Tech Talents Welcome: The UK is Open for Business

The Global Talent visa is an immigration route to the UK launched in February 2020 to replace the Exceptional Talent visa. It is one of many immigration routes that businesses looking to employ foreign nationals could use but it often appeals to startups and SMEs because Global Talent visa holders do not require sponsorship from their prospective employers.

In addition, their employers are not required to pay the Immigration Skills charge.  Eligible individuals are those who have a proven track record or show promise in the fields of sciences, humanities, technologies, engineering and the arts, among others. Successful applicants can stay in the UK for up to five years and may be accompanied by partners and dependants. 

How does a prospective employee apply?

Applicants can apply from abroad or from within the UK. There are two stages to the application: the first step is to apply to an endorsing body to assess an applicant’s skills, abilities and achievements. The endorsing body will then advise the Home Office whether the application should be approved. The second step is that the Home Office will consider the application from a purely immigration perspective, including whether any general grounds for refusal apply and whether any restrictions prevent applicants who are already in the UK from switching into the Global Talent category.

There are two categories under the Global Talent application: “exceptional talent” and “exceptional promise”, with the former category more suited to seasoned professionals and the latter tailored for new, future leaders. Endorsing bodies may distinguish types of applicants on a more nuanced basis. For example, Tech Nation, the endorsement body for digital technology applicants, will distinguish whether the applicant is a “technical applicant” or a “business applicant”, with technical applicants being those whose primary responsibilities involve coding or development, and business applicants being those who work within the technology sector but are not responsible for writing code (e.g. investors, marketing officers). Other endorsing bodies include the Arts Council, the Royal Academy for Engineering and UK Research and Innovation.

Sounds great. How does the endorsement process work?

Each endorsement body sets its own endorsement process. We have outlined Tech Nation’s endorsement process below as an example:

Tech Nation endorses individuals who meet the criteria of having been recognised as a leading talent in the digital technology sector and at least two of the following:

  • a proven track record for innovation as a founder or senior executive of a product-led digital technology company or as an employee working on a new digital field or concept;
  • proof of recognition for work beyond the applicant’s occupation that contributes to the advancement of the field;
  • made significant technical, commercial or entrepreneurial contributions to the field as a founder, senior executive or employee of a product-led digital technology company;
  • have exceptional ability in the field by making academic contributions, through research published or endorsed by an expert.

What documentation will an applicant need?

Applicants seeking endorsement from Tech Nation will need to submit a completed visa application form and a CV to the endorsing body. The visa application form includes a personal statement setting out the applicant’s reasons for wanting to come to the UK, the applicant’s planned occupation and examples of how the UK’s digital technology sector will benefit from the applicant’s work. Applicants will also need to provide three letters of recommendations from individuals established as experts in the digital technology field who are familiar with the applicant’s work and contributions and up to ten pieces of evidence demonstrating that the applicant meets the key or qualifying criteria. The application can all be done online - a requirement for a paper form would hardly be in the spirit of the visa.

What are the next steps after submitting applications for endorsement?

The endorsement body will review the application and, if the applicant is successful, they will endorse the application and suggest to the Home Office that the applicant should be granted a Global Talent visa. The applicant should then apply to the Home Office, who will consider whether they meet the more general immigration criteria.

Why should an employer consider using this route?

Unlike other UK visa holders, Global Talent visa holders face fewer restrictions around job offers, salary requirements or English language requirements.  We have already seen how employers of Global Talent Visas are not required to sponsor an applicant or pay the Immigration Skills charge but another significant advantage is that this is one of the only immigration routes which permits self-employment, employment or both!