The number of people applying for the UK Tech Nation Visa was at its highest level in September 2020 since the program was launched in 2014.
This visa (officially known as the Global Talent visa) enables the best founders and tech employees from around the world to come and work in the UK’s digital technology sector.
Applications in the third quarter of 2020 were up 42% from the previous quarter, and up 8% from the same time last year, according to Sifted. Applicants predominantly came from India, Russia, and America.
According to the Tech Nation website, between April 2014 and March 2019, the top skills of applicants were software development (25%), business development (19%), product (9%), and data science (6%).
“25% of those who receive a Tech Nation visa are founders. These individuals are setting up businesses across the UK, bringing capital and jobs that are fuelling our economic growth,” says Stephen Kelly, chair of Tech Nation.
The total number of applicants since 2014 exceeded 2,800 people from more than 90 countries. In total, more than 1,500 visas were endorsed over this period.
Why the Tech Nation Visa?
The Tech Nation Visa has many benefits:
- You don’t need a job offer in the UK.
- There are no language or minimum salary eligibility requirements.
- You may have experience in any tech subsector (AI, cybersecurity, FinTech, games, etc.).
- You wouldn’t be tied to a specific job, company, or location within the UK. You can change jobs without telling the Home Office (which is a UK department responsible for immigration).
- Your family may join you (including your partner, your children under 18, and your children over 18 if they’re currently in the UK as dependants).
- Visa is granted for up to 5 years and is extendable for up to a further 5 years. You can renew your visa as many times as you like
- The Tech Nation Visa can lead to permanent residence (settlement or indefinite leave to remain) in the UK.
There are 2 routes within the Tech Nation Visa program:
- The Exceptional Promise route is intended for applicants who can demonstrate the potential to become a leader in the field of digital technology through their skills or achievements thus far. Applicants who choose to apply via this route (called “emerging leaders”) are often at the start of their careers in digital technology, usually with less than 5 years of experience.
- The Exceptional Talent route is intended for applicants who are already leaders in the digital technology sector.
You may be eligible for settlement (indefinite leave to remain) under this visa. You can apply for settlement in 3 years if you applied under the Exceptional Talent route or in 5 years if applied under the Exceptional Promise route.
Both technical and business type roles are eligible for the Tech Nation Visa. For example, you could be a developer, engineer or data scientist, or you could have commercial, investment or digital product expertise in a technology company that creates software, hardware or that processes data .
Technical and business skills covered by Tech Nation:
The following specializations are not eligible:
- Service Delivery, Process Delivery, Outsourcing, Consultancy (technical or management), ERP Consultancy, Systems Admin, and all related fields.
- Corporate roles or experience of managing large corporate teams.
- Junior investors/analysts (must be supported by an investment track record made at a senior level and are not suitable for Exceptional Promise).
- Business skills apply to in-house work within product-led digital technology companies, not tech-enabled or service companies such as agencies, outsourcers, marketing firms, etc.
Technical applicants must demonstrate proven technical expertise with the latest technologies in building, deploying, exploiting or using a technology stack and building technical infrastructure.
Business applicants must demonstrate a proven commercial, investment, or product expertise in building digital products or leading investments in significant digital product businesses.
Both need to show at least 1 “key criteria” and 2 “qualifying criteria”.
Key criteria for the Exceptional Promise route:
- Have at least 2 examples of innovation where you’ve set up a product-led digital technology company
- Have at least 2 examples of innovation where you’ve worked in a new digital field or concept, and have a record of innovation
- Do things outside work to support the digital technology sector, for example, teaching, mentoring, or collaborative projects
Key criteria for the Exceptional Talent route:
- Set up or had a senior position in a product-led digital technology company, which has a record of innovation
- Worked in a new digital field or concept, and have a record of innovation
- Showed that you do things outside work to help in the digital technology sector, for example, teaching, mentoring, or collaborative projects
Qualifying criteria for the Exceptional Promise route:
- Set up or worked in a product-led digital technology company, which has made significant technical, commercial, or entrepreneurial contributions in the digital technology sector
- Been recognized by others as being a potential leading talent in digital technology
- Learned or mastered new digital skills, either commercial or technical, throughout your career
- Had at least 2 examples of research published or endorsed by an expert
Qualifying criteria for the Exceptional Talent route:
- Set up or worked in a product-led digital technology company, which has made technical, commercial, or entrepreneurial contributions in the digital technology sector
- Been recognized as a leader in the field, for example by winning awards
- Developed new digital skills throughout your career — these can be commercial or technical
- Had research published or endorsed by an expert
You can take a quiz to find out if you’re eligible.
