The recent announcement of the Government’s plans to introduce a new type of visa for start-up entrepreneurs was broadly welcomed by the UK tech industry.
Amid the NHS staffing crisis, the government took the additional decision to exclude doctors and nurse from the cap on tier-2 skilled work visas. This move adds an extra 8,000 or so to the 20,700 applicants allowed into the country annually.
The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock, recently told the Guardian: “I’m in constant discussions with the tech industry about how we can have a visa system that both controls immigration, and ensures that the brightest and the best talent from around the world can come here.”
These newly freed visas are not exclusively earmarked for skilled digital workers. It is open to other sectors of the economy, meaning tech companies will have stiff competition to justify its hiring. Although it is a start towards addressing the issue of the dire IT talent shortage in the UK, which is a serious barrier to progress, tech leaders and founders have warned that it may not be enough to mend the situation and keep the UK’s tech economy ahead of Europe.
Not only is current immigration system hindering skilled tech workers, it is also the Government’s current rhetoric towards immigrants as well as the issue of Brexit creating a good degree of uncertainty. It is this toxic combination that is spooking the best recruits, including ones who do not require a work visa and driving them into the arms of other more welcoming countries.
The UK at Risk of Losing Tech Edge
Ophelia Brown, Founder of Blossom Capital, said: “Talent is obviously the single biggest concern for any founder and any company being built in the UK right now. To build a world-leading company and world-leading products you need access to the best talent across the globe. This announcement is a very welcome first step – but it is just a first step. If we don’t do more on this, we run the risk of losing our edge in the tech sector.”
Tugce Bulut, Founder of Streetbees Business Intelligence platform said: “A lot of tech people prefer a more stable option in their life, they don’t want to take huge risks.” Bulut noted that the very top tech talent have a lot of employment options, therefore, even if the Government expands its visa system further, there would be little motivation for these individuals to go to a country that did not welcome them.