Chancellor launches visa scheme for highly skilled international talent

Innovative new measures to attract and retain the most highly skilled, globally mobile talent to the UK have been unveiled by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his March 3 Budget.

The Chancellor announced that the government is modernising the immigration system to help the UK attract and retain the most highly skilled, globally mobile talent – particularly in academia, science, research and technology – from around the world.The move is intended to drive innovation, and support UK jobs and growth. Mr Sunak promised that by March 2022 the government would support an elite points-based visa for people with much-needed skills to enter the UK.An estimated 42% of Fintech staff in the UK come from overseas, and the sector employs more than 60,000 people and contributes around £7 billion to the UK economy. The UK is still the most important centre for Fintech in Europe, and around £3 billion worth of venture capital was invested in UK Fintech companies last year, according to Innovate Finance, the trade body.

Fast track system

The British fintech industry relies heavily on international talent. Some 42% of employees are originally from overseas, and 28% are from the EU, according to Innovate Finance. This goes a long way in helping UK Fintechs expand outwards into new regions.There had been concern among global companies and those with headquarters in the UK that Brexit would reduce the opportunities for recruitment from overseas, and that a new visa system might discourage global talent from applying for jobs in the UK.From the beginning of this year, and following the end of the Brexit transition period, entry into the UK for work is based on a new points-based immigration system.Any EU and EEA citizen who was registered as resident in the UK before 31 December 2020 still has the right to settle. However, they will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme before 30 June 2021 in order to qualify to be allowed to stay.Some critics saw the new points-based immigration system as a barrier to moving talent quickly from overseas into important new job roles in the UK, especially in Fintech companies which required specialist knowledge and skills.However, built into the government’s new visa system, announced in the March 3 Budget, will be a “scaleup” stream which will enable people with a job offer from a recognised UK scale-up company to qualify for a fast-track visa. The received definition of a scale-up company is one with at least 10 employees and average annualized return of at least 20% in the past 3 years, according to the OECD.Mr Sunak also promised to reform the Global Talent visa to allow holders of international prizes and winners of scholarships and programmes for early promise to automatically qualify.He will also review the Innovator visa to make it easier for those with the skills and experience to found and create an innovative business to obtain a visa.The Chancellor will also launch the new Global Business Mobility visa by spring 2022 for overseas businesses to establish a presence or transfer staff to the UK.

A globally important sector

In the Budget documents the government has also promised to provide practical support to small firms that are using the visa system for the first time and to modernise the immigration sponsorship system to make it easier to use.To support those looking to bring in talent from overseas, the government will publish a delivery roadmap in the summer to help businesses navigate the new system.Related:
It will also establish a global outreach strategy by expanding the Global Entrepreneur Programme.The government said it was “keen to see more competition and innovation in all sectors of the UK financial services industry, particularly in the retail banking sector and through the promotion and support of FinTech”. This included minimising barriers to entry and ensuring a diversity of business models within the industry, as set out in its Remit and recommendations for the Financial Policy Committee: Budget 2021Mr Sunak said in the Budget that the visa reforms were ambition and aimed at highly skilled migrants.They will include a new unsponsored points-based visa to attract the best and most promising international talent in science, research and tech.He promised a “new improved visa processes for scale-up and entrepreneurs and radically simplified bureaucracy for high skilled visa applications”.Firms looking for global talent, especially those who would have recruited from within the EU in pre-Brexit times, will now be able to access the people they need in a faster immigration system once the new rules are in place.
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