To apply for the Tech Nation Visa, you’ll need the following:
- Application form. After you submit your endorsement application on Gov.uk, you’ll need to complete the application form on the Tech Nation website.
- Personal statement. When you’ll be completing the application form on the Tech Nation website, you must include a personal statement of up to 1,000 words explaining the contribution that you’ll make to UK digital technology, a plan of what you’ll be doing once you are in the UK, why you want to come to this country, what your planned occupation in the UK would be, in which location you’re planning to live in the UK, etc.
- Curriculum vitae (CV). It should include your career and any relevant publication history. Your CV should not be more than three A4 sides in length. Read our tips on how to write a CV.
- 3 letters of recommendation. These letters must be as detailed as possible concerning your skills or work. Each person who writes a letter for you must be a senior member of their organization (include proof of their position, for example, a CV). They must know your work and show your achievements in the digital technology sector, and how you are a leader or potential leader, say how you would contribute to digital technology in the UK, explain what plans you have for work in the future, etc.
- Up to 10 pieces of evidence to support the key and qualifying eligibility criteria on your application: employment contracts, letters from employers, documentation on product designs or architecture diagram showing your contribution, contributions to open source projects, your GitHub profile demonstrating active participation in a collaborative project, your Stack Overflow profile showing the significant contribution to discussions around code, relevant qualifications, links to videos of talks or conferences that have had many views, documentation of speaking in a prestigious conference, evidence that you are the author of published materials, evidence of mentorship, evidence of awards, etc. You’ll need to submit this evidence through the Tech Nation (Global Talent) online form.
- Endorsement letter and an email from the Home Office. See the “How to apply” section for more details.
- Tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where you have to take the test (if you’re resident in any of the listed countries).
- Certified translation of any documents that are not in English.
The Tech Nation Visa normally costs £608 (plus additional fees) for each person to apply. The costs are the following:
- Endorsement application: £456
- Visa application: £152 (or £97 if you’re from Turkey or Macedonia)
- Visa application for dependent family members: £608
- Healthcare surcharge: £400 per year of stay in the UK for each person applying
- Biometric information: £19.20 if you apply from within the UK (if you apply from outside the UK, the cost is included in your application fee)
For example, if you’re moving to the UK with a partner for 5 years and if you’re applying from outside the UK, you’ll pay £5,216 for two people.
How to Apply
The process of applying consists of several stages.
1. Apply online for an endorsement on the Gov.uk website to prove that you are a leader or potential leader.
2. After that, you’ll be sent to the Tech Nation website where you’ll need to complete the Tech Nation application form.
3. The Home Office will send your application to be reviewed by Tech Nation.
4. Tech Nation will assess your endorsement application and decide whether you meet the eligibility criteria to apply for the Tech Nation visa. Each application for endorsement is assessed by an independent panel of experts based on your skills, expertise, and how you intend to benefit the UK’s digital tech sector.
5. You will get a decision about your endorsement within 28 calendar days. If your application for endorsement is successful, you’ll receive an email from the Home Office with a copy of your endorsement letter. You’ll need these for your visa application.
6. You must apply for the Tech Nation Visa within 3 months of receiving your letter of endorsement from the Home Office. If your permission to stay in the UK is about to expire, applying for the visa will extend it.
7. You’ll get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks if you’re in the UK or within 8 weeks if you’re outside the UK.
8. Your dependent family members should apply for a visa online.
Another immigration pathway for IT workers is a Tier 2 Visa. We also recommend to read these publications: