Thousands of jobs could be filled by foreign workers because of loophole
Thousands of jobs in the UK could be filled by foreign workers rather than Britons because of a loophole in a new visitor visa coming in to force, a think tank has warned.
By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 5:51PM GMT 26 Nov 2008
The Business Visitor Visa allows foreigners coming to the UK for work purposes to stay for up to six months.
It is designed to make it easier for business visitors coming on brief trips or stop-overs.
But a clause in the scheme also allows for “secondees” from overseas companies who have contracts with UK firms providing they are being paid by the overseas company.
Migrationwatch warned that could see foreign companies effectively running a rolling exchange programme of its staff with a British firm, replacing a worker every six months with another, rather than the UK company hiring a local worker.
It warned another potential loophole category is “persons undertaking specific, one-off training in techniques and work practices used in the UK, provided this is not on the job training”.
It comes on the day the next two tiers of the new points based system, aimed at restricting the number of migrant workers, come in to effect but those arriving under a business visa would not have to go through the points system.
Business leaders have also warned there could now be a “two-tiered” system of seconded workers coming in under the visa regime and others having to meet the points criteria.
Migrationwatch chairman, Sir Andrew Green, said “The Government scrabbled to produce these rules only days before the system goes live.
“Far from being “tough” the rules for business visitors drive a coach and horses through the entire work permit system. Now any foreign company with a contract with a British company can send as many seconded staff as they wish for periods of six months each.
“This could easily be used to replace more expensive British workers as the recession bites. The Government must think again and take urgent measures to put proper controls in place.”
A total of 1.74 million people arrived on the old visitor visa for business purposes last year.
Migrationwatch warned other aspects of the visa system are also impossible to police, including a requirement that the business visitor is self sufficient or being supported by a friend or family.
It said the system was “so full of loopholes as to undermine the entire scheme”.
It called for a ban on secondees and for all business visits to be limited to six weeks.
Also coming in to effect today are Tiers 2 and 5 of the points system, which relate to skilled migrants and temporary workers respectively.
The Government claims it will restrict workers under Tier 2, especially through the narrowing of the so-called shortage list of occupations which allow companies to employ from outside the European Economic Area.
But it was exposed earlier this month went it emerged it will only cut numbers by 14,000.
Figures earlier this week showed jobs filled by foreigners in the last two years increased by almost half a million over the period while the number of British-born employees has slumped by 149,000.
Frank Field MP and Nicholas Soames MP, co-Chairmen of the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration, said: “Today certainly marks a major reconstruction of the immigration system which has been in a state of collapse.
“That is to be welcomed but no amount of spin can hide the fact that the Points Based System will not stop tens of thousands of non-EU migrants coming to the UK and competing with the British unemployed for work.”
A Home Office spokesman said: We will not tolerate abuse of the system thats why we have tightened our guidelines to ensure business visitors cannot use this route to take British jobs.
Secondees are paid by their company back home, cannot stay for more than six months, and must prove they can support themselves.
These new rules safeguard the visitor route into the UK from abuse and keep Britain an attractive place to do business.
John Cridland, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: We support the business visitors visa scheme, but suggested that safeguards be introduced to prevent it being abused by unscrupulous companies. We therefore look forward to seeing the governments policies soon.