Everything You Need To Know About Tier One Exceptional Tech Talent Scheme banner


Everything You Need To Know About Tier One Exceptional Tech Talent Scheme

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By Teni Shahiean of OTS Solicitors

One could be forgiven for thinking that the United Kingdom does not want any more foreign-born nationals entering its borders, given the enormous amount of media coverage and government press releases dedicated to reducing Immigration.

However, in practice that is far from the truth. The UK wants and needs to attract talented people to its shores to boost its already booming economy in certain areas.

One of the main groups of individuals the UK requires are those with exceptional talent in the technology sector.

Up until now the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa has rarely been used. In the year ending September 2014, only 79 Exceptional Talent Visas were granted, compared with 13,004 Tier 2 General Visas (skilled workers) over the same period.

But the Government is hoping that the amendments to the Immigration Rules, which came into force this week will encourage talented tech migrants to bring their much-needed skills to the UK through the newly announced, Tier 1 Exceptional Tech Talent Scheme.

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa – The Basic Facts

If you have been endorsed as a recognised leader (exceptional talent) or an emerging leader (exceptional promise) in the certain fields, then you may be eligible to enter the UK under a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa. The fields are:

  • Science
  • Humanities
  • Medicine
  • Digital Technology
  • Engineering
  • The Arts

The application is via a two-stage process. Firstly, you must obtain an endorsement from a recognised body that you are an ‘exception talent’ or hold ‘exceptional promise’ in your field. Once you have received this endorsement you can proceed with the visa application.

Your application for endorsement is considered by:

  • Arts Council England
  • British Academy
  • Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Royal Society
  • Tech City UK (Tech Nation)

The UK Home Office releases 500 places under this visa twice a year.

Under the Visa you are entitled to:

Your cannot, however;

  • receive Government benefits
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training
  • work as a professional sportsperson or sports coach

Under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa, you are entitled to stay in the UK for up to five years and four months with the option to extend your Visa on expiry.

Due to the two-stage application process and the complexity of the documentation required to obtain a Tier One Exceptional Talent Visa, it is advisable to seek help from an Immigration lawyer to assist you in planning and submitting your application.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Tech Talent) Scheme - The Beginnings

The technology sector in the UK is growing at a rapid rate. According to latest figures:

  • London has been ranked number one city in Europe for supporting both start-ups and scale-ups in the European Digital City Index according to Tech City UK
  • Tech City UK states that over the next ten years the number of digital technology companies in London is expected to rise to 45,000 and create more than £12 billion of economic activity
  • One in 20 British workers is employed in either IT or telecoms according to the UK Skills Sector Council
  • There are quarter of a million companies in the UK that class themselves as working within the ‘technology sector’, and they have a combined turnover of £328bn according to the Office of National Statistics

In response to this rapid growth, the Conservative Coalition set up a Government Funded, not for profit organisation called Tech City UK in 2010. The mission of this organisation is to support businesses in the technology sector and attract the most talented people from around the globe to come and work in the UK tech industry.

To achieve this, Tech City UK met with various leaders in the UK technology industry to discuss how best to attract new talent to the UK. These consultations resulted in the Tier 1 (Exceptional Tech Talent) Scheme being created which contains four new qualifying criteria.

The new qualifying criteria are:

  • Building UK scale-ups
  • Recognising “exceptional promise.”
  • Powering the Northern Powerhouse
  • Recruiting teams of up to five individuals at any one time.

Building UK Scale-Ups

Once a company has overcome the challenges of the start-up phase, they need to grow according to scale. This requires access to talented employees who can specialise in certain roles to drive the company forward. This new qualifying criteria is designed to assist rapid scale-ups acquire the people they need at the right time and who have skill set the company needs to promote rapid growth.

Recognising Exceptional Promise

Talent in the technology sector is often young, too young to have had the time to demonstrate they have exceptional talent; however, it is clear that the promise is there.

In order to allow companies to select from a wider pool of gifted individuals, the Tier 1 (Exceptional Tech Talent) Scheme will consider applications from individuals who show ‘exceptional promise’ in their chosen field of expertise.

Powering the Northern Powerhouse

To narrow the North/South economic divide, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne created the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ concept, which is designed to grow and capitalise on the North of England’s strong manufacturing, science, technology and service sectors.

To support this aim, the scheme will include a fast-track applications procedure for digital businesses in the seven cities under the Tech North remit (Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Sunderland) who want to hire talent from outside the EU.

Recruiting Teams

Digital companies, especially those in the scale-up phase often need to recruit entire teams of people very quickly to meet demand and/or capitalise on a growth opportunity in an industry where change can happen at lightning speed.

From 12th November 2015, groups of up to five individuals will be able to apply for a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa under the new scheme, a move that will allow technology companies to obtain whole ‘departments’ of talent rather than just one individual at a time.

In Summary

The Tier 1 (Exceptional Tech Talent) Scheme will revolutionise the way the technology sector can attract and obtain the talented individuals it needs to grow. Both employers and individuals wanting to come to the UK to maximise the use of their skills have been provided with a golden opportunity to short-cut much of the red-tape involved in obtaining a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa.

OTS Solicitors is recognised as one of the best Immigration solicitors in London. We can provide both individuals and businesses with the advice needed to take advantage of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Tech Talent) Scheme. To find out more, please call our office on 0207 936 9960 to arrange an appointment with one of our UK Immigration lawyers.

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