New Scale-up visa and other
UK immigration routes
for the tech sector

Later this month, the Home Office is set to launch a brand new immigration route to make it quicker and easier for fast-growing businesses to bring highly skilled individuals to the UK. On 22 August 2022, applications will open for the new Scale-up visa, the latest in a series of work visas newly launched this year to help British businesses access global talent.

In July, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published its UK Digital Strategy, which sets out how the government plans to make the UK ‘the best place in the world to start and grow a technology business’. The Strategy acknowledges the benefits that talent from overseas can bring to businesses in the tech sector, and outlines how the government is enabling the ‘best and brightest’ international tech talent to work in the UK through the Home Office suite of work visas, including the new Scale-up visa.

In this article, we look at what we know so far about the new Scale-up route and outline a range of alternative immigration routes commonly used in the tech sector.

The new Scale-up visa at a glance

Official guidance on the Scale-up route has not yet been released by the Home Office. However, the route was outlined in a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules published in March this year.

In short, the Scale-up route has been designed to allow talented individuals to come to the UK if they hold a high skilled job offer from a qualifying scale-up business at the required salary level of £33,000 per year or more. The growth threshold to qualify as a scale-up which can bring people into the UK is 20% annual growth in headcount or revenue over a 3-year period.

The Scale-up visa offers a more flexible work visa and, unlike other sponsored routes, the Scale-up route will only require individuals to be sponsored for the initial six months on the route. This will enable UK businesses to compete for the internationally sought-after and highly skilled workers they need, and help maintain the UK’s status as a leading international hub for emerging technologies.

The new Scale-up visa recognises the benefits high-growth businesses offer to the UK, and the need to ensure they are fully supported in maintaining this growth at a key time. Although the Scale-up route is not limited to tech companies only, it is anticipated that businesses in this field will be some of the most frequent users given the abundance of fast-growing businesses in the sector.

Other UK immigration routes for the tech sector

Once launched, the Scale-up route will provide yet another option for employers and professionals in the tech sector, alongside several existing visa categories under the points-based immigration system:

  • Innovator visa – For individuals and founding teams setting up and running an innovative business in the UK. Applicants must have an approved business idea that is different to anything else on the market, and be endorsed by an approved endorsing body.
  • Start-up visa – For those setting up innovative businesses for the first time. The business must be a new idea, and applicants must secure endorsement from an approved UK Higher Education Institution or business organisation.
  • Skilled Worker visa – For employers to recruit people to work in the UK in a specific job. A Skilled Worker must have a job offer in an eligible skilled occupation from a Home Office approved sponsor.
  • Global Business Mobility visa – For overseas businesses to temporarily send employees to the UK for a specific corporate purpose that could not be done by a resident worker. There are five sub-categories of this visa for specific assignment types.
  • Global Talent visa – For individuals who can demonstrate they have been recognised as leaders or potential leaders in tech. Applicants must apply for an endorsement from Tech Nation and demonstrate significant technical skills, or business skills in product-led digital technology companies. Winners of acceptable global technology prestigious prizes automatically qualify without the need for endorsement (such as a Turing Award or ACM prize).
  • High Potential Individual visa – This unsponsored route is for high potential international graduates of top global universities. Eligible applicants are those who have a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or PhD, awarded by an institution on the Home Office Global Universities List.

Recruiting overseas talent for your tech business

Smith Stone Walters will provide a further update on the Scale-up route once the Home Office guidance has been published. In the meantime, if you have any questions around recruiting overseas talent for your tech business, our team of immigration experts are on hand to help. To discuss your requirements with a qualified immigration advisor, please contact us today.

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