The UK’s tech industry has a world-class reputation. Each year, talent from around the globe relocates to the UK to join it. One of the main immigration routes used by such individuals has been the Global Talent visa but the future of this route is uncertain. Partner Nick Gore explores the main immigration options for those operating in the tech sphere.
The Global Talent route allows individuals to live and work in the UK with few restrictions. Applicants are not tied to one employer, and do not have to meet a minimum income requirement. This allows many tech experts to come to the UK to establish digital businesses or join other tech enterprises.
The requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain are also relatively straightforward, with a requirement to have worked within the field and meet the general requirements such as the absence limit. There is the possibility of an accelerated route to settlement for those regarded as Exceptionally Talented within the tech field.
To apply under the Global Talent route, applicants must first receive an endorsement from an approved body. For those in the tech industry the body is currently Tech Nation.
Earlier in the year, Tech Nation announced that it was closing down — we covered this here. It looked as if the organisation would soon stop offering endorsements, however, Tech Nation became part of the Founders Forum Group. It currently still provides endorsements, but the Gov website reads:
‘We’re working to confirm the long-term option for the endorsement of digital technology applications. Details will be published on this page as soon as possible… We’ll provide a further update in the coming weeks.’
Those weeks have turned to months and it is still no clearer what, if anything, will be replacing Tech Nation.
This has led to some hesitancy from potential applicants. A Tech Nation endorsement requires significant preparation and individuals are understandably concerned that if they start work arranging their documentation, the requirements could be changed overnight.
We have also explored the limitations of Tech Nation as an endorser here. The current requirements for the route are pedantic and restrictive, leading to little surprise that the endorsement rate hovers around 50%.
At the time of writing the Global Talent route is still an option but the uncertainty and difficulty of this route has led to many individuals exploring other immigration options in order to enter and work in the UK.
The Skilled Worker route is, to many, the next obvious option.
This route requires an organisation based in the UK to apply for and obtain a sponsor licence. The organisation can then sponsor workers in a variety of roles that match a specified occupation code. For those operating in the tech sector, there are a number of options including:
- 2135 IT business analysts, architects and systems designers – for Business and System analysts and others;
- 2136 Programmers and software development professionals – for Software Engineers, Programmers, Developers and others; and
- 2137 Web design and development professionals – for Web designers, Multimedia developers and others.
There are also a number of support, management and hybrid roles available for sponsorship.
Once the role is confirmed, the organisation can issue a Certificate of Sponsorship and the individual can make their Skilled Worker application, providing they also meet the general requirements of the route.
This route is relatively straightforward and can be very quick once a sponsor licence is in place, allowing tech companies to bring in the expertise they need rapidly. However, organisations should be aware of the duties and responsibilities they have as sponsors.
Skilled Workers are largely tied to the sponsor and do not have as much freedom as compared to those under the Global Talent route. It can be possible for an individual to establish a company that then sponsors them under the Skilled Worker route, although such an approach requires very careful preparation and should be treated with caution.
In general, Skilled Workers can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after five years, but there are no accelerated options.
High Potential Individual (HPI)
The HPI route can be an option for a temporary period of residence in the UK which then facilitates switching to one of the above routes.
The route is extremely straightforward if the applicant meets the main requirement of having been awarded an overseas degree level academic qualification from an institution which appeared on the Global Universities List. They must have received the degree in the five years before the date of the application.
The lists from the last five years can be found here and include the top establishments from around the world.
Individuals receive permission for up to three years if they have received a PhD and up to two years in other cases. This route does not by itself lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain, but can be an option to build a career, a reputation or even establish a company in the UK and then consider longer term immigration options.
For those completing a degree from within the UK, switching to the Graduate route is also an option.
Again, the route is very straightforward for those meeting the main requirement of having successfully completed a UK degree or another qualifying course of study and they are currently in the UK under the Student route.
Individuals must make the application from within the UK and permission to stay will be granted for two years, unless the applicant has completed a PhD degree when permission will be granted for three years.
This route also does not by itself lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain, but does allow those at the start of their careers to put plans in place and apply under other immigration routes.
Personal immigration routes
In some cases, the personal circumstances of the applicant should be taken into account when considering the immigration options available.
Being the partner of a British or settled person for instance may allow an application under the partner route. Those who hold permission under the partner route can live and work in the UK with minimal restrictions, and this is an immigration route that leads to Indefinite Leave to Remain. Those working in the tech industry can therefore work in the field and build up business in the UK under this option.
Although the Global Talent route remains an option to consider, those in the IT, tech and software sector should consider alternative immigrations routes, which can be quicker and more secure.
It is hoped that the Global Talent route for tech experts will be significantly reformed in the years to come in order to take advantage of the world’s top tech talent.
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