HOME Office advisers are calling on the Government to plug a visa loophole that undercuts British workers – and make firms pay a fee for skilled non-EU employees.
The Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) system is being exploited by big firms to import cheaper employees who then work on lucrative third-party contracts, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) found.
The ICT route into the UK has “less clear-cut” benefits for the country and should be overhauled, its report into the Tier 2 visa said.
Wages of skilled public sector staff are also being undercut.
Committee chairman Professor Sir David Metcalf yesterday called for a rise in the salary threshold for those applying to work in the UK under the system, as a way of cutting numbers coming in.
The economist also recommended a £1,000 levy per skilled worker for each year they are in the country.
The £250million raised annually could train Britons to fill the domestic skills gap.
The purge would see migration from non-EU citizens cut by almost a fifth, the MAC predicted.
Prof Metcalf said: “Skilled migrant workers make important contributions to boosting productivity and public finances, but this should be balanced against their potential impact on the welfare of existing UK residents.
“Raising the cost of employing skilled migrants should lead to greater investment in UK employees and reduce the use of migrant labour.”
Current rules set the minimum salary for Tier 2 workers at just over £20,000 a year.
But the Intra-Company Transfer system “tilted the playing field against British workers”, the report said.
Companies hardest hit by the changes would include Accenture, IBM, Infosys, HSBC Holdings and Tata Consultancy Services.
Professor Metcalf called on the Government to investigate why firms could not find the right skills inside the UK.
The MAC proposals will affect about 151,000 non-EU workers and their dependants who come to Britain each year.
If the salary threshold is raised it would cut arrivals by an estimated 27,600.
Business leaders reacted angrily to the report, saying it sent out a message that the UK is “not an attractive place to invest and do business”.
Last night a Home Office spokesman said: “We are grateful to the Migration Advisory Committee for its report. We are considering its findings and will respond in due course.”