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Government claims on immigration ignore IT industry

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The UK's points based immigration system is ignoring the increase in intra-company transfers and failing to recognise people with real skills and business experience who lack paper qualifications, according to a Home Affairs Committee report.

The government has released proposals on the UK's application system for citizenship at the same time as the Home Affairs Committee published its investigation into the system.

The MPs found that the system failed to adequately credit would-be immigrants who have business experience, but do not have MBAs. The report said: "it seems spurious that a Master's graduate fresh from university on their first job should qualify as a 'highly-skilled migrant' under Tier 1, whereas a businessperson of 25 years' global experience and earnings of hundreds of thousands of pounds but without a Master's degree would not.".

The Home Affairs Committee also questioned whether there are enough biometric centres in some areas, notably in west Africa.

The committee also looked specifically at the IT and communications business. It said it received conflicting evidence from Indian firms, in support of intra-company transfers, versus contractors' groups, which claimed such moves were costing UK jobs. The MPs said that the fact that intra-company transfers went up by 47 per cent between 2004 and 2008 suggested the route is being used disproportionately.

The report said that because intra-company transfers give so much scope to companies: "We therefore conclude that urgent and rigorous investigation is needed into the intra-company transfer and possible abuses of this route, and agree that, at the very least, more stringent tests of company-specific knowledge may be required." The Migration Advisory Committee is already looking at this issue.

The committee questioned whether updating the list of skills in short supply every six months was often enough, given the fast changing job market.

In related news, ministers used the Sunday papers to announce changes to citizenship tests, including moves to restrict probationary citizens' right to protest. Home Office minister Phil Woolas said the changes aimed to break the link between temporary immigration and citizenship.

Home Office minister Phil Woolas told the BBC this morning that would-be citizens should be expected to show more obedience to the state than those who are already citizens. He said: "If we're asking new citizens to swear an oath of allegiance, it is right that we should define that."

Asked if he was telling applicants for British passports 'you can have one, and once you have one, you can demonstrate as much as you like but until then don't?'

Woolas said: "In essence, yes. The test that applies to the citizen should be broader than that which applies to the would-be citizens."

Woolas is also proposing language tests for spouses wishing to come to the UK.

The Home Affairs Committee report is available here, and the Home Office citizenship proposals are here.

The current UK practice citizenship test is here. It includes questions on how many parliamentary constituencies there are, the year women were granted the right to divorce and the correct definition of a "quango". ®

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