The number of foreign IT professionals taking up work in the UK under special visas has increased tenfold in the past 10 years, according to figures from the Home Office.
Some 22,000 foreign IT workers entered the UK last year, compared to 1,827 in 1995. The increase is the biggest in the past three years, driven largely by the need to provide staffing for large public sector contracts.
The bulk of the workers (85 per cent) come from India, and the US is the second largest at five per cent.
IT is now the second most popular profession for work permit allocation after nursing.
The rise in Indian workers is thought to have been stimulated by the outsourcing industry which is supplying staff based in India as well as relocating workers to the UK to meet local needs.
According to pay monitoring firm PayScale, an experienced software programmer in India receives an average annual salary of £6,600 compared to around £33,000 in the UK.
James Smith, senior business manager at recruitment firm MSB International, said: " These figures are not surprising. We have seen a definite increase in the number of people with permits coming to us.
"The impact is that some clients are attracted by the possibility of getting cheaper staff, but some are not because they do not consider that such applicants have enough project experience.
"What is clear is that the large number of government and public sector IT projects has pushed up demand. Some of those projects are on very tight budgets so they see the attraction of using cheaper staff."
In the US this practice has been dubbed 'onshore offshoring' and has led to a heated debate about its impact on resident IT staffers.
After something of a backlash during the past three years US visas for temporary jobs were reduced from 195,000 to 65,000 in 2003.
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