21 September 2012

UK visa policy hindering digital industry growth

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A leading UK think-tank claims UK visa policy will need to adapt in order for the country's nascent digital industry to grow.

UK visa

Unless UK visa policy is changed, the UK's digital industry could suffer.

Policy Exchange has warned that the inability to bring in top international graduates due to current UK visa policy risks damaging digital start-up companies' chances of success.

The digital industry is widely regarded as one of the fastest moving, as well as fastest growing industries, in the 21st century. The UK is home to several start-ups but Policy Exchange claims the industry is being deprived of the talent it needs to grow due to a protracted immigration process.

"Start-ups need to be able to take on the right people fast, not spend months trying to expand their technology author," said Chris Yiu, the report's author.

"That's why we need to make it easier for UK start-ups to take on highly-skilled foreign graduates."

Mr Yiu says the UK's inability to bring in highly-skilled workers it needs mean the industry will continue to lag in the wake of the US, which can recruit from a global talent pool.

"Companies like Intel, Yahoo!, Google, eBay and YouTube were all co-founded by immigrant entrepreneurs. They are now major global businesses," said Mr Yiu. "We need to create the right conditions to ensure that the UK lives up to its potential to be a world leader in the digital economy."

The Government have made significant changes to UK visa and immigration policy in recent months, including removing the Post Study work right for graduating international students.

It is this change, says Mr Yiu, which has most hindered progress and Policy Exchange is calling for further change to allow science and technology graduates to continue working in the UK after graduation.

A statement from the Home Office denied the think-tank's claims that policy changes were preventing highly skilled workers from coming to the UK.

"Latest visa stats show that around 40% of those coming here to work are joining the IT sector and we have made sure innovative student entrepreneurs who are creating wealth are able to stay in the UK to pursue their ideas," said a Home Office spokesperson.

"Our immigration reforms have brought in a more selective system which attracts the brightest and the best from across the world whilst bringing net migration down to sustainable levels."

A further report from Oxford University said that while more needs to be done to create home grown talent in the digital industries, immigration should be used to support it in its infancy.

"In the near-term, making it easier to tap into the global pool of digital talent would help ensure that today's digital start-ups are still around to employ our school leavers and graduates of the future," read the report.


The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.

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