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UK’s Tech Nation Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa sees 45% rise in applications

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez June 13, 2019
Demand for the Tech Nation Visa has risen for the sixth year running, with most applicants coming from the USA and India.

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There has been a 45% rise in applications for the Tech Nation Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa in 2018-19, which marks the sixth year in a row that demand has increased. Not only this, but Tech Nation, the organisation responsible for endorsing the visas, exceeded its allocation of 200 endorsements by roughly 63%, due to the “outstanding quality and demonstrable talent” of the applicants.

Each year the Home Office allocates a set number of spots for applicants applying for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa across a number of fields, including digital technology (the Tech Nation visa), engineering, medicine, science, the arts and media.

Tech Nation receives approximately half of all Tier 1 visa applications, giving you an idea of the demand for tech skills in the UK.

The Visa was first launched back in 2014 and enables the brightest and best tech talent from around the world to come and work in the UK’s digital technology sector.

Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, said:

The UK continues to attract talent from all around the world. This is thanks to our world-leading academic institutions, strong access to finance and long standing reputation for innovation.

Making sure we have the talent and skills so the tech sector can continue its incredible growth, is a priority of our modern Industrial Strategy.

Following the publication of the Immigration White Paper, Home Office have also launched the new Startup and Innovator routes as part of Tier 1 to attract the brightest tech entrepreneurs. We are determined to ensure the tech sector has access to the talent that it needs.

The detail

For the financial year 2018-2019, Tech Nation received 650 applications for the Tier 1 visa, up from 450 the previous year. It saw a:

  • 45% rise in applications for the financial year 2018-2019 compared to previous year

  • 25% higher representation of women on the Tech Nation Visa than women working in the UK tech sector

  • 44% of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa applications were for the tech sector in 2018-2019

  • The outstanding levels of talent resulted in Tech Nation endorsing roughly half of applications received
    India and US among countries with the highest number of incoming applicants in Software Development, AI & Machine Learning, Fintech, and Enterprise/Cloud sectors

Matt Jeffs-Watts, Head of Visas at Tech Nation, said:

The UK tech sector is an incredibly attractive place to work, with its unparalleled connectivity, access to exceptional talent, and significant levels of innovation and investment.

This view is evidenced by the overwhelming enthusiasm from Tier 1 Exceptional Talent applicants wishing to enter the UK tech sector. It is this level of talent and skills that will help in the UK keeping its position at the forefront of the global digital economy.

Outside of the USA and India, applications also came from Nigeria, Russia, Canada, Australia, China and South Africa.

In September, Tech Nation will begin processing endorsement applications on behalf of digital technology entrepreneurs for the two new Start-up and Innovator Visa routes.

Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, said:

The tech industry is vital to the UK economy and I am encouraged to see that there has been an increase in the number of visas issued to people investing in the UK and choosing to start a business here.

We announced the new Start-up and Innovator visa to enhance the UK’s visa offer to leading international talent and I am determined to see this continue as we leave the EU and introduce a skills-based immigration system.

I am spending this year speaking with businesses and communities, including the tech sector, about our plans for a system that focuses not on where someone is from but on the skills and talents they can bring to our country.

Tier 2 Visa challenges

However, despite the apparent success of the Tier 1 Visa, there have been ongoing challenges surrounding Tier 2 Visas, which allow companies to hire skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area.

The Tier 2 Visa currently has an annual limit of 20,700 and the cap is consistently being reached, year on year. This has been happening since the UK’s decision to exit the European Union and there has been grave concern from the technology industry about the impact of ending free movement of people from across the EU post-Brexit.

In the government’s recent Immigration White Paper, however, it said that as of 2021 the Tier 2 Visa cap will be removed. Home Secretary Sajid Javid, said:

It will be a single, skills-based immigration system built around the talent and expertise people can bring, rather than where they come from - maximising the benefits of immigration and demonstrating the UK is open for business.

That being said, one point that hasn’t been clarified, which may still be of concern, is that there will be a consultation on the current minimum salary of £30,000 for skilled migrants seeking the five-year visa.

This has proven to be a contentious issue, as some have argued that highly skilled people could still be low paid (for example, researchers, artists, etc.). Campaigners argue that the minimum wage should be scrapped.

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