Not a week goes by when migration to and from the UK isn’t talked about. Ward Hadaway’s immigration expert Flora Mewies explains why recruiting and retaining talent is essential to the Fintech sector.
An Open University study this month (September 2018) revealed that three in five employers believed skills shortages had worsened since 2017. The findings also suggested uncertainties with EU Nationals’ rights as a result of Brexit had caused concern among businesses and individuals.
To enable the UK to maintain its leading position in the international fintech sector, recruiting and retaining talent is essential. This is why the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa was introduced by the UK Government in 2014.
Tech Nation has been devolved power by the Home Office to endorse applicants for this visa with exceptional talent and exceptional promise in the field of digital technology. The threshold isn’t as unattainable as it may first appear, as it applies to those with proven commercial expertise as well as those with proven technical expertise.
Further, while those with exceptional talent must be able to evidence their status as a world leader in their field, those with exceptional promise are individuals proven to be an emerging leader in their field.
Each year (April to April) there is a maximum 1,200 visas available for experts in digital technology and there is a two-stage application process. Firstly, this requires endorsement by Tech Nation and secondly, submitting a visa application to the Home Office.
Stage 1, the endorsement application, is by far the most complicated and time consuming part of the entire process. In order to be endorsed by Tech Nation’s panel of experts, applicants must provide documentary evidence that they meet Tech Nation’s criteria.
Breakout panel: The criteria differ slightly depending on which route you are applying under. Looking at the slightly lower threshold of Exceptional Promise rather than Exceptional Talent, an applicant must satisfy one of the below Key Criteria and two of the below Qualifying Criteria:
1. Provide two or more examples of innovation in the digital technology sector as a founder of a digital technology sector company or an employee working in a new digital field or concept that must be clearly evidenced, for example patent application.
2. Proof of recognition for work outside of your immediate occupation that has contributed to the advancement of the digital technology sector. For example, evidence that you have gone beyond your day to day profession to engage in an activity that contributes to the advancement of the sector.
1. Have made significant technical, commercial, or entrepreneurial contributions in the digital technology sector as either a founder or entrepreneur or employee of a digital technology company.
2. Have been recognised as having the potential to be a leading talent in the digital technology sector.
3. Have undergone continuous learning / mastery of new digital skills (commercial or technical) throughout your career.
4. Provide two or more examples of exceptional ability in the field by making academic contributions through research endorsed by a research supervisor or other expert.
As a very general rule of thumb, if an applicant has less than ten years’ experience in digital technology, the Exceptional Promise is most likely to be best suited to them.
This visa type is being used more in the fintech sector. Tech Nation has seen the highest number of applications from employees (64%). These are commonly individuals who have been living and working in the UK for many years in a tech role (not necessarily with a tech company), who have been sponsored by their employer to fill a specific vacancy within their business. The Tech Nation visa removes this dependence on the employer, as the individual holds the visa in their own right and it is not reliant upon them holding a specific role and there is no minimum salary they need to be paid.
The majority of the remainder of applicants are founders (28%), usually who have either set up and run a successful tech business overseas and are seeking to establish the business in the UK, or who have founded their business in the UK under a different visa type, commonly Tier 1 Entrepreneur or Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, and are looking to remain in the UK to run their business and explore other opportunities in the tech sector.
Since the creation of the visa, Tech Nation has seen the highest number of applications from individuals specialising in apps and software development (187 applications). This is closely followed by applicants from those in the fintech sector, with 129 applicants, of which more than half have been endorsed as having exceptional promise or exceptional talent (57%). •