As Britain laid out the red carpet to woo foreign leaders and investors during the Olympics,a leaked official report reveals that immigration curbs on professionals from countries like India were the greatest concern of potential investors.
Amidst worsening economic situation,Prime Minister David Cameron and his ministers have been appearing at a series of business meetings at a specially created ‘British Business Embassy’ at the Lancaster House to win at least 1 billion pounds of investment from investors during the Olympics.
During the meetings,some international business leaders such as Cisco chairman John Chambers questioned government representatives on Britain’s immigration rules especially visa curbs.
As Cameron tried to ally their apprehensions on the issue,an internal report of the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) department leaked to The Independent said immigration of foreign professionals was the greatest concern of foreign companies.
According to the report,immigration was cited as the most important concern by 50 per cent of potential investors,more than personal and company taxation (13 per cent),red tape (10 per cent),skills (9 per cent) and planning rules (5 per cent).
The report said: “These ‘front of mind’ concerns are usually near-term and have the prospect of impacting adversely on companies’ immediate business competitiveness and therefore the UK’s ability to attract investment.”
Concerns listed by UKTI in the report include problems obtaining visas for prospective UK workers,particularly those from India and the need for a higher level fluency in English for skilled employees.
Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma yesterday said he had also taken up the issue with the British government,particularly at a time when Indian IT companies were investing here and setting up offices for the UK and EU markets.
Companies also cited rules governing intra-company transfer (ICT) visa – which is widely used by Indian IT companies – that allow them to bring in their own employees from abroad. These included having to keep re-applying for ICT visas and artificially inflating salaries to meet the threshhold for them.
A five-year limit for staff who transfer within firms “could have serious implications on business”,it added.
The report also suggested immigration rules threatened firms’ ability to bring in scarce engineering technicians.
UKTI said: “The maintenance of an internationally competitive domestic business environment is fundamental to Government being able to deliver the growth agenda.
“The ability of the UK to attract high value foreign direct investment is central to the ability for growth in the UK.”