Technology companies and IT outsourcers are bringing in staff to the UK at twice the rate of any other industry.

Figures from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies, which represents many IT recruitment firms, claim that almost 30,000 IT professionals came to the UK from outside the European Union last year using intra-company transfers.

This mechanism allows organisations to bring in staff from overseas offices into the UK.

The government’s Migration Advice Committee analysis of the current “points-based” migration criteria, published earlier this month, shows that “IT and telecommunications occupations account for 65 per cent of intra-company transfers, with the cast majority being software professionals, who account for 48 per cent of intra company transfers alone.

“Most of these are for out of country applicants. However, around 20 per cent of IT and telecoms intra-company transfers were for immigrants already in the UK.”

APSCO, the Unite trade union and others have all lobbied the Migration Advisory Committee urging it to make it harder for organisations to bring IT staff into the UK. They cited unemployment among IT professionals in the UK and the need to increase the skill levels of UK workers.

In response, the Migration Advisory Committee has said the rules should remain largely unchanged.

The debate about offshoring and overseas IT staff is likely to intensify as organisations continue to cut back on jobs and training opportunities. At the weekend troubled BT announced it was closing its graduate recruitment scheme.

Commenting on earlier complaints by APSCO about the number of IT professionals coming into the UK, IT HR expert Iain Smith of Diaz Research said, “Those who want to stop foreign IT workers entering the UK are facing a tough job. It is not as simple as upskilling the folk we have here and raising protectionist barriers.

“Just as when a UK company signs an advanced technology contract its engineers travel back and forth to ensure their aircraft engine, or ejector seats, or whatever can be fitted into the airframe, it is unreasonable not to allow foreign workers into the UK.”

Smith said, “One of the subtleties about offshoring IT work is that it brings, onshore, a significant number of foreign workers.

In general, offshore about a hundred jobs’ worth of work and you will find that at least ten (up to around 30) people, employed by the ‘offshore’ company, are needed onshore just to make the offshore teams productive.”

These onshore workers will often be foreign nationals whose value lies as much in their knowledge of offshore teams and processes “back home” as it does in technical expertise, he said.

Indian outsourcer TCS, for example, employs over 5,000 people in the UK and Ireland, while its rival Wipro has over 5,000 employees, plus 10,000 “itinerant employees” (its term), in America, Europe and Japan many of whom are in the UK.