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Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa – UK tech Sector’s Secret Weapon

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No industry is more concerned about Brexit than the burgeoning UK technology sector. Yesterday, Nine UK venture capitalists and entrepreneurs penned a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May with their recommendations to maintain the UK's strong position in the global tech industry, including persistent concerns over access to talent post-Brexit.

Regarding skilled migration, the letter states:

“The visas of skilled tech workers from strong tech nations (USA, India, Commonwealth, Eastern Europe) need to be preserved post-Brexit.

* It is essential that British universities remain an attractive place to study for non-British and British citizens alike.

* To that end we would like the UK government to implement a “STEM Passport.”

* Ensure the UK is open and welcoming toward skilled workers; is still able to recruit the best skills and entrepreneurial talent across Europe, with minimal barriers to movement; and that existing migrant workers are allowed to stay and continue to work in the UK. The UK professional developer population is currently the largest in Europe, at 745,000 out of 4.7 million (Atomico research) and is the No.1 destination for inbound tech talent (Balderton research).

* The UK government should take a zero tolerance policy approach to hate crime, sending a signal to our diverse workforce that all are welcome.

The No. 1 concern for entrepreneurs post-Brexit is access to talent, in particular technical talent. Hiring through existing visa processes is timely and expensive. Quotas on specific skills could severely limit the ability of new tech companies to grow, as well as limit the ability of British skilled students to learn alongside other global experts.

We must give STEM graduates from leading universities an instant qualifying visa to live and work in the UK, and end the uncertainty where they must leave and later re-apply.

This would:

* Ensure that fast-growing tech companies can continue to hire the best talent quickly.

* Continue to make the UK’s universities highly attractive to study at for STEM subjects, as students will not fear being forced to instantly leave the country after graduation. The UK already has many of the world’s leading computer science institutions, including Oxford, Imperial, UCL, Edinburgh and Cambridge.

* The government should look again at whether linking visa applications with the requirement to attain capital investment is the best way to retain skilled talent.

* Plug a skill gap in STEM present in the UK while more investment is made into education in this space.

* The government could create an ‘easy win’ with the promotion of a scheme to make awards to young brilliant engineers to relocate to the UK. This would send the right signals to the world and help to avoid any ‘brand damage’ done by recent government rhetoric around Immigration.”

The letter comes alongside news in late November that applications for the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa have increased since the EU referendum, with Tech City, the endorsing body for issuing the visa stating they have received over 200 applications since June. A quarter of the applications are coming from the US and Immigration solicitors are expecting this to increase with the best and brightest fleeing the US following the Trump presidency.

Skills gap becoming costly

The skills gap faced by the IT sector is currently costing the UK £63bn per year in lost GDP. Additionally, a PwC report has found that 73% of UK companies consider a shortage in digital expertise one of the biggest challenges to expansion.

There is a major concern throughout the sector that Brexit could cost Britain’s position as the number one tech hub in Europe and further exacerbate the issue of talent shortage.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa – a way to access desperately needed skills

Immigration lawyers are increasingly receiving calls from some of the best and most highly-qualified IT professionals in the world who want to move to the UK to expand their career opportunities. The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa is very attractive as it is granted for five years, after which, applicants can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, provided they meet the criteria. Applicants can also come to the UK on a self-employed basis. This affords business owners the opportunity to hire them as sub-contractors, a big advantage for start-ups who are not ready to risk taking on an employee.

For applicants to successfully apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa they need to show:

  • A proven track-record in the tech industry, either as the founder of a tech company or an employee working in a new and innovative field; or
  • Proof that things you have done outside of your main job have contributed to the advancement of the tech sector

You must also meet two out of four of the following criteria:

  • You have made a significant contribution to the tech sector as an entrepreneur, founder or director of an organisation;
  • You are recognised as a global talent in the digital industry;
  • Have continuously learnt or mastered a new digital skill during your career;
  • Made a significant contribution to the industry through academic research

Your application can also be fast tracked if you are planning to work in some regions in the North of England, if you have skills that are in short supply in Britain or are a part of a team of five or more.

The UK tech industry desperately needs talented workers from around the world to grow and hold onto its place a tech super-hub.

If you are looking to move to the UK to work in the ever-growing technology market, then OTS Solicitors can fast-track your application process and ensure your application is made correctly. Widely regarded as one of the best Immigration law firms in London, we have assisted hundreds of employees and entrepreneurs gain entry into the UK, so they can fulfil their career ambitions. To find out how we can help you, please phone us on 0203 959 9123 to make an appointment with one of our team.

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