A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed a 32% rise in visas issued to overseas IT workers to come to the UK.

The increase of some 25,000 UK IT work permits issued last year took the total tally to 33,756 said the Home Office agency, Work Permits UK in response to a request from the Association of Technology Staffing Companies (ATSCo)

But a large majority (79%) were issued to staff from India, a 47% increase during the last year.

Ann Swain, CEO of Atsco, said: "This is being driven by cheap labour costs, not necessarily skills shortages within the UK. The Home Office should vet applications much more thoroughly but it needs additional resources."

The overall level of overseas IT skills imports has also experienced dramatic growth over the last decade, as the equivalent total figures also for 1996 figures totalled only 1,827.

Swain echoed the criticisms of unions including Amicus that outsourcing is stifling the domestic IT jobs market: "The irony is that while low-skilled IT jobs are being shipped to India, highly skilled Indian IT professionals are coming to the UK to take up managerial roles."