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The government is changing the rules for non-EU IT experts to get visas to work in the UK, to help meet the skills demand from UK IT companies.
The rules, part of the Tier 1 scheme for highly skilled workers, will make it easier for high-growth technology firms in the UK to get the skills they need. The Tech Nation Visa Scheme – part of the Tech City UK initiative – upgrades a scheme launched two years ago.
The previous scheme, introduced by the government to help startups recruit from overseas, failed to attract skills. It received just 19 applications and approved 17, despite being able to take 200 a year.
“Based on direct feedback from the digital business community, four new qualifying criteria have been added to ensure the UK continues to maintain its position as a globally competitive digital powerhouse,” said a Tech City statement.
The four criteria are: A provision to enable companies growing fast to get the right staff; candidates that show “exceptional promise” will be eased in; fast-tracked visas will be introduced for businesses in more UK cities, such as those in the north of England; and businesses will be able to recruit teams of professionals from overseas.
“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 or service operation," said Tech City CEO, Gerard Grech.
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If the UK does not attract skilled staff, there are other countries and cities ready to take the best skills. In a recent interview with Computer Weekly about a start-up programme in Amsterdam, the city’s deputy mayor Kajsa said: “If you need talent, we have it here – and if we don’t have it we will make it easy for the talent you need to come and live and work here.”
UK minister of state for culture and the digital economy, Ed Vaizey said the arrangements will support fast-growth digital businesses get the right talent to support the government’s desire to be a “Tech Nation on the global stage”.
Ben Medlock, co-founder and CTO of Future Fifty member company, Swiftkey, said: “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.”