Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

U.K. Skilled-Worker Visa Cap Beginning to Bite, CBI Warns

A cap on the number of highly skilled foreign workers British companies can employ has begun to bite, the Confederation of British Industry said.

As part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to reduce immigration, his government has set an annual limit of 20,700 people who can enter on its so-called Tier 2 visa, intended for highly skilled overseas workers who have been offered a job in Britain.

CBI Director-General John Cridland said British companies have already been told that July’s quota has been reached even though the month is only halfway through. They were also told in June that they couldn’t get visas for people they wanted to employ because the monthly cap had been hit.

“I understand the need of government to tackle public concerns about immigration,” Cridland told reporters in London Wednesday. “But I don’t think the public is concerned about skilled workers helping the economy.”

Cameron’s efforts to meet a promise -- repeated in the campaign for May’s election -- to get annual net immigration down to 100,000 have been hampered by European Union free-movement rules. To compensate, the government has made it harder for people to move to Britain from outside the EU.

Cridland also warned against any attempt to limit workers moving to Britain on inter-company transfers, currently exempt from the cap, and against an idea floated by Business Secretary Sajid Javid of making it harder for foreign students to stay in Britain once they’ve finished their courses.

He said the CBI had complaints from around 20 “significant” companies about visas being refused.

“A cap that worked in a recession wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate in a recovery,” said his deputy, Katja Hall.

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