Soaring number of UK tech visa applications

Despite global travel restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, applications for the Global Talent visa in the UK's thriving tech sector have jumped by 48 per cent over the past year.

The rise, reported by the government-backed Tech Nation organisation, whose role is to support digital startups, follows a 45 per cent increase in 2019, with the majority of applicants coming from India, the US and Nigeria.Tech Nation said that, of the visa applications made through their organisation - which is a Home Office-designated, visa-endorsing body for the sector - just over half were now working at one of the UK’s leading tech firms, with more than a quarter classified as founders who had established their own businesses in Britain.Over the past two years, the number of applications for the visa, which grants employees and founders in the tech sector the right to work in the UK for up to five years, has reached almost 2,000 with machine learning & AI, academic/researcher, product management, data scientist and software engineer being the most popular roles.Tech Nation also reported that, between April-September this year, international, online searches (again, mainly from India and the US) for ‘UK tech visas’ rose 100 per cent over the same period last year.Stephen Kelly, chair of Tech Nation, said: “Tech Nation’s Visa Report shows that, despite the pandemic, international interest to work in the UK tech sector has never been higher. “Attracting tomorrow’s tech leaders to the UK is crucial to the continued growth of the sector, the UK’s place in the world, and driving the nation through recovery to growth in the digital age.” The number of visa applicants is expected to rise again next year when, after the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, tech workers from the European Union will need to apply if they want to work in the UK.Tech Nation’s data also showed that while London continued to dominate the nation’s tech sector, 41 per cent of successful applicants had chosen to base themselves outside the capital.Tech Nation Visa enables the UK tech sector to maintain its competitive advantage by attracting the best talent in specialist skills in tech, research and AI and a more globally diverse perspective to help us innovate and create amazing products and services.“As an immigrant to the UK in my late teens, the UK visa scheme has enabled me to bring my experience, expertise and contribute to the people agenda for tech scale-ups in the UK, and helped me build a successful career in tech.” Congcong Wang, head of operations at Chinese-owned TusPark Cambridge, added: "The UK is one of the top innovation hubs in the world, particularly in the fields of AI and healthcare. Its environment fosters young talent, breeds disruptive innovation and creates amazing companies. The culture in the UK nurtures for innovation, and is considered a 'safe place' for those inspired to take on the often risky route of entrepreneurship.” Commenting on the report, Minister for Digital and Culture Caroline Dinenage said: “It's no surprise the UK's world-beating technology sector appeals to international talent. Our dynamic companies reflect the UK’s long-standing reputation for innovation and are renowned on the global stage."We are open to the brightest and the best talent, and this visa scheme makes it easier for companies across the country to recruit the talent they need to grow.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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