The north? Thar be tech unicorns. At least, thar will be if today’s relaxation of visa rules for tech workers has its desired effect. Tech City UK, the quango tasked with growing Britain’s digital business scene, is making it easier for firms to recruit the cream of the world’s technological crop from next month.
Since early 2014, Tech City has had the power to endorse up to 200 workers a year for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas, but has faced criticism that the system was still too complicated for smaller businesses in particular to navigate. Clearly, today’s announcement is supposed to change that, and in so doing help budding British tech firms compete with rivals in the US and, increasingly, China.
Businesses hoping to recruit the top international talent will soon have four new ways of meeting the Tier 1 criteria. Priority will be given to workers with experience scaling companies (whether at IPO or before) and younger people with ‘exceptional promise’. Teams of up to five will be able to apply, while anyone recruiting in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Sunderland or Hull will get their applications fast-tracked. ‘Powering the Northern Powerhouse’ is how Tech City refers to it.