Record number of foreign techies get work permits

Fears of the drawbridge of EU techies being pulled up due to Brexit seem to have compelled UK employers to go all out for IT talent from further afield.

In fact, despite an already 28% drop in applications from the EU, and a near 30% cut in offers to such candidates, the number of work permits issued to IT workers outside the EU is soaring.

In the 12 months of 2016, the permits hit a record 36,015, representing the fifth year in a row that they have shot up, said SJD Accountancy, which obtained official data from the Home Office.

It means that the permits to bring non-EU workers into the UK to fill openings in IT are more numerous now than at any time since the system was introduced.

“Despite attempts to rectify the UK’s historic underproduction of IT skills, we are more reliant on foreign talent than we were before the recession,” said SJD, a tax adviser to technology companies.

“With Brexit likely to severely restrict access to tech talent from EU countries, the UK will become [even] more reliant on non-EU IT professionals”.

The 36,000-plus technology roles filled last year by the overseas, non-EU techies were described by Derek Kelly, SJD’s chief executive, as “diverse.” 

But business analysts, system designers, web designers and development specialists led in the demand stakes, he said.

The Home Office dataset comes after SJD found that the chunk of IT contractors earning £500 a day or more has risen from 39% to 42% over the past 12 months, seemingly because competition for sought-after temporary IT skills is driving rates upwards.

“The likelihood is that freedom of movement between the EU and the UK will be curtailed, which could exacerbate skills shortages in the tech sector,” Mr Kelly said.

“The government is under political pressure to reduce net migration, and is exploring ways to financially penalise employers who bring in non-EU talent, so we need to do more to nurture homegrown skills.”

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