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ATSCO, the lobby group for temp agencies, says 22,000 "foreign" IT staff were given visas to work in the UK in the last year.

Atsco defines "foreign" as outside the EC, and Indian workers made up 85 per cent of successful visa applications between June 2004 and June 2005. In second place is the US with 1,081 successful applicants.

The group said the figures showed movement of jobs was now a two-way process - some low-paid jobs are still being offshored to India but equally some high-paying jobs in the UK are being filled by foreign staff being brought "onshore". Atsco said the figures were the first evidence in the UK of multinational companies recruiting workers in low cost markets and transferring them to high cost markets.

Ann Swain, chief executive of Atsco, said: "Skills shortages continue to be a major pull factor in bringing foreign IT workers to the UK, but the concern is that some organisations may be taking advantage of the visa system to import cheap labour from abroad."

The figures were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from Work Permits UK - the Home Office department which grants visas.

Atsco believes the number of Indian staff coming to the UK on intra-company transfers has also risen in recent years.®

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