Tech City UK unveils Nation Visa Scheme to help attract top talent

Based on direct feedback from the digital business community, four new qualifying criteria have been added to ensure that the UK maintains its position as a globally competitive digital powerhouse.

Throughout the year, Tech City UK has convened a range of consultation workshops with founders, CEOs and senior management of the digital business community to assess the barriers they face when attracting top talent from outside of the EU. This direct community feedback has been crystallised into the addition of four new qualifying criteria for the UK’s technology sector:

Building UK Scale-ups:
As scale-ups become ever more crucial to the growth of the UK digital economy, as part of the consultation process, Tech City UK has included a specific provision to help companies to get the talent they need to scale quickly. Whether it’s expertise in taking a company to IPO or scaling a product internationally, or individuals with very specific technical knowledge, such as data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, developers operations or cyber security, the Tech Nation Visa Scheme will provide a scale-up fast-track route that will enable rapidly growing companies to access the right talent at the right time to smoothen their path to success.

Recognising ‘Exceptional Promise’
The new Tech Nation Visa Scheme will now consider applications from individuals that demonstrate ‘Exceptional Promise’, a criterion that aims to open the route to a broader base of aspiring talent from outside the EU. This provision will facilitate companies in recruiting the highly skilled individuals needed to fill specific talent gaps.

Powering the Northern Powerhouse
The 2015 Tech Nation report found that over 170,000 people work in digital technology businesses across the North of England. The Tech Nation Visa Scheme will now 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). Like Tech City UK, Tech North will now also provide a visa support service to offer guidance and advice to companies wanting to hire someone from overseas.

Recruiting Teams from Overseas:
Recognising that digital businesses often seek to recruit entire teams of exceptional individuals from outside the EU who have demonstrated success, a new revision to the Scheme will cater for this. From November 12, groups of up to five will be able to apply at once for consideration, allowing UK digital businesses to attract high calibre and high performing teams that have a proven track record of creativity, collaboration and commercial vision.

Commenting on the updated Scheme, Rt Hon Ed Vaizey MP, the Minister for the Digital Economy, said: “The Digital technology sector is a core building block of the Government’s plans to support an internationally competitive Northern Powerhouse as well as the UK’s leadership in digital innovation. Today’s announcement furthers that strategy. This new Visa Scheme will support fast growth digital businesses in their quest to bring the best and brightest to British shores as we continue to stake our claim as a Tech Nation on the global stage.”

Gerard Grech, CEO, Tech City UK, said: “Fast-growing digital technology businesses play a central role in ensuring the UK stays at the forefront of digital innovation and economic growth on the world stage. Based on the feedback from the tech community, the new Tech Nation Visa Scheme will prove to be a vital tool for companies that want to secure the high caliber people they need to quickly scale their product, service and operations.”

Eileen Burbidge, Partner at Passion Capital and Chair of Tech City UK remarked “Engaging with the digital business community to ensure the Government is offering practical support to accelerate company growth is what Tech City UK is about, and these revisions to the visa programme address the highest priority for all company founders — that of growing and scaling a business with the best talent from around the world.”

Ben Medlock, co-founder and CTO of Future Fifty member company, Swiftkey, commented: “Our team in London speaks more than 30 languages, which is instrumental in our development and growth as a language technology company. Supporting skills and talents are needed to scale a company quickly and building the right team can make or break your business. Cutting down on the processing time of visa applications, prioritising certain sets of skills and adding a new provision for UK scale-ups are improvements that will make a huge difference for fast-growing digital companies. We welcome initiatives such as the Tech Nation Visa Scheme that aim to make it even easier to attract talent from overseas.”

Tech City UK is one of five Designated Competent Bodies appointed by the Home Office to review applications from individuals wishing to enter the country under Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa route. The organisation evaluates applications in the area of Digital Technology. The full criteria and application process will go live on November 12th 2015.

The new Tech Nation Visa Scheme is subject to continued iteration and as a result may change for applicants applying in future years. It is just one of the ways that Tech City UK works to tackle the challenges faced by the digital business community. Other programmes include Digital Business Academy, which provides free courses for anyone in the UK who wants to start, run, or join a digital business and Future Fifty, a concierge support service for the most exciting home-grown digital disrupters.