Fewer foreign IT workers head to UK

More than 35,000 non-EU IT workers were allowed to enter the UK to work last year, according to new statistics.

The only country in the top 10 to see an increase was the US, which saw five per cent more non-European IT workers move to the UK to work, according to statistics obtained by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) from the Home Office under the Freedom of Information Act.

The top country by far is India, making up nearly 83 per cent. The UK government gave out 29,400 work visas to Indians last year, down seven per cent, but still well above the 1,635 Americans who made the move.

China, Australia and South Africa rounded out the top five, despite all seeing double digit drops see below for the full list.

While the total number of non-EU IT-related work visas awarded is down eight per cent on the year before to 35,430, it's still three times more than the number given out during the boom times in 2000, APSCo stressed.

"It seems crazy that with the economy in a severe downturn and thousands of IT workers having already lost their jobs we are still bringing three times as many foreign IT workers to the UK than during the dot com boom when we had a chronic skills shortage," said chief executive Ann Swain, in a statement.

She noted that 80 per cent of non-European tech workers are moving to the UK on intra-company transfers. Swain called for the government to force firms to hire from the UK labour market first, especially given recent layoffs.

The top ten non-EU countries for IT work visa approvals for 2008:

India 29,400 (down seven per cent on year)

US 1,635 (up five per cent)

China 510 (down 10 per cent)

Australia 475 (down 19 per cent)

South Africa 430 (down 16 per cent)

Pakistan 280 (down 15 per cent)

Canada 230 (down 12 per cent)

Malaysia 215 (down nine per cent)

Japan 165 (down 20 per cent)

Russia 165 (down 11 per cent)