Business secretary Vince Cable has written to Home Secretary Theresa May, calling for the cap on skilled worker visas she introduced three years ago to be scrapped.
Mr Cable wrote: “I believe the time has come to remove this barrier to British growth.”
Restrictions on skilled workers from outside the EU are now, Mr Cable believes, threatening the UK’s recovery. If businesses are unable to hire the staff they need, he argues, critical roles will remain unfilled at a “crucial time” for the economy.
Businesses protested volubly at Ms May’s decision in 2011 to slash the inflow of economic migrants, arguing that the visa cap was a crude instrument that barred all roles remunerated below £153,500 and prevented them from hiring the most talented and needed engineers, scientists and programmers from around the world at one stroke.
Demand for these visas was relatively low in the first two years after Ms May’s decision; however, applications have accelerated markedly as the economy strengthens and, for the first time since 2011, is on course to break the 20,700 annual limit.
The deputy director-general of the CBI, Katja Hall, insisted that it was “absolutely essential” for flexibility to be introduced to the limit and that the government now needed to re-evaluate its immigration policy.
Speaking to Financial Times journalist Helen Warrel, Ms Hall said: “[These migrants] have skills that we have a shortage of in the UK … so these people are essential to our recovery.”
In the meantime, skilled Umbrella Company employees and others in the UK’s professional contracting community can expect to be in heightened demand for some time to come.