CityUK calls for visa-free access for highly skilled workers for short-term contracts

·3-min read
Group of young start-up entrepreneurs having meeting in an unofficial office. They are having a discussion and talking about their achievements.
Firms are seeing significant increases in their costs when it comes to securing high-skilled talent. Photo: Getty Images

TheCityUK is urging the UK government to come up with innovative ways to allow foreigners to enter the country to complete short-term work without a work visa, if it wants businesses to remain competitive on the global stage.

"To ensure the continued competitiveness of the UK as a financial centre, UK policymakers need to ensure that its businesses enjoy unrivalled access to the most important source of future growth available: the best of global talent," a joint report from TheCityUK, EY and the City of London Corporation said.

The report has found that nine months on from the introduction of the UK’s 2021 immigration system, financial and related professional services firms are seeing significant increases in their costs when it comes to securing high-skilled talent.

“While real progress has been made in removing unnecessary barriers and expanding the immigration routes available to skilled talent, businesses continue to struggle with process related issues,” the report said.

It added that skilled, multinational and multilingual workers are key to the success of the industry on the global stage and that in many cases, minor tweaks to the UK’s current mobility framework “could go a long way”.

“To stay competitive, we must have the best global talent. Without it, we will not be able to innovate in key growth areas like fintech or green finance, nor build out our international trading networks,” said Miles Celic, TheCityUK’s CEO.

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“The UK must strive harder to modernise its immigration processes, reducing the burden of red-tape and increasing its flexibility and adaptiveness to business needs.”

The report calls for the UK to create a hybrid short-term business visa to allow employees to enter for "short-term productive activity". This includes negotiating reciprocal hybrid short-term business visa streams with trade partners.

It also said the government should negotiate improved commitments around immigration requirements in free trade agreements, with a "clear, standardised and reciprocal list of permissible and prohibited activities."

Included in its recommendations is to bring diversity, equity and inclusion reporting into quarterly migration statistics.

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, said, “the UK’s ability to access deep pools of highly skilled and talented workers is at the heart of its competitive advantage."

"To preserve this position in financial and professional services, we should continue to welcome highly skilled immigration while at the same time supporting the domestic talent pipeline.”

Meanwhile the UK has said it will issue up to 10,500 short-term, temporary work visas to lorry drivers and poultry workers to ease labour shortages. The move is a U-turn on its post-Brexit immigration policy. 

The visas will run from October until December. The country is struggling as a huge shortfall in drivers hits fuel supplies as well as other industries.

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