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Immigration rulers should welcome City talent

Stuart Fraser
Immigration has hit the news again with word that the Government is considering extending the points-based immigration system, introduced last year for work permit applications, to applications for British citizenship. It is an emotive subject, but getting immigration policy right is important for the success of the City of London and the government needs to consider the issues carefully.<br /><br />Hundreds of languages are spoken in the Square Mile and it is this diversity that allows the City of London to retain its reputation as the world&rsquo;s leading international financial centre. By virtue of its open, meritocratic recruitment practices, City-based firms have always been free to recruit the best person for the job, regardless of their nationality. It is for this reason that the City of London continues to attract the biggest businesses and the top talent from around the world. <br /><br />Any proposals seeking to restrict the ability of companies to employ skilled foreign employees on a long-term, or indeed a short term, basis must be approached with caution.<br /><br />Now more than ever, the City must remain open to new businesses and to new people. Companies choose to be based in London not out of loyalty but because it is an attractive business environment in which to operate. If the City is to retain its reputation for excellence, global businesses need to be certain that they can continue to recruit top employees with a minimum of fuss. <br /><br />We need a clear, transparent immigration system that does not penalise businesses operating in today&rsquo;s international market-place.&nbsp; A confusing system, lacking in transparency, will hurt City businesses, many of whom need to regularly move their staff around the world. Places that are seen to discourage such fluidity cannot expect to attract new business.<br /><br />The City of London Corporation has been facilitating a dialogue between the UK Border Agency, City firms and trade associations on these issues to ensure the UK continues to provide a welcome for the best talent wherever it comes from. This is leading to a better mutual understanding of needs. There is recognition that the City of London must retain its competitiveness in this area because there are plenty of other global financial centres whose governments are actively competing with us to attract talent. Our reputation for excellence will count for nothing, especially in the current climate, if the City is perceived as a hostile business environment with a restrictive attitude towards recruiting skilled workers. <br /><br />If companies cannot easily attract talent from around the globe to come and live and work in London then they will simply do so elsewhere and we will lose them forever &ndash; this cannot be allowed to happen.<br /><br />Stuart Fraser, Chairman of the Policy &amp; Resources Committee at the City of London Corporation.