Business groups have called on the government to scrap its planned increase in visa fees for migrant workers, arguing the change will make it harder to deal with ongoing labour shortages.
In a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, John Dickie, chief executive of lobby group BusinessLDN, urged the government to rethink the move.
“At a time when businesses face a difficult economic outlook and are struggling with significant skills gaps, this measure undermines our competitiveness when it comes to attracting top talent compared to other countries,” Dickie wrote in the letter, according to a report by the Financial Times.
Dickie added that the government should “reassess this measure and consider the impact of the proposed changes on [the] UK’s businesses and the economy”.
Under the government’s plan, the cost of a three-year skilled-worker visa would increase from £1,235 to £1,480. The annual immigration health surcharge is set to shoot up by 66 per cent to £1,035.
“It’s an uncalled for tax on small and medium sized businesses,” James Watkins, head of policy and public impact at London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told City A.M.
“We need skilled workers to develop the capital’s economy going forward,” he said, adding that “the visa regime should fit the needs of the business community”.
Watkins said the move was also “counter intuitive” to the government’s ambition to build a ‘Global Britain’.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “It is right and fair to increase the Immigration Health Surcharge and visa application fees so we can fund vital public services and allow wider funding to contribute to public sector pay.”