The graduate recruitment immigration headache

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As if securing a position on an investment banks' graduate scheme wasn't difficult enough, the UK's points-based immigration system is providing an extra stumbling block for students applying from outside the EU. And, we understand, banks are having to reduce their quota of non-Europeans as a result.

The new points-based immigration system was introduced last year in a bid to both safeguard jobs for British workers and to make it easier for those with skill-sets in short supply locally to make it through UK borders.

"An employer wishing to issue a certificate of sponsorship to an employee outside the EU is now subject to stringent record keeping requirements, so if they're audited they can justify why they issued these, rather than tapping the resident labour market," says Caron Pope, head of immigration at law firm CMS Cameron McKenna.

According to recent reports, the new system is leading to bottlenecks in graduate recruitment, internships and training schemes. And, the i-banking graduate recruiters we spoke to said they'd been forced to restrict non-EU candidates to around 10% of the total intake this year.

Pope adds: "If firms want to offer a position to somebody from outside the EU, they essentially have to prove that nobody else is right for the role apart from this individual. Clearly, this is difficult when you're a graduate without a huge body of experience or specific skills behind you."

But, in this day and age, it's impractical for internationally-focused firms like investment banks to be so restricted in the types of people they're able to take on, so they are likely to address this in the long-term.

Pope tells us that most large multi-national firms are registering with the UK Border Agency - the government entity which controls immigration - to sponsor of migrant workers. In practice, this means firms will have to jump through more regulatory loopholes, such as stricter record-keeping around HR practices and restrictions on where they can place job ads. However, most would be willing to do this in order to recruit the right candidates.

The current problem, though, is the lack of clarity around exactly what the rules are.

Neil Carberry, CBI head of employment policy, told the Financial Times: "There is growing frustration that rules are getting changed pretty much on a weekly basis; and there is frustration about visa delays."

"In previous years we have focused on language skills around and knowledge of emerging markets, particularly Russia and the Middle East," adds one head of graduate recruitment at an international investment bank. "The new laws have limited this somewhat."

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