UK Politics

Jobs for which no EU workers could be found

Circus performers at the Millennium Dome
Image caption Circus performers like these were among those granted work permits

Britain has never felt like a country short of public relations people and personnel officers - or journalists for that matter.

But new immigration figures suggest some companies believe it is, and they have been looking to non-EU countries to fill vacancies.

Much of the controversy about non-EU immigration in recent years has centred on the thousands of IT workers who come from India each year on "intra-company" transfers.

Trade bodies have accused multinationals of importing cheap IT contractors to do jobs that could be done by UK-based staff - something denied by the companies themselves.

But a new list issued by the government of "certificates of sponsorship", which non-EU migrants must have before they can apply for a visa, reveals it is not just IT workers companies have been scouring the world for.

The Home Office data reveals 139,150 "certificates of sponsorship" have been granted since the points-based immigration system came into effect in November 2008.

'High-powered professions'

Many of these are in jobs covered by the official shortage occupation list, such as doctors and engineers.

But many others are not, including 34,365 IT-related workers.

There are dozens of other job categories on the list, including 1,285 fitness trainers, 490 personnel officers, 335 advertising and public relations executives, 100 journalists, 30 hairdressing and beauty salon managers, 30 psychologists, 15 estate agents or auctioneers and five librarians.

Companies can recruit new workers from outside the EU only if they are on the shortage list or if they have been unable to find anyone suitable after advertising in the UK - the so-called "resident labour market test".

But Conservative MP James Clappison, who obtained the figures through a Parliamentary question, believes some companies are exploiting the "intra-company" transfer rule to get round these restrictions.

"If you look at people who are coming in, they are meant to be in high-powered professions, but there a lot of jobs people in this country could do," he told BBC News.

He has questioned whether the rules, which state that someone must have been working for a company for at least six months before they can be transferred, are being bent.

'Polo grooms'

Proposals to make firms advertise vacancies in the EU before bringing in workers through "intra-company" transfers, as part of an immigration cap planned for April, have provoked howls of protest from industry.

The CBI has warned that companies will relocate to other countries, costing British jobs and harming the economic recovery.

Other ideas put out for consultation by government include restricting immigration from outside the EU to official shortage occupations only - something fiercely resisted by industry.

A separate list, also obtained by Mr Clappison through a Parliamentary question, reveals the number of work permits issued to migrants from Bulgaria and Romania since the points-based system came into effect.

These include 1,200 catering managers and 520 software engineers, as well as more exotic professions such as 380 polo grooms, 50 polo players, 15 circus artistes and five disc jockeys.

In total 17,920 work permits were issued to migrants from Bulgaria and Romania over the period covered by the figures.

Unlike other EU citizens, people from Bulgaria and Romania must apply for permission to work in the UK, under curbs brought in to protect British jobs.

The points-based system was introduced by the previous Labour government as part of immigration changes, after claims immigration was out of control.

It was kept on by the new coalition government and remains the only point of entry to the UK labour market over which the government exercises any significant control.

Any citizen of an EU country, with the exception of Romania and Bulgaria, is free to live and work in the UK.

But the Home Office stresses that a work permit does not guarantee migrants will be allowed to live and work in the UK - they must pass other tests first.

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