Thursday 19 November 2020 9:00 am

UK tech visa applications jump as sector attracts top talent

Applications to the Tech Nation visa rose almost 50 per cent this year as Britain’s booming tech sector continues to attract top talent from around the globe.

The number of applications for the visa, which grants employees and founders in the tech sector the right to work in the UK for up to five years, has reached almost 2,000 in the last two year, with the pandemic failing to put a dent in growth.

Demand was up 48 per cent in 2020, following on from a rise of 45 per cent in 2019.

This is expected to rise further following the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of December, when talent from the EU hoping to work in the UK’s tech sector will also be able to apply for visas.

Of this year’s successful applicants, just over half are now working at one of the UK’s leading tech firms. Just over a quarter are founders who have set up businesses in Britain.

Tech Nation’s data showed London continues to dominate the country’s thriving tech sector, with 59 per cent of applicants based in the capital.

App and software development, AI and fintech remained the most popular sub-sectors for visa  applicants, with most applications coming from India, the US and Nigeria.

“The UK is a global talent magnet for tech founders,” said Tech Nation chair Stephen Kelly. “The UK provides rich opportunities for entrepreneurs to set up, flourish and scale a business.

“Tech Nation’s Visa Report shows that, despite the pandemic, international interest to work in the UK tech sector has never been higher. Attracting tomorrow’s tech leaders to the UK is crucial to the continued growth of the sector, the UK’s place in the world, and driving the nation through recovery to growth in the digital age.”

The report also revealed that interest in digital sector jobs has surged in 2020 amid a shake-up of the job market prompted by the Covid-19 outbreak.

New data showed there was a 200 per cent increase in the volume of UK users searching online for terms specifically related to ‘UK tech visas’ between April and September. This rose 100 per cent internationally among users in countries such as India and the US.

And while the pandemic has sparked job losses in many industries, demand for digital tech skills — in particular cybersecurity — has surged across the UK as businesses adapt to new ways of working.