The ‘Exceptional Talent’ (ET) visa is the sole immigration category which is determined by a designated expert body and not the Home Office.
The ET visa is aimed at non-EU nationals who are world leaders or potential world leaders in the fields of science, humanities, engineering, the arts and, more recently, digital technology. If approved, the visa permits the individual to work in the UK for up to five years after which time they can apply for permanent residence.
The initial application is made to the Home Office or UK Consulate and must satisfy the general immigration requirements. The Home Office/Consulate then refers the application to the expert body for their endorsement. There are five expert bodies approved by the Home Office who determine their own criteria as to who has sufficient talent. Tech City UK is the designated expert body for digital technology applicants. If approved, an endorsed potential applicant must then apply to the Home Office for leave relying on the endorsement.
There are a maximum of 1000 visas permitted per year divided up into roughly 200 for each category. However, the take up has been low and this is why Tech City UK was able to increase its allocation since other bodies have not used up theirs.
The maximum figure for ET visas is likely to increase following Brexit, assuming EU nationals will no longer have the right to work in the UK.
The Tech Nation visa is one of the six ‘Tier 1 Exceptional Talent’ visas, which are also available for science, engineering, humanities, medicine and the arts.
Tech City UK was able to increase its allocation since other bodies, which include the British Academy and the Royal Academy of Engineering, did not use up theirs.
According to a recent report from industry body techUK, 28pc of new workers in the tech industry between 2009 and 2015 were from outside the European Union.