The UK's tech leaders are calling for a new visa scheme to avert a potential skills crisis in the industry caused by Brexit.
The government should create a new minimum six-month high-skilled visa to ensure the fast growing sector has access to talent after the UK leaves the European Union, as new figures reveal a third of startups' first 10 hires come from outside the UK.
A fresh report from The Coalition for a Digital Policy (Coadec) identifies that the tech industry, which accounts for more domestic output than manufacturing and construction, is at risk of a shortfall in skills to the tune of 800,000 jobs by 2020.
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“If Britain is going to succeed in a post-Brexit world, the UK’s tech sector must be able to hire global talent," said Coadec chair Alex Depledge.
"That means a smart visa system that enables the best and the brightest to come to the UK from wherever they are in the world.”
The group is proposing that a new visa would sit alongside the existing Tier 2 visa scheme and the Tech Nation visa scheme used by many startups, allowing workers to seek work within the UK.
The scheme would be piloted with five countries where the same skills are in high demand and compete with the UK – Australia, Japan, Monaco, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan – the group suggest, and potential workers will have studied at certain institutions or have passed high-level exams in programming languages.
The research from Coadec found 75 per cent of startups hire non-UK workers who are already in the country as students or already working for another company, which it believes highlights the need for other routes for startups to employ talent. The current Tier 2 visa is for those who have already been offered jobs and if those in the UK under the proposed new visa did not find a job after six months, they would have to return home.
The group is also urging the government to consider the endorsing companies rather than applicants directly and the ability to offer equity compensation in place of the salary requirements of a Tier 2 visa.
“For the UK’s tech sector to thrive, we have to find solutions to the current talent and skills shortages," said Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder of unicorn startup TransferWise.
"It’s everything from how we build the capacity in the UK through education, and how we attract the best from around the world through immigration policies. Post-Brexit, the need is even more pressing."