According to ‘Worlds Apart: Making the immigration system work for London businesses’, a recently published report by London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), the current visa system does not work for London business and threatens to put a brake on the economic recovery. 

For the last three successive quarters, more than half of London's businesses looking to recruit struggled to find the skilled staff they needed, and firms are turning to overseas workers.

However, claims that the London labour market is flooded with migrant workers are simply untrue. New research conducted for LCCI found that only 33% of the capital's firms employ non-UK workers, with only 16% employing workers from outside the EEA. While there are relatively few non-UK staff employed in the capital, their contribution to London's economic success cannot be overstated. 

Pat Saini, head of the Penningtons Manches immigration team, who contributed to the LCCI report, said: “Skills shortages have increased as an issue for firms as the economy has improved. This year we have processed more visas and sponsor licences than the year before. The number of companies hiring apprentices has increased but, for the technology sector in particular, it will take years for these learners to plug the skills gap.” 

Penningtons Manches supports the LCCI’s recommendations to the Government to change the system which include to: 

  • simplify rules for work visas - there are currently at least 13 different routes for work visas for non-EEA migrants; in comparison there are four routes for visitors. The system is so complex that many firms are seeking costly legal advice simply to fill out forms, to ensure they comply with the rules of the system. The system needs to be simplified and made easier to navigate online. 
  • approve and license third party sponsors as this could reduce costs and the administrative burden on small businesses. A Certificate of Sponsorship typically costs £2,000 per employee and tailored support from the Home Office costs £8,000. Reform Resident Labour Market Test - businesses currently have to advertise roles through JobCentre Plus, even if it's not relevant to advertise vacancies through this method. Instead, businesses should be required to advertise roles in two relevant publications for 28 days. 
  • address the arbitrary cap on numbers - the Government should review the cap on the numbers of staff that can be recruited in certain areas and consider introducing regional variations, as London businesses are more likely to require international skilled staff than other areas of the UK. 
  • task the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the Shortage Occupation List and consider introducing regional variations where there are pronounced shortages of specific skills. 

Click here to view the ‘Worlds apart – Making the immigration system work for London businesses’ survey report.