Staff transfers avoid immigration cap

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Companies are avoiding the controversial cap on foreign workers coming to Britain by transferring staff from their offices overseas to posts in this country, the Government's immigration advisers said yesterday.

In an effort to drive down immigration totals, the Coalition last year imposed an annual limit of 21,700 visas that could be issued to skilled workers from outside the European Union. Figures from the Migration Advisory Committee (Mac) showed that fewer than 10,000 migrants came in under that route last year.

At the same time nearly 30,000 workers came to Britain using "intra-company transfers" (ICTs), a policy enabling companies to bring staff employed abroad to jobs in this country. Two-thirds were Indians, many working in information technology.

The Mac also said more people worked in Britain under the ICT policy than worked under similar arrangements in other western nations.

The disclosures will fuel Coalition tensions as Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, successfully pressed in the face of hostility from the Home Office for these transfers to be exempt from the cap.

The low take-up of visas also underlines the Government's lack of room for manoeuvre in its efforts to achieve David Cameron's ambition of cutting net yearly migration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, will today set out plans to reduce the number of immigrants allowed to settle in Britain by two-thirds.

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