UK will double visas for skilled digital tech workers outside EU


Open for business: Prime minister Theresa May and chancellor Philip Hammond host an industry roundtable with leading figures from the tech sector at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday (15)
Open for business: Prime minister Theresa May and chancellor Philip Hammond host an industry roundtable with leading figures from the tech sector at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday (15)

BRITAIN will double the number of visas offered to non-EU nationals who “show promise in the field of technology, art and creative industries”, prime minister Theresa May has said.

Hosting digital entrepreneurs and innovators from across the UK at 10, Downing Street last evening (15), the prime minister said the visa hike was part of a slew of measures to present Britain as open to global talent.

“As we prepare to leave the European Union (EU), I am clear that Britain will remain open for business. That means government doing all it can to secure a strong future for our thriving tech sector and ensure people in all corners of our nation share in the benefits of its success,” she said.

The number of visas available through the Tier-1 (Exceptional Talent) route will increase from the current 1,000 to 2,000 a year to attract the “brightest and best” talent from around the world, including in digital technology.

“Our digital tech sector is one of the UK’s fastest- growing industries, and is supporting talent, boosting productivity, and creating hundreds of thousands of good, high-skilled jobs up and down the country. It is absolutely right that this dynamic sector…has the full backing of government,” May said.

Home secretary Amber Rudd is set to meet technology experts to discuss making the visa processes more efficient.

“Increasing the number of visas for these sectors will make sure that we continue to be at the heart of world culture and forefront of digital and scientific advances,” Rudd said.

The 2,000 visas will be made available to individuals who are recognised as existing global leaders or promising future leaders in the digital technology, science, arts and creative sectors by one of five UK endorsing organisations – Tech City UK; Arts Council England; The British Academy; The Royal Society; and The Royal Academy of Engineering.

The current allocation of 1,000 visas which are divided among the five endorsing organisations will remain in place and additional visas will be made available across all of the endorsing bodies based on their requirements.

Among other measures unveiled are an investment of £21 million for the expansion of Tech City UK into a nationwide network called Tech Nation and a £20-million fund to help public services benefit from UK expertise in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).

Tech Nation will see the organisation expand its successful hub model to Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Birmingham.

The government also announced the launch of a £20m training programme which will challenge thousands of young people, aged between 14 and 18, to test their skills against simulated online cyber threats.

“Britain is a world leader in digital innovation with some of the ‘brightest and best’ tech firms operating in this country. Working with us, they can provide technological fixes to public sector problems, boost productivity, and get the nation working smarter as we create an economy fit for the future,” chancellor Philip Hammond said.