2015 19 AUG
Government plans to review UK immigration policies could negatively affect perceptions of business in the UK
Government plans to review the UK's current immigration policies and restrict them further will affect outside perceptions of the UK as a start-up nation and attractive place to work for foreign workers, Guy Levin, former government advisor and Coadec executive director, tells IT Pro.
Levin, who is behind the save skilled migration campaign against the proposed review of the Tier 2 visa used by migrants of the EU to apply to work in the UK, said the response from start-ups has been huge, with many of the 120 respondents to date worried that significant changes could spell trouble for the growth of UK business.
"If the UK wants to be one of the leading digital economies in the world, I think we need to be having talented men and women from around the world come and support that," he said. "The response has been overwhelming in terms of the negative impact that restricting Tier 2 further would have on people individually.
"People saying 'I could lose my job' and companies saying they'd have to restructure or not be able to make as many job offers as they'd been hoping to."
The government is reviewing plans with the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), a group of independent economists, discussing plans to raise the salary threshold, restrict roles that are eligible under the visa, limit the time a role can be classed as a role with a skills shortage and restrict the rights of dependents.
"I wouldn't say people in the UK aren't talented and therefore we have to bring people in from outside to replace them, but I think these are often very fast-growing areas where bringing in people from outside the UK can actually often help increase UK domestic skills," he continued. "Having an external perspective of another country is often a very positive thing."
But the changes could also negatively impact the UK economy due to the damage done to international perspective, deterring talented foreign workers from choosing the country over others.
He said: "A lot of people also talk about the cultural thing -- being open, how we're perceived internationally and the impact that being overly restricted could have on perceptions of the UK as a tough place to go. If you're that talented MIT computer scientist or Harvard MBA graduate, where are you going to go to work, set up a start-up or work for a high-grade company?"
Damian Kimmelman, CEO of start-up DueDil, told IT Pro: "It is a huge advantage for UK companies that our visa policy allows us to hire from all over the world - it's one of the reasons why I'm building a business here. We would love to employ more British workers, but in some key, highly-skilled technical fields - like data science - the talent just isn't available, so we need to look abroad to fill many of these roles and grow our company.
"If we want to build a strong, competitive tech sector in the UK, companies like us need to be able to bring in the best international talent."
Acknowledging that the government is in a tough situation balancing public concerns about the rising pace of immigration and worries now being raised by UK start-ups, Levin states that restrictions brought in by the previous government are already having an impact.
"Given that the UK government has been so pro-tech and the Prime Minster said in the election campaign that he wanted the UK to be 'the start-up nation of Europe' and one of the start-up nations of the world, part of that is being open to international talent," he said.
"I think this is generally seen as a big issue within the community, it's a very diverse international community and I think that's one of the things that makes it so strong."
The review will take place over the next few months, going to government in mid-December. Levin hopes to organise a roundtable with MPs and supporters of the campaign in the near future, he told IT Pro, as well as an open letter....