While India, US, and Nigeria were the top three countries from which ‘exceptional talent’ has come into the UK through the Global Talent Visa, Chinese IT experts have been approved for UK visas at a higher percentage than any other nation, according to new data.
Russian migrants working and investing in the UK IT sector also enjoyed a high rate of visa approval.
Figures released by Tech Nation reveal that although the number of Chinese nationals applying to work or invest in the UK IT and technology sector fell over 2019-20, those who did apply enjoyed a higher visa approval rating than nationals from any other nation.
India, US, and Nigeria were the top three countries from which “exceptional talent” has come into the UK through the Global Talent Visa, according to Tech Nation, the official Home Office-designated endorsing body authorised to assess applications from skilled technologists who want to come to the UK under this route.
The Tech Nation Visa Report 2020 shows that this year 52% of those endorsed for the Global Talent Visa were employees in UK firms, while 28% were classed as “tech founders” and had set up their own technology firms.
Of the 77 Chinese nationals who applied under the Global Talent Visa route, 86% were approved. Applicants from Nigeria had the lowest rate with approvals of only 30%.
Migrants from Russia enjoyed 63% approval, while those from India were only approved in 39% of cases.
Over the past two years, more than 1,975 migrants applied for the visa with 920 being issued to people in about 50 countries.
The figures do not as yet reflect the warning of chancellor Rishi Sunak who recently stated that the UK needed to be wary of IT investors from countries where cybercrime and IP theft was rife.
He recently told an audience on professional network site LinkedIn: “We really need to be eyes wide open because, sadly, in the world in which we’re living there are hostile state actors that come to invest and try to extract technology out of the UK, or indeed jobs.”
Sunak warned that the UK needed stricter regulations regarding foreign investment in order to give the government “the power to intervene if necessary”.
Although Sunak did not refer to any country by name, the comments were thought most likely to be directed at China after Huawei was banned from the UK’s 5G infrastructure because of security concerns.
Russia has also been identified as a state sponsor of disinformation and cyber attacks.
In addition, trading links with China could be ruptured to some degree by growing concern over the treatment of the Uighur people. House of Lords are preparing a cross-party move to block trade agreements with any country deemed by the UK high court to be committing genocide.
There are also Labour-led plans in the upper house to require a government human rights risk assessment before backing a Brexit trade deal.
Visa expert Yash Dubal, director of A Y & J Solicitors, said that despite the caution over dealings with China, the UK’s need for talented people from overseas would be the overriding factor.
He said: “The figures show there are favourable conditions no matter what nationality you are,” he said. “Britain is still very much open for business and remains a lucrative place for IT and tech firms to expand into despite some of the mixed messages we hear from the government.
“The Global Talent Visa is designed to attract the brightest and best to the UK and diplomatic problems between nations will not alter the fact that the IT industry in the UK needs to employ talented people from overseas to remain competitive.”
He pointed out that the advanced IT industry in China meant that Chinese IT specialists were particularly attractive to UK employers, despite political tensions.
In terms of volume of visas, India, tops the list of approved applicants, despite a much lower approval percentage. Almost 900 Indian nationals applied for a Global Talent Visa last year but only 350 were approved. Meanwhile 303 US citizens were approved for the visa, making them the second highest population of foreign IT workers in the country, while Russians came third, with 105 approved global talent visa holders.
Stephen Kelly, chair of Tech Nation said: “The UK’s industrial and cultural DNA has been built on the basis of openness to people from all backgrounds – truly a multicultural melting pot. This is what gives the UK strength in 2020, in the face of challenges, we pull together the vast range of expertise, of work experience, and national heritage to forge a path for the future.”
Tech Nation recorded an increase in demand for cyber skills of 111% (from 2017 to 2019) across the UK on average but of more than 400% in Northern Ireland. The top five roles or skills groups for endorsement on the Global Talent Visa for applicants were:
- AI & machine learning
- Academic or researcher
- Product management
- Data scientist
- Software engineer