During colonial times, British bayonets and bullets butchered entire populations. The British were notorious for blowing people to bits at the cannon’s mouth. But now British battalions are chicken to pull the trigger in the battlefield against baddies such as the Taliban. So they want a British Bill of Rights to solve the problem. Ministers want to be able to detain people such as Serdar Mohammed – accused of being a bomb-maker – indefinitely in some Afghan hellhole but since the courts said otherwise, the government now wants to derogate from the “ludicrous” European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) so that the British war machine can confidently enter war zones with a “licence to kill”. Because it has cost the government £150 million to defend thousands of judicial reviews and compensation claims arising out of British misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan, action is being taken to discipline lawyers making bogus claims and “two human rights firms” have been referred to the regulator to “end the human rights farce”. As promised in Theresa May’s recent speech, rogue lawyers will no longer be allowed to misuse human rights but the army will be permitted to indulge in abuse and torture. Forget human rights, turn to tech!
Although we have entered an era when the kid gloves have come off, there is a brighter side to life outside the ECHR and asylum and the global war on terror. Notably, despite all the gloom and doom, a few foreigners are still welcome but the deal is that you must be an asset to the UK. Clever foreign technology specialists are in high demand and the Tier 1 (Exceptional Tech Talent) scheme caters to them. Tech City UK, the taxpayer-funded organisation designed to promote the UK’s digital technology sector, received 19 applications and approved 17 but it has an annual capacity of 200 annual places. Since there was too much red tape for small companies to cut through, there will be four new ways for foreign technology specialists to satisfy the criteria. Tech City UK’s mission is to attract and secure world-class talent from outside the European Union (EU) and the Tier 1 (Exceptional Tech Talent) scheme will open on 12 November 2015 and the full criteria and application process will go live on that date.
Cultural and linguistic diversity are at the heart of the tech world and the route is expected to fill the gap in the visa regime because visa products announced a couple of years ago were unable to satisfy the needs of expanding technology companies.
As the chancellor George Osborne has indicated in his recent speech, he is a “builder”. Victimising foreigners probably does not help him in his intense efforts to build a better Britain. In his “settlement” for the City, Osborne may have copped out of punishing financial wrongdoing by sidelining the bank-bashing Martin Wheatley and imposing a time-limit on PPI mis-selling but he may be one of the ministers trying to water down Mrs May’s mad immigration plans. We can only hope that George, whose mother Felicity worked for Amnesty International and encouraged him to be interested in China, can talk some sense into May and David Cameron both of whom are totally off the rails. (Though, like George, Dave is keen for the UK to be a tech Nation.)
To assess the barriers faced when attracting top talent from outside of the EU, Tech City UK held a range of consultation workshops with founders, CEOs and senior management of the digital business community. This direct community feedback has coalesced into the addition of four new qualifying criteria for the UK’s technology sector. The four new qualifying criteria – (1) Building UK scale-ups (2) Recognising ‘exceptional promise’ (3) Powering the Northern Powerhouse and (4) Recruiting Teams from Overseas – are based on direct feedback from the digital business community and have been added to ensure that the UK maintains its position as a globally competitive digital powerhouse. Further details of the four new qualifying criteria are set out below.
Building UK scale-ups
As scale-ups become ever more pivotal to the growth of the UK digital economy, as part of the consultation process, Tech City UK has included a specific provision to help companies to get the talent they need to scale quickly. Whether it is expertise in taking a company to Initial Public Offering (IPO) or scaling a product internationally, or individuals with very specific technical knowledge, such as data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, developers operations or cyber security, the visa scheme will provide a scale-up fast-track route that will enable rapidly growing companies to access the right talent at the right time to smoothen their path to success.
Recognising ‘exceptional promise’
The new scheme will accept and consider applications from individuals who are able to demonstrate ‘exceptional promise’, a criterion which envisages opening the route to a broader base of aspiring talent from outside the EU. This provision will facilitate companies in recruiting the highly skilled individuals needed to fill specific talent gaps.
Powering the Northern Powerhouse
According to the 2015 Tech Nation report, more than 170,000 people work in digital technology businesses across the North of England. The new scheme will now include a fast-track applications procedure for digital businesses in the seven cities under the Tech North remit (Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Sunderland). Similar to Tech City UK, Tech North shall also provide a visa support service to offer guidance and advice to companies wanting to hire someone from overseas.
Recruiting Teams from Overseas
Recognising that digital businesses often seek to recruit entire teams of exceptional individuals from outside the EU who have demonstrated success, a new revision to the Scheme will cater for this. From November 12, groups of up to five will be able to apply at once for consideration, allowing UK digital businesses to attract high calibre and high performing teams that have a proven track record of creativity, collaboration and commercial vision.
The ability of talented foreign technology specialists to apply in groups will enhance the possibility of a wider net for the“acquire-hire” deals frequently used by start-ups to accelerate their growth.
Tech City UK evaluates applications in the area of digital technology and is one of five designated competent bodies appointed by the home office to review applications from individuals wishing to enter the country under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route. The new scheme is subject to continued revision and as a result may change for applicants applying in future years. It is just one of the ways developed to tackle the challenges faced by the digital business community and other initiatives include Digital Business Academy, which provides free courses for anyone in the UK who wants to start, run, or join a digital business and Future Fifty, a concierge support service for the most exciting home-grown digital disrupters.
Here is the infographic for the route:
What the Pundits Say
Commenting on the updated Scheme, Rt Hon Ed Vaizey MP, the minister for the digital economy, said:
The Digital technology sector is a core building block of the Government’s plans to support an internationally competitive Northern Powerhouse as well as the UK’s leadership in digital innovation.
Today’s announcement furthers that strategy. This new Visa Scheme will support fast growth digital businesses in their quest to bring the best and brightest to British shores as we continue to stake our claim as a Tech Nation on the global stage.
Gerard Grech, CEO, Tech City UK, said:
Fast-growing digital technology businesses play a central role in ensuring the UK stays at the forefront of digital innovation and economic growth on the world stage.
Based on the feedback from the tech community, the new Tech Nation Visa Scheme will prove to be a vital tool for companies that want to secure the high caliber people they need to quickly scale their product, service and operations.
Eileen Burbidge, partner at Passion Capital and Chair of Tech City UK remarked:
Engaging with the digital business community to ensure the Government is offering practical support to accelerate company growth is what Tech City UK is about, and these revisions to the visa programme address the highest priority for all company founders – that of growing and scaling a business with the best talent from around the world.
Ben Medlock, co-founder and CTO of Future Fifty member company, Swiftkey, commented:
Our team in London speaks more than 30 languages, which is instrumental in our development and growth as a language technology company. Supporting skills and talents are needed to scale a company quickly and building the right team can make or break your business.
Cutting down on the processing time of visa applications, prioritising certain sets of skills and adding a new provision for UK scale-ups are improvements that will make a huge difference for fast-growing digital companies. We welcome initiatives such as the Tech Nation Visa Scheme that aim to make it even easier to attract talent from overseas.
If you are unable to satisfy the terms of the new visa, have a look at the summary of the other routes designed for rich people that may suit you: