Home » Home Office urged to fix visa rules for immigrant tech workers 

Home Office urged to fix visa rules for immigrant tech workers 

UK startups have called on the Home Office to implement more favourable policies for high-skilled immigrants looking to work in the tech industry.

In an open letter sent by the lobby group Startup Coalition and the think tank Entrepreneurs Network, the home secretary was called on to mitigate the potential damage to the tech industry caused by the new visa rules.

In December, Home Secretary James Cleverly introduced reforms to worker visas to curb legal migration.

The earnings threshold was increased from £26,200 to £38,700 for the Skilled Worker Visa, a sum greater than the UK national average salary.

The policy has been criticised by the tech sector advocacy groups, which described the role of immigrants as “critical” in “building the UK’s world-leading startup ecosystem”.

The open letter suggested counting equity towards the salary requirement for the Skilled Worker Visa, making it easier for workers at tech startups to stay in the UK.

The letter warned that without allowing a mix of salary and equity to count towards visas, British startups will struggle to keep skilled foreign workers. It also warned the policy disproportionately affects “startups based outside of London, where data shows tech salaries are lower, will be disproportionately impacted by these changes”.

Bella Rhodes, talent policy lead at Startup Coalition, said: “UK startups are already struggling to access skilled workers, and the changes that come into force today make it more difficult to fill vacancies.

“The government wants startups to access the talent they need, so they should count equity towards meeting the occupation salary thresholds.”

Philip Salter, founder of The Entrepreneurs Network, said the “continued success” of the UK startup ecosystem “is reliant on being able to attract the best and brightest” and that the policy changes put that in “jeopardy”.

He added: “The threshold hikes are incredibly short-sighted and show a lack of understanding of the UK’s startup scene.”

Overseas skilled workers have had a significant impact on the UK’s tech sector. A report from Tech Nation reflecting on the decade anniversary of the Global Talent Visa scheme noted that among the 5,249 international tech workers who received these visas, a quarter of them were founders of new startups.

A government spokesperson told UKTN: “We are committed to attracting the best and brightest talent to the UK, but the prime minister and home secretary have been clear that current levels of migration are far too high.”

The spokesperson said the approach of “reducing immigration” and encouraging investment into the “domestic workforce” is “fair”.

“Our talent routes remain unchanged and will continue to welcome talented individuals in STEM to help boost our domestic science and research sector,” they added.

Speaking to UKTN last month, Tech Minister Saqib Bhatti claimed the Home Office policies would not impact the tech industry and that the tech department was “leading the charge” on encouraging foreign workers.