02 November 2012

Government 'shooting itself in the foot' with harsh UK immigration policies, says former civil service chief

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Sir Gus O'Donnell, who stepped down as Head of the Civil Service until last year, says current UK immigration policies are 'a big barrier to growth' and more needs to be done to ensure skilled workers can move to the UK.

UK visa

Sir Gus O'Donnell has accused the Goverment of 'shooting itself in the foot' when it comes to UK visa and immigration policy.

The current coalition Government has made significant changes to UK visa and immigration policies in recent months in an attempt to bring net migration to the UK down to the 'tens of thousands' as promised in the Conservative Party's election manifesto.

These changes have included the removal of post study work rights for graduating international students, introduction of application caps in certain visa categories and the introduction of salary thresholds for those wanting to bring partners or spouses to the UK.

However, Sir Gus claims the policies are hindering the country's economy as it struggles to shake off the after effects of an economic disaster.

"The first thing that the Government can do to help growth is to stop shooting itself in the foot," Sir Gus wrote in The Times. "A big barrier to growth is an immigration policy that deprives the UK of skilled workers in certain disciplines."

The former civil service chief comes after Conservative peer Lord Heseltine urged ministers to take another look at the benefits British businesses can have by hiring foreign workers.

Lord Heseltine said 'regulations relating to immigration policy should be reviewed'.

"Lord Heseltine, while at pains to avoid criticising the Government, clearly sympathises with the difficulties that businesses face in recruiting these workers," wrote Sir Gus.

"We cannot restate often enough that UK has benefited from being an open economy which welcomes foreign investment," urging the Government to "stop the meaningless jargon and concentrate on making our bureaucracy fit for the 21st century."

Marissa Murdock, casework manager at the UK Visa Bureau, says the Government's constant refrain of reducing immigration and tackling abuse demonstrates a commitment to the wrong priority.

"Concern that the country's population growth rates are unsustainable is perfectly reasonable and logical and abuse of the system is a genuine threat," said Ms Murdock.

"But the focus should be placed on how can people coming in help the UK, rather than keeping as many as possible out."


The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.

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