Tech Talent

This page provides a summary of the main immigration options available to overseas tech talent.

Skilled Worker Route

This is the main immigration route for those who want to come and work in the UK, but don’t already have the right to work. The requirements of the Skilled Worker route include:

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Sponsored route

a UK based company will need to apply for and obtain a skilled worker licence before it can sponsor a non-UK national to work in the UK.

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Minimum salary threshold

depending on the role the company sponsoring will need to pay a minimum salary.

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Role

the job for which sponsorship is offered must be on the list of eligible occupations.

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English language

where applicable, meet the minimum English language requirements.

Pro’s

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Job offer prior to arrival in the UK, with a confirmed start date.

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The route can lead to settlement in the UK.

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Dependants can apply at the same time as the main applicant.

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If the company sponsoring, already has a Skilled worker licence, the process can be relatively quick.

Con’s

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The visa process can be expensive.

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The skilled worker must work full-time for the company which has provided sponsorship.

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The visa can be curtailed if employment comes to an end.

Graduate Visa

The Graduate visa was launched on 1 July 2021. This route allows international students, who graduate in the UK to remain in the UK to look for work after their studies for 2 years, or 3 years for PhD students. The work can be in any sector and at any level without any minimum salary requirements or the need for visa sponsorship. The main requirements under this route include:

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Those applying must have successfully completed their degree or other eligible qualification in the UK.

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The application for the graduate visa must be made from within the UK.

Pro’s

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Allows recent graduates to take up roles and gain work experience in any sector.

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Self-employment allowed.

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The route does not require sponsorship, therefore can be an attractive option for start-ups to hire international talent.

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The application process is straightforward with those eligible being granted an e-visa.

Con’s

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The route does not automatically lead to settlement.

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At the end of the visa, the individual will either need to leave the UK or switch into another immigration category.

Global Talent visa – Tech Nation

The Global Talent visa is the jewel in the crown of the UK’s immigration offering. It enables the brightest and best tech talent from around the world to come and work in the UK’s digital technology sector, contributing their cutting-edge expertise, creativity and innovation to maintaining the UK’s position at the forefront of the global digital economy. There are two routes available to cater for different levels of experience:
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Exceptional Talent

Proven to be a recognised leader.

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Exceptional Promise

Proven to be an emerging leader.

Pro’s

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Visa granted for up to 5 years.

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Application is endorsed by a panel of tech experts via Tech Nation.

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No limit on the number of times the visa under this category can be extended.

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Flexible visa, not tied to a specific job, company or location.

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Dependants can apply at the same time as the main applicant.

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Route leads to settlement (accelerated settlement for those who are endorsed under exceptional talent).

Con’s

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Not a Points Based system route, criteria can therefore be subjective.

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Application is based on documentary evidence, therefore no opportunity to pitch directly to a panel of experts.

Start-up Visa

The Start-up visa category is suitable for early stage, but high potential, entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business in the UK for the first time. The main requirements under this route include:

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Obtaining an endorsement for your business idea from either;

  • a UK higher education institution; or
  • an approved business organisation
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Those applying need to demonstrate that their business idea is innovative, viable and scalable.

Pro’s

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No minimum investment required.

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The route is open to start-up teams.

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The business idea can be in any sector, including tech.

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Additional work can be undertaken so long as the majority of the time is spent working on the business idea, for which the endorsement has been granted.

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Regular check-ins with the endorsing body.

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Dependants can apply at the same time as the main applicant.

Con’s

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The route does not automatically lead to settlement.

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At the end of the visa, the individual will either need to leave the UK or switch into another immigration category e.g. the Innovator visa.

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Each endorsing body has a limit on the number of applicants it can endorse.

Innovator Visa

The Innovator visa category is for experienced business people, who are seeking to establish a business in the UK. The main requirements under this route include:

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Obtaining an endorsement from an approved business organisation.

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Demonstrating that the business idea is innovative, viable and scalable.

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Have at least £50,000 available to invest/already invested in the business.

Pro’s

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The business idea can be in any sector, including tech.

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Funds already invested/provided by the endorsing body can be used to meet the financial requirement.

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Regular check-ins with the endorsing body.

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Dependants can apply at the same time as the main applicant.

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Settlement may be granted after 3 years.

Con’s

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Those endorsed must only work in the business for which they have been endorsed.

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The endorsing body may take an equity share in the business.

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Each endorsing body has a limit on the number of applicants it can endorse.

Other immigration options

  • Spouses/unmarried partners of those who have any of the above visas
  • Spouses/unmarried partners of British nationals or those with Settlement
  • EEA nationals with Settled or Pre-settled status
  • T5 Youth mobility
  • T5 Government Authorised Exchange
  • UK ancestry visa

“As technology continues to progress and the demand for skills continues to rise, UK businesses are increasingly looking overseas to hire tech talent, both to fill skills gaps and to build a diverse work force. For those entrepreneurs who are looking to bring their business ideas to the UK, there are a number of immigration options, which can help support those business ideas.

In May 2021, the Home Office published a new plan for immigration which sets out a commitment to deliver an easy to navigate customer experience. The plan includes the introduction of new and reformed immigration routes to attract and retain highly skilled people, particularly in academia, science, research and technology. There is no doubt this is an exciting time to be part of UK tech!”

Pat Saini, Co-lead of TLA Immigration Working Group

Disclaimer/Note

This page represents a general overview of the UK immigration options available to tech talent and tech entrepreneurs. For detailed information, please refer to the relevant pages on Gov.UK or seek independent legal advice.