a change to the mechanism by which the annual Tier 2 cap is calculated to take account of lower average salaries outside London and SE England.

The broader skills shortage

Although the report specifically looks at the immigration needs of the financial and related professional services industry, TheCityUK said its conclusions could be applied across all sectors of the British economy.“Ensuring access to skilled overseas talent is vital to the UK maintaining its pre-eminence as the leading international financial centre. Global, outward-looking businesses need diverse expertise at many different skill levels,” said the organisation.“The UK must have a robust and flexible immigration system for business, which is fit for the whole economy and gives firms the ability to fill skilled roles efficiently, especially where there are shortages. Any future trade agreements with the EU, or other jurisdictions, can then be built on this foundation, offering further streamlined immigration routes between the UK and its trade partners.”
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The report said the proposed reforms could lead to an immigration system that gave UK businesses access to the global talent they needed and would reduce the long-standing skills shortages that have been holding back UK economic and productivity growth.Across the country, said the report, 7.5 per cent of banking and finance employees were European citizens with another 4.7 per cent coming from non-European countries. In London, the figures increased to 16.9 per cent and 11.4 per cent respectively, accounting for more than three-quarters of the sector’s London workforce. The sector’s total workforce currently amounts to about 2.3 million.

Drawing global talent to the UK

Miles Celic, CEO of TheCityUK, said, “Britain’s success is built on openness. Being able to attract and retain the most talented people with the right skills, from both the UK and overseas, is a top priority for business leaders across the industry.“The UK’s ability to draw global talent has long been a competitive advantage. Losing this could undermine Britain’s position as the world’s leading financial centre.“A basic immigration system that is fit for the UK’s needs, future focused and fair is essential. Simply applying the current immigration system for non-European citizens to European citizens after Brexit will not work. Doing so is likely to worsen existing skills shortages and make it much harder to attract the talent British firms need to compete on the world stage following Brexit.”Margaret Burton, global immigration partner at EY, added, “As we approach Brexit, there is a real need to review and reform the UK’s immigration policy to ensure it supports businesses and skilled overseas talent looking to contribute to the UK economy.“The current Tier 2 visa system is out of date – we need a much more flexible and dynamic system, which responds to today’s very real skills shortages, particularly around technology, which will worsen if not addressed.“People are the foundation of any company. Without access to the right talent, the UK’s future position as a global business leader will be under threat.”For related news and features, visit our Residential Property section. Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory 

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