Good News for Startups with Changes to Exceptional Talent Visa

Tech City UK announced in November 2015 a number of changes to its Exceptional Talent Visa Scheme that are designed to make it easier for technology startups in the UK to recruit quality talent from outside the European Union.

Launched in 2010 by David Cameron, Tech City UK provides support for the fast growing tech community and startups surrounding East London’s Silicon Roundabout. Since its inception the exceptional talent visa grew to incorporate Greater London where the various programs and policies are used to help accelerate the growth of digital businesses.

While the London tech industry is booming, tech entrepreneurs and startup owners have found the various restrictions on visa applications prohibitive when trying to grow their business. Finding the right talent is often cited as one of the main challenges towards scalability, and the changes to the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa is expected to be welcome news among UK entrepreneurs.

The visa had typically been the reserve of “world leaders” within the fields of digital technology, the arts, medicine, engineering and science. The program granted a maximum of 1,000 visas per year with 200 set aside for the tech industry.

The main consternation from tech business owners was that the criteria for a successful application were too prohibitive. Only the very best throughout the world were likely to be granted a visa, resulting in only 7 successful applications from the 200 visas available during 2014-2015.

The revisions to the scheme will allow non-EU residents who show “exceptional promise” to be eligible for the visa. Defined as individuals who are highly skilled in areas with a specific talent shortage, the widening of the talent pool will help ambitious startups access the talent they need for growth.

Additional amendments to the exceptional talent visa program include:


1 - Recruiting teams of up to five individuals through one application. This will enable businesses in specific parts of the UK to recruit entire teams from overseas competition.

2- Building UK startups that wish to scale up is a provision that will help companies recruit individuals who have specific knowledge in either data science or cyber security, or someone who has a proven track record in taking a company to IPO.

3 - As part of the government’s ambitions to help startups in the North of England in areas such as Liverpool, Manchester, Hull, Sheffield and Sunderland (known collectively as the Northern Powerhouse), fast track applications will be available for digital companies in those regions.

All applicants for the exceptional talent visa must meet one of the mandatory criteria, demonstrating:

  • A proven track record of innovation in the digital technology sector.
  • That an individual is recognised for work outside their full time occupation that has contributed to the advancement of the digital sector.
These new measures will hopefully help out digital entrepreneurs access the highly skilled global talent they need, and will open the door for talented individuals who were not previously eligible to live and work in the UK. Good news all round.

This post was written by Euro Start Entreprises. Helping businesses and entrepreneurs with company formation in France, UK, Europe, US & the Emirates.




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