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Auto sector could suffer from migrant worker cap

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has called for intra-company transfers to be excluded from government’s migration limits.

The motor industry body is concerned that capping the number of highly skilled migrants could weaken competitiveness of the UK and .

The SMMT warned that limiting intra-company transfers through caps, lottery allocations or more stringent eligibility requirements will harm the operations of global companies, such as those represented in the UK automotive sector.

Carmakers frequently shuffle senior managers between national sales companies and manufacturing plants in order to progress their careers.

The SMMT says knowledge and skills transfer is essential in contributing to low carbon growth, and could diminish the attractiveness of the UK as a place to do business.

“Highly skilled employees transferred to work within the UK automotive industry are essential to maintaining and improving our global productivity and competitiveness,” said SMMT chief executive, Paul Everitt.

“Industry is concerned that the inclusion of intra-company transfers could impact on the attractiveness of the UK as a location for inward investment and undermine the UK’s role in an increasingly global economy.”

In July, the Home Office imposed a temporary limit on non-EU migrant workers, which will limit workers to 24,100 from June 2010 to April 2011.

The interim limit caps highly skilled workers through raising eligibility requirements under the points based system, as well as limiting the number of sponsorship certificates for tier two skilled workers, which is the category intra-company transferees fall under.

The Home Office says that the interim measure will reduce tier two migrants by 1,300 in this period. Government has since produced a consultation on how a permanent cap could be implemented.

Government’s consultation, lead by the UK Border Agency, closed on 17 September and SMMT has written to immigration minister Damian Green MP to raise its concerns.

Permanent limits on non-EU economic migration, as proposed in government’s coalition agreement, are due to be put in place by 1 April 2011.

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