Thursday 4 March 2021 2:39 pm

What will the new tech visa rules mean for UK fintechs?

Among a raft of new measures announced in the Budget the Chancellor has launched a new visa scheme to retain and attract the tech industry’s top talent. 

Announcing the Budget on Wednesday Rishi Sunak laid out plans to introduce “fast track” visa applications for people with a job offer from a recognised UK scale-up, together with a new “Global Business Mobility” visa.

Potential employees will no longer need to obtain a third-party endorsement or be backed by a sponsor organisation in a significant simplification of the rules.

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The plans follow a review led by former Worldpay boss Ron Kalifa, which urged the government to make the immigration system more tech-friendly. 

It came after persistent lobbying from the tech industry since the Brexit referendum from bosses who were concerned they were losing out on top talent. 

Foreign workers represent 42 per cent of UK fintech employees with EU workers making up 28 per cent of this group. 

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The new visa schemes have been widely welcomed by the industry which has hailed it as a “golden opportunity” for fintechs and startups more widely. 

“The new visa presents a golden opportunity for the UK to continue to trailblaze in fintech – encouraging entrepreneurialism, investment and growth,” Rafa Plantier, head of UK and Ireland at open banking platform Tink said.

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But what will the scheme actually mean for startups on the ground? 

The revamped visa system comes at an already difficult time for small businesses dealing with immigration changes due to Brexit. 

“As UK employers prepare for the period beyond Covid-19 and Brexit, they will be receptive to a visa system that enables them to access the talent and experience that they need,” Joanne Hennessy, immigration law expert at Pinsent Masons said.

Access to top talent may help in reducing costs and administration in the long run compared to the limited options currently available, PwC’s immigration partner Lindsey Barras added.

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“Highly skilled individuals will be able to undertake short-term contracts, or work for a range of businesses throughout their stay in the UK, without the need for a specific sponsor.” 

A review of the Innovator visa, which allows experienced business people to set up companies with £50,000 investment, has been welcomed by founders.

“The Innovator visa is currently unfit for purpose, needing fundamental reforms to align incentives so the pricing is clear and more high-quality organisations become endorsing bodies,” Philip Salter, founder of The Entrepreneurs Network said.

“As our Job Creators report has found, prior to Brexit 49 per cent of the fastest growing businesses in the UK had at least one foreign-born founder. If we are to continue this record, we need to ensure that the visa process is as fast and unbureaucratic as possible.”

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