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Visa clampdown on foreign workers 'making it harder for businesses' as wage thresholds rise this week

Raising the salary threshold for foreign workers will make it “much harder” for London businesses struggling to employ skilled staff, experts warned on Wednesday.

The wage required for people arriving in the UK on a Skilled Worker Visa increases to £38,700, from £26,200, on Thursday (April 4).

Ministers hope the new rules will help bring down record levels of immigration to Britain.

But Mark Hilton, policy delivery director at Business LDN, warned that the government should “put the economics before the politics” and work with companies to build a fairer system.

He said: “At a time when businesses in London and across the country are struggling with acute skills shortages, raising the salary threshold at which workers can be recruited from abroad will make it much harder for firms to access the talent they need to drive growth.

“The government should put the economics before the politics by working with businesses on building an immigration system which is flexible, fair and responsive, while also implementing long-term measures that help to boost the domestic pipeline of talent like reforming the apprenticeship levy.”

Last year the government announced a wave of restrictions on people coming to Britain, and their family members, in a bid to bring down legal immigration.

The new rules, which are being implemented in stages, are expected to hit the care and hospitality industries.

Start-ups have also warned they could be impacted by a shortage of skilled staff because of the changes.

Reforms that restrict health workers from bringing family to the UK and require care providers to register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) if they are sponsoring migrants came into force on March 11.

The minimum income threshold for those bringing dependents to the UK on family visas starts on April 11. From this date workers will need to be earning at least £29,000-a-year to bring a family member from abroad - up from £18,600.

Concerns have already been raised about suspected fake companies sponsoring health worker visas after hundreds of licences were reportedly granted to firms that are just a few months old and have no history of providing care.

Kelvin Tanner, immigration partner at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, said: “Despite shortages of skilled workers in many sectors, it will become unviable for businesses to utilise the Skilled Worker visa route to fill certain vacancies with overseas workers.

“This may especially impact small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups and could discourage overseas businesses and entrepreneurs from investing in the UK.”

It comes a poll of 1,200 London firms and found eight in 10 had open vacancies.

The survey, for Business LDN by Survation, found bosses across the capital are set to up their investment in training this year as they face “significant skills gaps” within the workforce, with many still struggling to recruit.

Half of respondents (49 per cent) reported still struggling to fill vacancies (down from 65 per cent last year).

Mr Hilton said that “far too many businesses across the capital are still being held back by chronic skills shortages.”

“The good news is that firms are investing in training and upskilling their existing workforce, but further action is needed to enable them to access the skills they need to grow the economy,” he added.