TechUK has called on the government to reinstate the Post Study Work (PSW) visa and adopt a wider approach to "smart migration" in a bid to help the UK technology industry attract non-EU students and workers with digital skills.
The organisation sent a written response to an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration stating that the technology industry suffered from the government's closure of the PSW visa in 2012.
TechUK noted that the closure resulted in a decline in the number of academic applications for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, and encouraged non-European graduates with digital skills to work outside the UK. The move "trained our competitors to out-compete us", TechUK said.
The organisation added that, without out the PSW visa, Britain lacks the right international perception to attract talented people from abroad in the long term, and that it needs to be reinstated if the current and future recruitment demands of the technology industry are to be met.
"The UK is in an international race, and can only be a world leader if we send out the right messages to the best talent internationally," said Antony Walker, deputy chief executive at TechUK.
"The PSW visa is part of a solution that helps to fill the short-term STEM shortage that tech companies are suffering from.
"It also sends out a tremendous message round the world that the UK can be home to the wealth creators that in turn create jobs and growth here in the UK."
However, the government is instead focusing on developing digital skills from within the nation's borders.
In an exclusive interview, culture minister Ed Vaizey told V3 the UK should be focusing on developing its own home-grown digital talent, rather than bringing in people from abroad to fill the IT skills gap.
"I think we want to build great skills. It's important that UK businesses scaling up can still attract some skills," he said. "Because this is such a fast moving sector some of these skills are rare indeed, because the kind of jobs didn't exist two years ago.
"But we want to build up a skills base, which is why we ae the first G20 country to put coding into the national curriculum."
All three major political parties threw their weight behind a TechUK manifesto that called on the next government to address the technology industry's pressing need for digital skills.
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