Full steam ahead for the digital revolution as Tech City unveils its “new and improved” visa scheme.

The new Tech Nation Visa Scheme was recently annouced as a dedicated fast track route for digital businesses to bring up to 200 of the best and the brightest world class tech talent from outside the EEA every year. The scheme will look to further develop the UK’s reputation as a globally competitive digital powerhouse.

Launched by David Cameron in Shoreditch in 2010, Tech City UK was established to support the East London tech cluster known as “Silicon Roundabout” but has since grown to encompass a national remit for creating the best conditions possible to support digital technology businesses and entrepreneurs. As part of this role Tech City is a designated competent body authorised to endorse applications to the Home Office for this Exceptional Talent visa.

Following a six month consultation with founders, CEO’s and leading lights in the tech sector, Tech City identified obstacles to attracting talent from outside of the EEA and the new visa scheme goes some way towards overcoming these, being:

  • Recognising “Exceptional Promise”.  Whereas previous visa schemes required a proven track record of “innovation in digital technology” there is now flexibility for those at an earlier stage in their careers.  This new wave of talent, who are not necessarily yet at the “top of the tree” but are certainly making their mark and getting international attention, will now also be able to secure this visa .  Applications for endorsement will be quickly assessed by a dedicated panel, providing a rapid response to Home Office referrals.
  • Supporting the Northern Powerhouse. As well as a fast track process, Tech North (like Tech City) will provide a visa support service to companies in Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Sunderland wanting to bring in highly skilled migrants from outside of the EEA to join the existing 170,000 strong tech community based in the North of England.
  • Recruiting teams. The new visa scheme can be used to recruit entire teams of up to five individuals, acknowledging that development and innovation is often a collaborative process.

There are 1.4 million people working in the digital sector in the UK at present and this is set to rise exponentially.  Measures have been introduced to fill the increasing number of vacancies domestically, ranging from coding becoming part of the national curriculum to a general widening of access to digital skills.   The UK points based system will continue to assist in skills shortages in the sector being resolved, and the new Tech Nation Visa Scheme will complement this perfectly by actively encouraging exceptional talent to come to the UK from further afield.  

Philip Harman, Manchester-based immigration lawyer at national legal business DWF and adviser to Tech City commented: “The new provisions go further to supporting digital businesses, which will be welcome news for the thriving technology sector in the UK. The new streamlined visa application process reduces red tape to ensure that growing technology businesses can not only access the right talent quickly to support their business objectives, but allow them to compete on a global scale.”

John Dorney


I am a Director in the employment team with a broad range of employment expertise.