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 Glasgow Tech Week - Tackling tech talent shortages
Immigration law

Glasgow Tech Week - Tackling tech talent shortages



With Glasgow emerging as a leader in innovation and a hotspot for tech start-ups, the competition for talent means that more and more organisations are turning to overseas recruitment or targeting international graduates studying in the UK to fill the skills gap.

This need for talent coincides with the rollout of the UK Government’s five-point immigration plan which is focused on reducing net migration. As part of this plan, a higher minimum salary threshold was introduced in April 2024 for those businesses wishing to sponsor visas of foreign workers. These salary increases will be more keenly felt by start-ups and those businesses looking to source staff for entry level and more junior roles which typically attract a lower salary.

Notwithstanding these challenges, there are still visa options available for the tech sector, for both employees and founders in need of UK visas to live and work in the UK, including:

  1. Skilled worker visa

The skilled worker route is the most used work visa route, allowing companies holding a skilled worker sponsor licence to sponsor the visas of their employees. To be eligible for sponsorship, positions need to be skilled and paid in line with Home Office salary requirements. The recent increase in the general salary threshold from £26,200 to £38,700 per annum in April 2024 has the potential to price some companies out of this visa route. That said, there is some scope for visa applicants to benefit from a lower general salary threshold where they are recent graduates or are at an early stage in their career. Given the fact the employee’s visa is tied to their sponsored employment, there is the potential added benefit of greater staff retention for employers.

  1. Graduate visa

For those looking to remain in the UK after completion of their degree level studies, either to take employment in the sector or start their own business, the graduate visa is a good option. It allows for a two- or three-year period of sponsor-free employment or self-employment, giving flexibility to the individual, albeit for a short period of time.

This visa route has not escaped the government’s scrutiny as part of their wider immigration plan. The Migration Advisory Committee (‘the MAC’) has been commissioned to undertake a rapid review of the route and has been tasked with looking at who is using the route and whether there are any signs of abuse. Coinciding with Glasgow Tech Week, the MAC is due to report back to the government by 14 May 2024. Depending on the content of its report, we may see changes to this route soon.

  1. Global talent visa

Another option is the Global Talent visa, which has specific provision for the brightest and best talent in the digital technology sector. It works equally well for founders and employees with either a technical or business background. Eligible individuals can apply for an endorsement from Tech Nation, a government-approved endorsing body responsible for supporting the UK’s tech sector. This route offers a lot of flexibility; it does not require a job offer, there is no minimum income threshold and can lead to settlement in the UK in as little as three years.

  1. Innovator founder visa

For tech founders, the Innovator Founder route may be a viable option. This visa is aimed at individuals wanting to set up and run their own business in the UK. The proposed business must be innovative and different to what is already on the market, as well being viable and scalable. The visa applicant needs to be heavily involved in the business and be able to demonstrate that they have made a significant contribution to the business plan.  Part of the application process involves seeking an endorsement of the business idea from a government-approved endorsing body, and only if an endorsement is obtained can the individual proceed to apply for a visa. Whilst this route is more attractive than its predecessor route, it is not without its challenges. The initial endorsement application process is administratively heavy and, if an endorsement is secured, there are significant hurdles and targets to be met for an applicant to make a successful settlement application. Given these difficulties, there has been a relatively low take up of this route, with fewer than 500 visas granted in the year ending June 2023.

Cementing Glasgow’s status as a tech hub is not without its challenges. Not only is Glasgow competing with other UK cities, but also with tech hubs around the world. Understanding the available visa routes to attract and retain talent will go some way to ensuring availability and access to the skills needed for success.


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