An Indian passport sits on a desk along with a set of visa application forms at a BLS International Services Ltd. visa processing center in New Delhi, India (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)  

U.K. Think Tank Attacks Indian IT Firms For Exploiting Visa ‘Loophole’

An immigration research think tank accused Indian software services firms of exploiting a “gaping loophole” in the intra-company transfer visa route to bring in thousands of workers from India.

Migration Watch U.K., which lobbies for lower migration levels, said international IT companies, “typically based in India”, obtain a contract to deliver a project or support services to a U.K. entity. They then staff it with workers from the company’s home country, a system referred to as third-party contracting.

This practice is almost entirely confined to the IT industry. In fact, even within that sector, it is only a handful of large, mainly Indian, companies that are responsible for sponsoring the vast majority of ICTs in this way
Migration Watch U.K.

Industry experts challenged the report’s claims, pointing to more “unfilled vacancies” in the IT sector. “Intra-company transfers hugely benefit the U.K., boosting investment by international companies and creating jobs in the U.K.,” said Matthew Percival, Head of Employment at the Confederation of British Industry.

Under the Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer route, foreign companies that have a presence in the U.K. can move employees to Britain without having to obtain a visa under the wider Tier 2 provisions for skilled workers. The provision is capped at 20,700 a year. Migration Watch claims the use of the ICT route, which has no restriction on numbers, has grown eight-fold since 1992 to 58,000 last year.

As part of a breakdown of these visa figures, it pointed to Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. as the single-most prolific company which used 6,285 ICTs overall in 2017, of which 6,205 transfers were for third-party contracting.

Others from a total of 16 Indian companies on the list include Infosys (2,030), Wipro Technologies (1,795) and Tech Mahindra (1,020). U.S. companies like Cognizant (2,780) and IBM (1,135), were among the other names featured besides smaller numbers from Ireland, France and Japan.

“Many people are asking why non-EU migration has not been reduced. Here is part of the answer. Those who have lost out are British workers whose opportunities have been diminished,” said Lord Green, Chairman of Migration Watch U.K.

The group claimed the system is being misused to “undercut” British competitors and is going “very much against the spirit” in which it was originally devised for posting senior executives to and from the U.K. The report also recommended significant changes to the ICT route to ensure that it is no longer seen as a mechanism for bringing “unlimited migrant labour” into the country.

TechUK, the IT industry representative body which had struck the U.K.-India Tech Alliance with NASSCOM earlier this year, said it was wrong to suggest that international talent undercuts U.K. domestic skills. It called on a more open approach as Britain is set to leave the European Union.

At a time when many tech firms are already concerned with changes to EU migration, the government should be looking to make it easier to secure international talent to support the needs of a growing digital economy, including by removing the arbitrary cap on Tier 2 visas. That is a far better way to help drive the competitiveness of the U.K. post-Brexit and create jobs
Antony Walker, Deputy CEO, TechUK

The U.K. Home Office has pointed to a series of reforms to Tier 2 visas, effective from April 2017, following a review by the Migration Advisory Committee to ensure the ICT route served its purpose.