A focus group study of over 50 immigration professionals working across the sector commissioned by recruitment specialist JAM has revealed that:

– Asia is the most popular talent hunting ground for UK organisations

– Skills shortages in the UK are the primary driver behind demand for immigration services

– Increased legislation is making the jobs of immigration professionals more difficult

Three quarters of the panel, which included solicitors, consultants and paralegals, said that the UK’s acute skills shortage was likely to be the main driver behind demand for  immigration consultancy services over the next 18 months, with just a quarter of panellists believing that growth in the UK economy would lead to a requirement for imported talent.

The panel also revealed that economic uncertainty is the greatest challenge facing the sector, with over half of those taking part identifying this as a major issue. Staying abreast of changes to Government legislation was also recognised as a major challenge for immigration professionals with a quarter saying this often proved difficult

The fluidity of the jobs market in the industry was also indicated by the experiences of the focus group.  Three quarters of the focus group had more than five years of experience, with a quarter having more than ten years in the sector. However, over a third had been in their current position for less than a year, with further quarter having been in their current position for less than two years, showing that frequent job moves are the norm.

In line with this, half of the focus group said they are considering leaving their current job at the moment, with increased salaries and improved development opportunities identified as the main impetus behind these moves.

The immobility of the UK workforce was identified as a reason why UK employers frequently need to source talent from abroad, with over three quarters of the focus group agreeing that workers from overseas were more willing to relocate to the areas of the UK where there are critical skills shortages than UK-born workers.

Similarly, almost half stated that the feedback they had received from clients suggested that there aren’t enough young people coming out the UK’s universities with the skills that the UK economy needs.

Other continents seem to be more adept at producing workers with the skills that the UK economy requires. More than three quarters of the focus group identified Asia as the area from which they most often procured candidates, with North America and the Middle East the next most popular sources of talent.

Immigration consultancy was also revealed to be a very Southern specialism, with over three quarters of the group based in London and the South East.

Matt Reaney, Director at JAM Recruitment said: “Our survey clearly shows that within the immigration services sector there no shortage of job offers for the most talented candidates.

“Tightening immigration rules will present further challenges for the sector to overcome, but with such demand for international talent to be brought to the UK in order to plug significant skills gaps, we’re anticipating that the sector will go from strength to strength.”