Amongst the doom and gloom of the Government’s anti-immigration rhetoric and with the threat of further restrictions on companies sponsoring highly skilled migrants looming over us, we finally have a ray of bright digital light. Tech City UK today announced the Tech Nation Visa Scheme, which has been agreed by the Home Office after extensive complaints from the digital technology sector that the current system was not allowing the top global talent to come to the UK.

The new scheme improves the Exceptional Talent visa criteria, which were felt to be too restrictive, to allow for candidates to qualify in a number of new circumstances. These include:

  • Scale up fast track – enabling UK companies to get the talent they need to scale up, including taking the company to an IPO or where the individuals have specific skills and technical knowledge
  • Exceptional promise – the previous scheme only allowed those recognised as world leading experts with successful track records or awards. The new criteria will allow the superstars of tomorrow to be endorsed and allowed to apply
  • Tech North fast-track – this will fast applications for digital businesses in Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Sunderland
  • Tech Teams – teams of up to five with a proven track record of creativity, collaboration and commercial vision will now be able to apply together

The new scheme marks a significant development and at long last recognises the need for the tech sector to be able to access the global pool of skilled digital talent. In discussions with our technology and creative clients around the most recent Migration Advisory Committee Consultation on Tier 2, it was clear that businesses are crying out for these skills and talent and that current barriers are preventing them from doing so. While the scheme is still limited to just 200 applicants per year, it is a step in the right direction – it may just be that the new scheme finally provides the spark the sector needs.

The full guidance and application criteria will be launched in November 2015. We will provide full details on how individuals and companies can use the new scheme.