Tech City UK has announced the Tech Nation Visa Scheme in a bid to make it easier to hire technology talent from beyond the European Union and plug the nation's digital skills gap.
The scheme is effectively an endorsement framework set up by Tech City UK to help people from outside the EU apply for a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa from the Home Office.
Gerard Grech, chief executive at Tech City UK, explained that the scheme has been set up in response to the UK's digital business community's need for more IT and technology talent, which appears to be sorely lacking in the UK.
"Fast-growing digital technology businesses play a central role in ensuring the UK stays at the forefront of digital innovation and economic growth on the world stage," he said.
"Based on feedback from the tech community, the new Tech Nation Visa Scheme will be a vital tool for companies that want to secure the high calibre people they need to quickly scale their product, service and operations."
The EU offers freedom of movement of citizens between member states, which can help to find talent, but a lot of digital skills can be found beyond EU borders in countries such as India, Korea and the Philippines.
However, the closure of the Post Study Work visa by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition made it difficult for the technology industry to retain some of the overseas talent in the UK's higher education system.
As such, the Tech Nation Visa Scheme has the potential to offer a way to get the talent digital businesses are after.
Tech City UK claimed that the scheme will help startups looking for talented people to scale their businesses into larger companies.
Furthermore, the scheme has been positioned as a way to find talent to fuel the growing technology sectors and startup communities found in the north of the UK, known as the Northern Powerhouse.
This will be led by the creation of a fast-track applications procedure for digital businesses in the seven cities under the Tech North remit: Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Sunderland.
This is pertinent given how London's technology industry and its position as the home of Tech City UK has a minor monopoly on attracting digital skills from within and beyond the UK's borders.
Furthermore, from 12 November groups of up to five people will be able to apply at once for consideration via the Tech City scheme, in an effort to help businesses hire a core set of skilled workers in one go.
The initiative has been backed Ed Vaizey, minister for the digital economy. "This new Visa Scheme will support fast growth digital businesses in their quest to bring the best and brightest to British shores as we continue to stake our claim as a tech nation on the global stage," he said.
Vaizey's stance is in contrast to his discussion of the UK digital skills gap with V3 in October 2014. The minster said that the UK should focus on developing home grown IT talent rather than bring in people from overseas to fill the skills gap.
But given concerns over the damaging effects of a lack of skills on the UK's technology industry, it would be no surprise that reticence towards attracting foreign talent is changing to a more positive stance as demand for IT talent increases.
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