Last year, a new type of Tier 1 visa, the exceptional talent visa was announced by the Immigrations Ministry. This visa was introduced to help bring in extremely talented individuals into the United Kingdom to help alleviate or, in the very least, to some extent ameliorate the extreme crisis of a lack of talented workforce in the United Kingdom job market. The problem is that the visa is extremely hard to obtain. It needs an applicant to obtain an endorsement stating that he or she is actually very skilled and deserves the visa. These endorsements are given by Designated Competent Bodies. Till recently, there were only four of these: The Royal Society, Arts Council England, The Royal College of Engineering and The British Academy. Very recently, the Tech City, a Silicon Valley themed technology start – up cluster, founded by the United Kingdom government in 2010 has also been designated a competent body. The advantage of this visa is that people do not need an existing job offer, they just need an endorsement. While obtaining these endorsements is by no means easy, the applications for the visa get stymied when they reach the Immigrations Ministry. A majority of these applications are rejected despite endorsements. Last year, only seven visas were granted in the category. Needless to say, this is not close to fulfilling the demand for qualified people in the United Kingdom industry.
Ironically, the largest number of jobs that need to be fulfilled are in the Information Technology (IT) sector. There are 10,000 technology start – ups in London alone and all of them need talented personnel. Now, despite having the visa category, due to an extreme lack of numbers, it does not have any impact on the demand. Just a simple assumption of each company having two positions they need filled (and this is a very, very, very conservative estimate), that creates 20,000 vacancies in the IT sector. At only 200 visas, that is just 10 percent of the demand. If only 7 applicants get the visa and enter the United Kingdom, only 0.04 percent of the job demands are met. This situation is absolutely appalling. If the United Kingdom wants to develop in all sectors and try to reach the size of Silicon Valley, it needs to address this issue immediately!
Apart from the problems of extremely small numbers to have any impact on the industry, the visa category is also very restrictive. One needs to jump through a lot of hoops and clear a lot of interviews just to qualify, and even after that, you may not get the visa. This makes it extremely hard for core technology entrepreneurs to enter the United Kingdom. This is because a majority of technology entrepreneurs do not hold college degrees. Like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, they are often college dropouts. Though genius, they do not have thee credentials to back up their qualifications. It is extremely important to allow technology entrepreneurs into the country. After all, they are the ones who will start companies and help the industry develop.