Boris Johnson calls for ‘London Visa’ to attract tech experts from around the world

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Boris Johnson calls for ‘London Visa’ to attract tech experts from around the world

Caroline Baldwin

The mayor of London has submitted a plan to the Home Office proposing a “London Visa” to attract business to the capital.

Boris Johnson’s idea for a “London Visa” would make it easier for talented technologists from around the world to get jobs in the city.

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According to the Financial Times, under the proposal, City Hall would be given a yearly allocation of 100 of the government’s existing 1,000 “exceptional talent visas” - which are normally given to world-class scientists, artists and performers.

The 100 “London Visas” would be shared between tech experts and fashion designers who may struggle with the bureaucracy of the current visa system. Tech City, the Fashion Council and London Design Festival would choose the applicants and then provide official endorsement to speed their entry into the UK.

Deputy mayor for business and enterprise, Kit Malthouse, admitted 100 visas was a low number, but said he hoped the government might be able to expand it in the future.

However, Owen Jones, head of business immigration at Doyle Clayton, warned other industries may not look kindly on the proposal.

“Allocating part of the limited number of Exceptional Talent visas to this area may be resisted by other parts of the country and other sectors of the economy," he said.

"Technology companies should continue to look to the existing immigration routes to source key migrant workers as solutions can be found.”

Last week, Computer Weekly investigated this issue and found the UK’s immigration policy was hindering growth in London’s tech hub.

We spoke to several startups who were struggling to find talented employees in the UK and were finding it equally difficult to jump through the hoops of hiring talent from abroad.

“There’s a lot of competition and there’s not enough good people,” said Alastair Paterson, CEO of startup Digital Shadows. "We need to be attracting the best and the brightest from around the world."

Technology startups are calling for the government to improve the visa application process. Paterson said it needed to be made easier to “make London the international tech hub that it is trying to be."

Eric van der Kleij, head of the L39 fintech accelerator, previously CEO of Tech City, suggested the government could invest money into creating experts to go and teach young companies how to hire people from outside the UK.

“You have to have a reasonably robust system so it’s not abused,” said van der Kleij. “That means it has to be of some substance that a young company is able to grip it and do it, yet it’s the same system that a major corporation with massive resources can use – it’s a bit unfair.

“You can’t change the robustness of the system or it will be abused, but you should spend the money on helping younger companies use the system.”


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