Britain’s booming tech sector has been built by talented entrepreneurs from all over the world – people like Nikolay Storonsky and Vlad Yatsenko, the Russian and Ukranian founders of London-based mobile banking app Revolut.
But the ongoing Brexit impasse has raised fears that immigration controls could have the unwanted side-effect of turning off the tech talent taps. Especially in terms of new entrepreneurs, who wish to set up for the first time in the UK, or established business leaders, who want to base themselves here because of the country’s world-leading investment opportunities.
Any such threats could be very bad news for one of the best-performing parts of the UK economy – according to the latest Tech Nation Report, tech in the UK is worth more than £180bn and is growing at 2.6 times the rate of overall GDP. The UK now ranks an impressive third in the world for total tech investment after the US and China.
In an effort to tackle the problem – and to send the message that Britain remains very much open for business regardless of the Brexit outcome – a pair of new, more business-friendly visa schemes have been launched by the Home Office, both aimed at making sure the gates remain open for overseas entrepreneurs.
The Start-up visa is aimed at people wanting to set up in business in the UK for the first time. To be eligible, would-be entrepreneurs have to show that they have an innovative, scalable and viable business idea. There is no longer any requirement for applicants to prove they have the money to support themselves and the scheme is open to graduates and non-graduates alike.
The Innovator visa is aimed at more experienced business people. To be eligible, applicants have to prove that they have £50,000 to invest (down from the £200,000 required under the old scheme) and demonstrate that they possess the skills needed to run a successful business.
In addition both schemes require applicants to be endorsed by official "trusted" third parties, such as business accelerators, start-up competitions, government agencies and higher education institutions. And in marked contrast to the Exceptional Talent visas that are aimed at highly skilled employees, there will be no caps on the number of Start-up and Innovator visas that can be issued.