The number of successful applications for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas has quadrupled in the last 12 months as hundreds of applications were approved. The increase is something of a surprise due to the difficulty in attaining it. The Tier 2 visa routes are generally easier to qualify for.
The news will be welcomed by the tech community after its recent push for exceptions for the sector, which are thought to suffer from huge shortages due to the lack of home-grown talent. There is still some way to go though, and the tech industry will be looking to the government to give them assurances that the UK will continue to be supported as a burgeoning tech hub.
There is currently a special “tech nation” scheme in place, but the process is said to be extremely complicated and it hasn’t been widely adopted. The scheme, first advertised by former British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014 was designed to put the UK at the forefront of the European tech sector and become a direct competitor to Silicon Valley. Though this never really happened there was a resurgence in the uptake of the scheme in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. The carrot of being able to stay for up to 5 years followed by the possibility of having indefinite leave to remain means that in the face of Brexit, the scheme offers more than what may be available in the coming years.
After Brexit the UK’s skills gap is only likely to increase, this is why there has been a push to introduce schemes for the tech sector. These calls have so far been ignored as the government is still seemingly working out its migration strategy while talks with EU negotiations are ongoing. Though Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to enhance schemes which appear to be in direct contravention to her government's overall strategy on immigration. Though the tech sector is likely to get better treatment than most and the highly skilled migration that can come with it will be most welcome, especially after Brexit.
Britain will need to maintain and possibly enhance its standing in the global technology arena, so far it has managed to be at the forefront, but the potential damage of draconian visa schemes coupled with the impending exit from the European Union means that London may not be the leader of Europe’s tech industry for much longer as other European capitals such as Paris have been eagerly and feverishly offering to help businesses relocate out of the UK, and with so many potential upsides of a move to the French capital it is down the British government to ensure that they’re kept in the UK to avoid the potential collapse of an extremely lucrative industry. Indeed in the wake of Brexit, the UK may need all the specialised skills it can lay its hands on.