Immigration red tape deters investors
A stream of ‘excessive and onerous’ restrictions on immigration risks making the UK an unattractive destination for overseas investors, lawyers have warned.
In the week that David Cameron (pictured) launched an Olympics-based campaign to secure inward investment, the Independent newspaper reported that a UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) report found migration rules to be by far the biggest concern of foreign companies contemplating setting up in the UK. Some 50% of potential investors told the UKTI that immigration laws were their primary concern, compared with 13% who cited tax and 10% red tape.
Concerns listed by UKTI included problems obtaining visas for prospective workers, particularly from India, and the need for fluency in English for skilled employees. Companies also cited new rules governing intra-company transfers.
Nicolas Rollason, an immigration partner at City firm Kingsley Napley, said that potential investors have complained to him that the Home Office is imposing new restrictions every six months. ‘They say that they don’t want the doors being continually slammed on them. They want reassurance that they can work within the UK system and that the system is not going to get progressively worse,’ Rollason said. ‘But it’s politics.’
Sophie Barrett-Brown, a partner at City immigration firm Laura Devine and chair of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association, said the government regarded immigration as a ‘numbers game’ and threw ‘excessive and onerous’ obstacles in the path of individuals and companies, such as 70-page application forms and 200-page sponsors’ guidance notes.
She said: ‘The government wants to deter people from even applying to enter the country, but at the same time claims that it wants to encourage inward investment from overseas.’