For many businesses the opportunity to advance relies solely on recruitment of the right people in applicable areas. Having the opportunity to spread the recruitment net across a wider, international workforce obviously will greatly increase the chances of finding individuals meeting the required criteria. But, how straightforward or appropriate is it for businesses to plunder overseas talent pools.

Migration into the UK is currently assessed on a points-based system. In such a process a highly skilled doctor stands more chance of being granted access to the UK than someone with a factory background. Indeed in 2011 the Home Office ruled that only degree level non-European Economic Area workers could apply to work in the UK. However, jobs with salaries over £150k per annum are exempt from the rules, a figure which may be feasible for bigger engineering businesses, but not for smaller scale employers who are also in need of specialist skills.

Highlighting the digital technology sector as an area in which the UK needs to challenge globally, the Home Office announced changes which came into effect in April 2014, particularly aimed at enticing the world’s best talent in this field to our shores. The changes related specifically to the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route for individuals to secure employment in the UK.

The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route was originally limited to leaders in the fields of science, arts and engineering but now 200 places from the 1000 yearly quota are reserved for digital technology workers.

Despite the further opening of this route it is still dependent on individuals meeting extremely stringent criteria –

  • Evidence of authoritative contributions to the field, such as having won or been nominated for a nationally or internationally recognised Tech Award, having been a keynote speaker at a global digital technology conference or having authored a well-reviewed book on digital technology;
  • Evidence of experience in a digital technology business (i.e. Executive level employee, employee with distinguished reputations in their field or Founder with shares in a company);
  • Proof of technical contributions, such as product or application development or design with distinguished reputations as shown by critical reviews etc. or evidence of contribution to patents;
  • Details of any active digital technology businesses that the person has established outside the UK or businesses which have dissolved in the past 5 years; and
  • An endorsement letter by a senior member of an established organisation in the digital technology sector.

For other workers the routes left available are –

  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur route – Open to those from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland who want to set up or run a business in the UK and have at least £50,000 in investment funds.
  • Tier 1 Investors route – Open to those from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland who want to invest at least £2,000,000 in the UK.
  • Tier 2 Sponsors licence – For skilled workers with long-term offers, dependent on the individual business being eligible. Although this doesn’t guarantee that the worker will be allowed to stay in the UK.