June 14, 2019

Tech visa scheme sees 45% surge in applications, despite Brexit

By Ellen Daniel

There has been a boom in Exceptional Talent Visa applications as an increasing number of workers from around the world flock to the UK tech industry.

This is according to Tech Nation, which has revealed that there was a 45% rise in applications for the financial year 2018-2019 compared to the same period for the previous year, with the number of applications reaching 650.

First launched in 2014, the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa gives leaders and emerging leaders from fields including science, digital technology, humanities, medicine, the arts, and architecture from around the world the opportunity to come and work in the UK. 44% of applications for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa were for the tech sector in 2018-2019.

Tech visa applications defy Brexit concerns

The past year was the fifth consecutive year of year-on-year growth in the numbers of applications for the Tech Nation Visa, indicating that the UK tech industry is still successfully attracting international talent, despite the uncertainty many businesses are facing due to Brexit.

Margot James MP, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries believes that the UK’s reputation as a leader in the global tech scene is driving an increase in worldwide demand for UK tech visas:

 “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.

“Following the publication of the Immigration White Paper, Home Office have also launched the new Startup and Innovator routes as part of Tier 1 to attract the brightest tech entrepreneurs. We are determined to ensure the tech sector has access to the talent that it needs.”

International applicants plug UK’s tech skills gap

The majority of applications were from the India and the USA, but there was also an increase in applications from Nigeria, Russia, Canada, Australia, China and South Africa. The highest number of incoming applicants were professionals from software development, AI and machine learning, fintech, and enterprise/cloud sectors.

This looks likely to continue, as many businesses are struggling to fill large numbers of highly skilled tech roles. According to research by Government’s Digital Economy Council, 10% of the population is now employed in the UK tech sector. Earlier this week, Facebook announced that it was opening a new engineering centre in London, creating an estimated 500 tech jobs in the capital.

Tech Nation is one of five designated competent bodies appointed by the Home Office to endorse Exceptional Talent Visas, and the visa has received over 1,650 applicants, with over 900 endorsed from over 50 countries since its launch.

Matt Jeffs-Watts Head of Visas at Tech Nation commented:

“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.

“This view 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 in the UK keeping its position at the forefront of the global digital economy.”

Read more: UK attempts to plug STEM skills shortage with science visa scheme