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Bringing more of the top global tech talent to the UK

The government wants to ensure the most highly talented technology and digital experts from overseas can work in the UK, writes home secretary Amber Rudd

The technology sector is vital to our country’s prosperity, security and wellbeing. It is one of the fastest-growing industries in the UK and makes a vital contribution to our economy.

For centuries, Britain has been at the forefront of technological innovation, from the light bulb to the world wide web, from the telephone to the television. Today, companies across the country are working tirelessly to come up with the next life changing contraption or digital advancement.

As the Prime Minister has made clear today, we want to make sure that this industry, as well as other sectors that rely on the best minds to innovate and excel – science, research and the arts – are able to thrive within the UK.

Although the UK already has an excellent offer for people in these fields and around 30,000 workers in the information and communication industry came to the UK last year under the Tier 2 visa route, we need to do more to attract the very top talent, which is why I am taking action today.

We currently have a visa which allows 1,000 people with exceptional talent and the most potential to come to the UK. I am doubling that number - 2,000 visas will be available to highly skilled people who not only enhance our economy, but also our culture and in my opinion, are fundamental to the success and growth of the UK.

Technology and the other industries which stand to benefit from this announcement are at the heart of our industrial strategy and it is essential we therefore listen to their needs and their hopes for the future.

Astonishing growth

In the past year, there has been a rapid growth in demand for these visas, particularly from the thriving digital technology sector. In this same period, the number of visas granted under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route have increased by 152%. This is astonishing growth and a clear sign that the best and brightest, from all over the world are coming to the UK to work.

The launch of Tech City UK’s Tech Nation Visa in October 2015 has had a big impact on this growth. It has made it easier than ever before for people with technical skills such as senior systems engineers, principal software engineers and developers, artificial intelligence and cyber security experts to come to the UK and help develop major new technologies.

Amber Rudd, home secretary

"We are constantly working to make sure the UK is an attractive destination for technology businesses and workers"

Amber Rudd, home secretary

As home secretary, it is clear to me how important our immigration system is in ensuring that the UK is a place where talent thrives. It is key to creating an environment in which businesses can succeed and draw upon the talent they need. Tech City UK, the Arts Council England, the British Academy, the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering will be able to use these visas to help their industries develop and grow in the UK.

Impact of  Brexit

As we move forward, I want to make sure that all nations and regions of the UK benefit from this change. That is why we will look at how it can work with organisations across the UK to ensure wider take up of these visas outside London. It is also why I commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee to advise on the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU on the labour market.

Increasing these visas is a clear sign of our commitment to creating an immigration system which best serves the people and businesses of the UK. It shows that we are constantly working to make sure the UK is an attractive destination for technology businesses and workers.

However, I know that there is always more that we can do to support emerging industries in the UK and specifically the technology sector. That is why I will be meeting with technology experts to seek their input on making sure that our visa processes are as efficient as possible.

By shaping our immigration system to ensure that innovative industries in the UK have access to international talent, we will help secure our place at the forefront of digital and scientific advances.

Read more about digital skills

This was last published in November 2017

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