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The Tech Nation (formerly Tech City) visa scheme has gradually become useful. The Tech Nation scheme falls under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa category, for migrants with outstanding achievements or promise in their fields. During Tech Week , the Home Office published (another) Statement of Changes in the Immigration Rules. The changes take effect next month and include changes to the Tech Nation scheme which will be of interest to migrant techies.
Exceptional Talent visas have historically been exceptionally difficult to get. When the scheme opened in 2011, to qualify under the Arts and Culture scheme which is analogous to the Tech City Scheme, one had narrow chances of success without having won a significant international award. Examples given in the Arts Council’s guidance at the time were the Booker Prize or a Grammy or Tony Award. According to the available data, only 59 Exceptional Talent Visas were granted in 2012, the first full year of its operation.
Uptake of Tech Nation Exceptional Talent visas was particularly low, with only 10 applications being received in the year to April 2015. The Home Office has revised the scheme several times to make it more attractive, for example by adding an ‘Exceptional Promise’ route to attract budding talents in 2015. The tweaking worked and Tech Nation received 380 applications for endorsement under the scheme in the year to April 2017. A few months ago, the Home Office doubled the available Exceptional Talent visas to 2000, and Tech Nation applicants might access up to 1,200 of those.
Starting next month when the latest round of new rules takes effect, an applicants’ academic track record and salary levels will be taken into account, in addition to their professional track record and other factors. For entrepreneurs, the amount of money they raised will be taken into account.
Tech industry employees will be able to rely on significant technical, commercial or entrepreneurial contributions to the tech sector to meet the requirements of the Tech Nation visa scheme. The Tech Nation scheme is already open to employees, but the criteria favour company directors or founders.
As with all Exceptional Talent visa schemes, Tech Nation applicants will no longer have to be ‘world leaders’ but can simply be leaders in their fields.
The Exceptional Talent route will open for the first time to established and potential international fashion designers. The British Fashion Council have set the relevant criteria.
Criteria will somewhat for exceptional promise applicants under the Arts and Culture subcategory too: they will qualify on the basis of a developing track record in their own country. Currently, recognition in at least two countries is required.
Finally more applicants will qualify under the TV and film subcategory. The subcategory covers the UK’s world-renowned specialist effects industry, which is threatened by potential limitations on access to talent posed by Brexit. The Producers Alliance of Cinema and Television will be able to validate Exceptional Talent applicants as leaders in their field on the basis of having won a wider range of awards.
For further information please contact our Immigration specialist Samar Shams.