March 03, 2023

What Is the Future for Digital Technology Global Talent Visas as Tech Nation Announces Closure?

The Global Talent visa scheme launched in February 2020 as a bespoke immigration route designed to attract talent to the United Kingdom (U.K.).

Foreign nationals can apply for a Global Talent visa to work in the U.K. if they are a leader or potential leader in the fields of academia or research, arts and culture, or digital technology.

Most applicants, unless they have won an eligible award, can only apply for a Global Talent visa if they have successfully obtained an endorsement from an approved body that verifies them as a leader or a potential leader in their field.

In the field of digital technology, Tech Nation is currently the only endorsing body for the Global Talent visa. Tech industry figures wishing to enter the U.K. via what has become often known as the “Tech Nation visa” must have their application endorsed by the organisation. Tech Nation reports that they have provided more than 3,000 endorsements to tech talent since the visa was introduced, of which over half have entered the U.K. on a Global Talent visa.

The Future of the Tech Nation Endorsement

Tech Nation has recently announced that, due to its core government grant funding being reallocated to Barclays’ tech incubator “Eagle Labs,” it will be ceasing its main operations and gradually closing the business from 31 March 2023. Whilst a definitive date has not been confirmed, we know that in the near future Tech Nation will no longer administer the digital technology arm of the U. K’s Global Talent visa endorsements. It has also been confirmed that Eagle Labs will not be taking over this role.

The impact on the future of the digital technology Global Talent visa scheme is uncertain. Guidance is yet to be released detailing which organisation will take over the endorsement role, how the visa route will be administered after 31 March 2023, and whether the requirements for applicants will change.

A Home Office spokesperson said to the newspaper City A.M. that the Home Office is working with Tech Nation to look at options to “ensure the continuity” of the digital technology Global Talent visa in the short-term, whilst they explore the long-term changes necessary in light of Tech Nation’s planned closure. The spokesperson also said they will be taking “every available step to ensure that applicants already part of the Global Talent route are not disadvantaged by the closure, so the U.K. can continue to benefit from the brightest and best living and working here.”

Tech Nation published a statement advising that, until further notice, they will continue to accept new Global Talent endorsement applications. Applicants “should consider the route to be open as normal” and should continue to apply. They also confirmed that all previous endorsements issued by Tech Nation remain valid. Although, it is important to note that endorsements are typically valid for three months, during which time an applicant must apply for the Global Talent visa. Failure to do so within the validity period of the endorsement will require them to apply for endorsement again.

Tech Nation’s statement confirms that the status of individuals who already hold a Global Talent visa based on a Tech Nation endorsement is unaffected. This potentially appears to be contrary to the immigration rules. The rules state specifically that, when an applicant applies to extend their Global Talent status, they can only do so if their initial application used an endorsement that was not withdrawn, and the endorsing body continues to be approved by the Home Office on the date of the decision. As such, this situation requires Home Office clarification.

What Is Next?

The date for when Tech Nation will stop accepting applications is yet to be confirmed. However, given that Tech Nation assessors have usually been allowed five to eight weeks to decide on applications, it is unclear whether an earlier cut-off date will be introduced to allow pending applications to be determined prior to 31 March 2023.

Individuals seeking to obtain a digital technology Global Talent visa who require an endorsement should consider making an application as soon as possible.

It is likely we will see a substantial increase in applications being submitted in the very near future as applicants try to ensure their applications are considered under the current rules. If the uncertainty surrounding the successor of Tech Nation remains, many potential applicants will likely choose other destinations that offer clearer and more secure options than currently available in the U.K.

Update from Tech Nation - 29 March 2023

Tech Nation continues to be in talks with the Home Office about the future of the Global Talent Visa route. In the meantime Tech Nation will continue to accept new Global Talent endorsement applications for the foreseeable future, until a new endorsing body is in place.

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