UK IT skills shortage could be exacerbated by immigration restrictions

The UK government’s decision to raise the earning threshold for UK visas for overseas workers to £38,700 is expected to exclude many foreign IT professionals. This move, which is an increase from the current threshold of £26,200, has caused concern among accountancy provider Integro Accounting. The firm has noted a significant increase in visas issued to web developers and technical support specialists, especially outside of London where IT salaries tend to be lower. According to data obtained from the Home Office, the number of work permits issued to foreign technology professionals reached a five-year high, rising from 39,899 in 2021 to 52,686 in 2022. The biggest increase was seen in the web design and development category, with work permits issued increasing by 76%. This trend can be attributed to the end of the Brexit transition period in January 2021, which resulted in EU citizens becoming subject to the same points-based immigration system as non-EU workers. The managing director of Integro Accounting, Christian Hickmott, expressed concerns about the UK’s shortage of tech talent and the increasing reliance on foreign IT professionals to fill this gap. He also highlighted the impact of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the off-payroll working rules, which have accelerated the retirement of many IT professionals. Hickmott explained that the raised salary threshold for work visas is likely to exclude certain tech occupations, particularly those that have seen a sharp increase in visas issued over the past year, such as web developers and technical support specialists. This could have a significant impact, especially for roles outside of London. The points-based immigration system, introduced in 2020, has faced criticism from industry figures who argue that it raises more questions than answers. Trade body TechUK has welcomed the focus on STEM talent in the policy statement but has raised concerns about the lack of clarity regarding the assessment of English language skills and the reliance on salary as an indicator of skill.

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