Over 230 entrepreneurs have urged Prime Minister David Cameron to welcome more immigrants in an open letter criticising restrictions on skilled migrants.
The letter, organised by the Coalition for a Digital Economy and signed by the founders of Citymapper, Swiftkey and Unruly as well as Baroness Martha Lane Fox, founder of Lastminute.com, argued that the UK’s status as a tech hub was down to a diverse work culture:
The UK has become a global tech hub thanks in large part to startup founders, investors and employees from across the globe, including many of us who were not born in Britain but choose to invest our time and talents here.
The Tier 2 visa system, the visa for skilled workers from outside the EU, is currently being reviewed by the Migration Advisory Committee.
Restrictions have been proposed including imposing a levy for employers who hire workers from outside the EU.
This follows on existing requirements demanding immigrants be sponsored by an accredited company, have degree level qualification and only apply for the job after it has been advertised in the UK first for 28 days.
The UK’s tech sector is booming, but the open letter warns that this could change with tighter visa regulations:
Further restrictions on skilled migration could restrict the growth of our businesses and hurt UK’s digital economy.
Despite restrictions proposed on the visa system, the government has also recently taken steps to make it easier for tech companies to hire talent from outside the EU, by creating a new "tech nation" visa scheme.
The scheme was welcomed by many. Olga Nechita, senior associate at law firm Lewis Silkin, called it a "step forward":
The current UK immigration requirements are rigid and preclude many high calibre technology specialists from establishing themselves in the UK, as they don’t fall within the prescribed immigration criteria of being endorsed as leaders, or emerging leaders, in the digital technology sector.