UK Innovator & Startup visa discussions held with tech firms

Sanwar Ali comment:

UK innovator visa and Start-Up visa need to be made much easier and many more visas need to be made available.  Perhaps tens of thousands of visas.  Not just 1,000 plus visas.  Even if you include the allocation of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas the total number will probably not be more than about 3,000 to 4,000 UK visas.  Are these UK visa categories there so that the Government can pretend that they want more technology people and entrepreneurs into the UK and so hopefully avoid criticism from industry? 

The US while also having a very restrictive immigration system, is in some respects much more accessible.  For example, the US E2 visa, L1 visa and E1 visa allow entry and there is no quota. There is also no restriction on ownership compared to the Tier 2 General Visa which in most cases is restricted to ownership of up to ten percent in the UK company.

On June 13, UK immigration minister Caroline Nokes met with tech firms and start-ups to discuss the future UK immigration system. As part of the discussions, Nokes outlined the vision for the new, recently launched UK innovator and start-up visa programmes.

The immigration minister, alongside Margot James, the minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, co-chaired a discussion group held with tech entrepreneurs and industry professionals. Talks centred on how the new UK immigration system can support Britain’s tech sector growth.

During the meeting, Nokes said: “The UK has the most successful tech sector in Europe and London alone is home to thousands of start-ups. I want to make sure that Britain remains a top destination for tech talent.”

As part of government efforts to attract leading international talent to the UK, the Home Office launched the new start-up visa and innovator visa a few weeks ago.

Leaving the EU an opportunity to reshape UK immigration system

The government sees leaving the EU as an opportunity to reshape Britain’s immigration system, and the Home Office is apparently heavily invested in making it happen. A white paper published in December 2018 sets a clear agenda ‘to establish an immigration system that works for businesses and communities across the UK.’

Nokes said: “Our new immigration system will balance delivering on the referendum result and ending free movement with attracting skilled people from around the world so that our economy continues to prosper.”

James said: “The UK continues to attract talent from all around the world. This is thanks to our world-leading academic institutions, strong access to finance and long standing reputation for innovation. Making sure we have the talent and skills so the tech sector can continue its incredible growth, is a priority of our modern Industrial Strategy.”

Held at the Barbican Centre in London in partnership with Tech Nation, the round table discussion between Nokes, James and representatives of Britain’s tech sector, was just one of more than 100 similar events staged across the UK since the start of the year.

Tech Nation reports 45% rise in Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa applications

Alongside the launch of the UK innovator and start-up visas to bolster Britain’s attempts to attract top talent, Tech Nation announced a 45% rise in the number of applications for endorsement for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa.

Tech Nation is one of five designated competent bodies that deals with applications of endorsement for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa. In the 2018-2019 financial year, Tech Nation received 650 applications for endorsement, up from 450 compared to the previous year, with the majority of applications coming from India and the US.

Australia, Canada, China, Nigeria, Russia and South Africa were among the other countries from which a high number of applications were received.

The endorsing body also reported a 25% higher representation of women on the Tech Nation Visa than women working in the UK tech sector.

However, as reported by Workpermit.com’s Sanwar Ali, on closer inspection only about three hundred endorsement applications of the 650 received were approved by Tech Nation.

UK tech sector attractive to international talent

Despite less than half of endorsement applications receiving approval from Tech Nation, Head of Visas at the endorsing body Matt Jeffs-Watts argues that the number of applications is evidence that international tech talent is attracted to the UK.

He said: “The view from the recent meeting with the immigration minister is that the UK tech sector is an incredibly attractive place to work with its unparalleled connectivity, access to exceptional talent, and significant levels of innovation and investment.”

“It is evidenced by the overwhelming enthusiasm from Tier 1 Exceptional Talent applicants wishing to enter the UK tech sector. It is this level of talent and skill that will help the UK maintain its position at the forefront of the global digital economy,” Jeffs-Watts added.

However, only 2,000 Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas are made available every year. Meanwhile, according to government data recorded for 2018, 102,653 Tier 2 visas for skilled workers were issued, many of which were issued to people offered tech roles in the UK.

Workpermit.com’s Sanwar Ali states: “Approximately fifty times more people gain entry to the UK as skilled workers on the Tier 2 visa scheme than via the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent programme. Many do not meet the eligibility requirements of the Tier 1 visa and the same is true of the new start-up and innovator visa.”

“Despite the high government fees, unless there are major changes in the UK visa system, the Tier 2 visa route will remain far more popular than the Tech Nation scheme and other visa programmes for people in the technology industry and others,” Sanwar Ali argues.

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