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Access to talent in the fintech industry, is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

View profile for Anushka Sinha

The controversial immigration cap on non-EEA workers is currently set at 20,700 per annum and is broken down into monthly allocations.  It has been met for seven months in a row leading to over 1.3K tech sector professionals being refused UK visas.  

Unemployment is its lowest level for more than 40 years at 4.2% which combined with the ONS reporting that net migration to the UK is at its lowest levels since 2012, means that industries like the Tech industry are facing huge difficulties in securing talent to fill gaps in the labour market.

Eileen Burbidge, the Treasury’s special envoy for fintech was quoted in the Daily Telegraph earlier this month stating that the Tier 2 visa scheme is ‘failing to keep pace with our industry’s needs’ and added, ‘the fact that we have more skilled people wanting to contribute to the UK economy is a good thing.  The fact that we refuse them visas because of an outdated cap is not.’

In a recent survey conducted by Tech London Advocates, the single biggest challenge facing London Tech for 28.63% of respondents is shortage of talent. Immigration policies and access to visa routes was a concern for 8.55% and the impact of Brexit came in as a bigger concern at 20.09%. 

In response to demands to scrap the cap, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid has announced plans for a start-up visa to replace the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route. This new visa would allow UK businesses and accelerators to sponsor entrepreneurs in addition to universities. And from July 2018, NHS doctors and nurses will be removed from the cap which will be welcome news to companies struggling to secure visas although there are still concerns that these measures do not go far enough.

It remains to be seen what the new system will look like as the hotly anticipated White Paper on immigration which was due to be released in Autumn 2018 is subject to further delays. One hopes that in order to make Britain truly open for business in the post-Brexit era, the new Home Secretary will seize the opportunity to overhaul the current immigration system and replace it with one which is more responsive to rapidly changing industries and demands.