A visa that allows overseas tech workers to move to the UK has gained in popularity since the EU referendum, The Telegraph reports.
The tech immigration visa, which is specifically for non-EU tech workers and managed by government quango Tech City UK, was announced in 2013 in a bid to attract more of the world’s best engineers and coders to move the UK.
It got off to a slow start with just seven people applying for the 200 available spots in the first year, but things seem to be changing.
More than 200 people have reportedly applied for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa for Digital Technology since April, up from 20 during the same period in the year before.
A record number of people applied in November and Tech City UK is now expecting all 200 visas to be given out in the year leading up to April 2017. Tech City UK says the visa is most popular with tech workers in the USA, India, and Nigeria.
Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech City UK, told The Telegraph he now wants to increase the cap on the number of visas that the UK gives out to overseas tech workers.
“It’s an encouraging set of results,” said Grech. “It’s one of those situations where we’re in ongoing conversations with the government, and we’re keeping an eye on it. We’ll have more conversations when we get closer to the limit. They know that tech talent is a growing part of the economy. They also understand that tech talent is a scarce resource.”
While the figures are promising, they come as thousands of European tech workers remain uncertain about their future in the UK post-Brexit. Indeed, if a “hard-Brexit” does happen then many of these workers may have to return home or apply for new work permits.
Tech City UK, which was backed with £4.2 million of taxpayer money for 2015/2016, relaxed the visa rules last November, allowing groups of tech workers to apply together. The move was hailed by “revolutionary” by immigration campaigner Josephine Goube.
Hiring talent is a big issue for UK tech companies
Immigration is a big issue for UK startups, with many of them struggling to find candidates in the UK or Europe with the skills they require. PwC’s 2015 Global Digital IQ Survey found 78% of UK companies consider a skills shortage in digital expertise as one of their main barriers to progress.
The “Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa” was introduced by the Home Office in June 2011 as a means of fast-tracking the 1,000 skilled workers from outside Europe into the UK. In order to bring in these talented workers, the Home Office tasks a number of institutions — including Arts Council England, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Society — with finding and endorsing exceptional talent outside Europe.
As part of an effort to get more internationally recognised technical people to come to the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron announced in December 2013 that the government was going to allow Tech City UK to endorse 200 out of the 1,000 Tier 1 visa slots.