The multinationals use rules allowing transfers of employees between sites in different countries to recruit cheap overseas labour, Migration Watch said – meaning British-born IT graduates and professionals are losing out on work opportunities.
Crossbench peer Andrew Green, who chairs Migration Watch, said: “Many people are asking why non-EU migration has not been reduced. Here is part of the answer.
“Either the Government have taken their eye off the ball or they have been too heavily influenced by a small group of companies and have ignored their own advisory committee.”
The Migration Watch report said a small number of IT firms were exploiting an immigration route known as Tier 2 (IntraCompany Transfer), under Home Office rules.
The loophole allows firms to obtain a contract to deliver a project or support services to a UK body, then bring staff from their home countries – typically India – to carry out the work.
The report said: “Tens of thousands of such workers have entered the UK by being sponsored under the Tier 2 route. This route has no cap on numbers and does not require the sponsoring company even to try to source its workforce within the UK. This has enabled companies to undercut British competitors while reducing the opportunities for British computer scientists, graduates and IT professionals to obtain work and develop skills.”
It added: “The Tier 2 (ICT) route has been gradually developed into a significant source of immigration.
“Since 1992 the number issued has increased eightfold and now constitutes over 60 per cent of all work permits. In 2017, 58,000 of 94,000 Tier 2 work visas issued to migrants and their dependants, were via the ICT route.”