UK visa applications by ‘exceptional’ techies surge by 45%

Fears that migrants will be ‘discouraged from both settling in the UK and mastering their work’ – including on a contract basis in the IT sector – looked overblown yesterday.

In fact, despite such concerns in February, and a more recent alert that ‘political game-playing’ may affect firms’ access to overseas talent, IT visa applications are actually surging.  

Or more specifically, applications are surging for flexible Tech Nation Visas, which are up by 45% for the 2018/19 financial year, compared to the same period in the previous year.

'Not tied to specific employment'

Although observers often point out that ‘applications’ are not the same as ‘confirmed placements,’ TN visas are not based on employment or specific roles; but are simply sought by skilled individuals.

Indicating that such flexibility is well-received, a TN spokeswoman said 2018/19’s increase was the fifth of its kind for the visas, which she confirmed are “not tied to specific employment like [visas via] Tier 2.”

And roughly half of this year’s 650 applications (up from 450 last year) won ‘endorsements,’ meaning a panel of judges rated the applicants as “exceptional” in digital technology or engineering, among other areas.

'Exceptional Talent'

“Applications that are not endorsed are those that do not meet the required standard as set by the eligibility criteria for ‘Exceptional Talent’” the TN spokeswoman said.

“It could be that their actual experience, achievement or skill level does not meet the required standard, or simply that the applicant has not conveyed this well enough through their application.”

According to the 2018/19 dataset, China, India and the US dominated the applications – which is unsurprising for being the most populous nations, each with large IT industries.

'Ambitious software engineers'

“India and the US historically produce high-quality and ambitious software engineers and entrepreneurs, and have historic links or affiliations with the UK,” the TN spokeswoman said.

However, she declined to be drawn on how the visas are expected to fare post-Brexit, saying that TN has “no numerical projection,” and that it was a matter for the Home Office.

Scheme alumni and digital engineer Herman Komashko, who is originally from Uzbekistan, commended the visas for offering “the freedom to work and move within the UK”.


Levels of innovation and investment in the UK, and good connectivity are also considered ‘pull’ factors of the scheme, the growing awareness of which has helped drive up applicants.

Immigration minister Caroline Noakes 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.”

Asked about concerns that successful tech visa applicants could adversely affect the prospects of UK IT contractors, the TN spokeswoman citied research on the issue showing such concerns to be “unfounded,” she said.

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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