Last year the UK technology sector grew six times faster than any other sector, creating new jobs and opportunities for people up and down the UK. Migration has been, and continues to be, a primary driver of growth within the UK’s tech sector and is critical in delivering continued innovation, competitiveness, and employment opportunities.
Yet, there continues to be a digital skills gap where the UK economy could forfeit as much as £141.5 billion in GDP growth if we fail to close it. This gap is not unique to the UK, making tech talent in high demand across international competitive markets. Access to talent remains the number one issue for techUK’s members. It is therefore crucial that the UK remains an attractive destination for this talent. That includes creating an immigration system that is quick, efficient, and welcoming.
To date the tech sector has benefited from the bureaucratic ease and speed of Freedom of Movement, allowing businesses to easily recruit EEA talent. It is estimated that fewer than 2% of UK employers (31,000 businesses) hold a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ enabling them to recruit talent from overseas (via Tier 2). The move to a new points-based immigration system will therefore require a significant change for businesses, particularly SMEs. Adequate time, guidance, and support must be given to businesses to help them smoothly adapt to these changes.
techUK believes this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to examine the UK’s immigration system wholesale and streamline it so it engenders public confidence, works for business and ensures the UK remains attractive to international talent. In particular, this is an opportunity to review costs associated with visas and the various charges and how they are used – for example the Immigration Skills Charge.
techUK welcomes the number of steps Government has already taken to restate the UK’s commitment to science, research and innovation. The Global Talent Visa scheme, reinstatement of post-study work visas, and removal of the Tier 2 visa cap are welcome first steps. However, to remain world leading in fields such as AI and quantum, more can be done.
Read the full written evidence submitted by techUK (IB20) to the House of Commons Scrutiny Unit.