An immigration system that supports the UK tech sector

Ahead of the publication of the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) report on EEA workers in the UK labour market, techUK has published its asks of the post-Brexit immigration system. techUK has developed a set of proposals based on the principles that we believe are necessary to support the UK’s thriving tech sector. These asks will be the criteria with which we will judge the government’s proposed future system – both in the highly anticipated Immigration White Paper and the legislation that stems from it.

The UK faces a digital skills crisis and as the economy digitises, competition for tech talent will only become fiercer. Whilst industry and government are working hard on creating a domestic pipeline of future tech talent, and much is being done now regarding lifelong learning, there is an immediate need for skilled labour in the tech sector. Migration, both EU and Rest of World, is key to the UK’s continued success.

The ease and simplicity of freedom of movement has taken the edge off an otherwise complicated immigration system, and so whilst the UK’s exit brings a number of challenges it is also a unique opportunity to address the UK’s migration system as a whole. Migration is key to a successful, globally-competitive UK tech sector.

In our 2017 report with Frontier Economics, it was clear that the majority of demand for Tier 2 visas came from the three major industry groups most closely associated with the digital sectors – information and communication; professional, scientific and technical activities; and financial and insurance activities. Furthermore, whilst we have seen a doubling of Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visas in November of last year and the London Tech Week announcement of a new Start-Up visa are encouraging first steps, they ultimately support entrepreneurs and do little for existing British tech firms seeking to fill employee vacancies right now.

That is why we are calling for, among other recommendations, a removal of arbitrary caps of Tier 2 skilled workers and above; a review of Tier 1 visas, both Exceptional Talent and Post-Study work visas; a stop to salary acting as a proxy for skill level; and a relaxation of continuous residency requirements for those undertaking business or research travel. There is also a clear need to streamline processes which is why we have also recommended: changes to supporting documentation requirements; a simplification of fee structures; and a review of the currently underused Tier 5 visa system.

The publication of the MAC report, due on 18 September, will undoubtedly reignite debate about what our future migration system should like and whilst techUK were encouraged that the Government chose to wait for this report before publishing its White Paper, an evidence-based approach that for too long has been missing from the immigration debate in this country, we are now only six months away from Brexit and businesses need to know what a new system will looks like. techUK will continue to push for a system that supports the tech sector and retains the UK’s position as a global tech hub.

Read the full report via the link below.

techUK_post_brexit_immigration_system (pdf)

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