Tech Nation closure: government confirms Global Talent visa will continue

Overseas tech workers will still be able to apply for the Global Talent visa, addressing a major concern for startups following Tech Nation’s closure.

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Helena Young

The Global Talent visa scheme, a visa endorsement programme previously run by Tech Nation, will continue despite the growth network’s closure earlier this year.

The Home Office has confirmed that Tech Nation will still assess digital technology applications for the Global Talent visa, despite it having officially ceased operations on 31 March 2023.

Describing the change as a “new phase” for the scheme, the government says the interim solution will remain in place until a new body can take on full handling of the programme.

Despite the last-minute nature of the announcement, the news will be welcomed by tech startups. Many are already struggling to fill hiring gaps due to a lack of job-ready digital talent in the UK.

Following this announcement, applicants will still be able to use the Tech Nation website to:

  • Continue an application previously started
  • Start a new application

Global Talent visa vital for plugging the UK digital skills gap

Startup owners are still recovering from the shock closure of Tech Nation. The growth network had previously nurtured over a third of the UK’s tech unicorns, including Startups 100 alumni Deliveroo, Monzo, and Revolut.

However, the network ceased operations on 31 March after the government controversially reallocated its £12m Digital Growth Grant to Barclays Eagle Labs.

Tech Nation’s defunding proved unpopular with the startup community. It also raised questions about the future of the Global Talent visa.

Visa challenges caused by Brexit, coupled with the ‘Great Resignation’ (an ongoing trend of mass employee quitting), have worsened the UK’s substantial digital talent gap. UK startup demand is vastly outmatching the supply of highly-skilled tech workers.

Growing need to hire from abroad

Earlier this year, Startups research found that company bosses are increasingly looking abroad to plug gaps. Searches for ‘skilled worker visas’, the documentation required for employers to employ highly-skilled non-UK resident workers, hit a record high in January.

The Global Talent visa has been the main port of entry for overseas tech talent since 2019, with Tech Nation processing thousands of applications each year. Between 2019 and 2022, the scheme accounted for a massive 74% of successful grants to foreign tech workers.

Its continuation provides welcome respite for tech startups, many of which are still settling their nerves after the near collapse of Silicon Valley Bank UK.

Nadia Zhuk, a Holistic Global Talent visa Coach, summed up the news in a tweet last Friday, describing it as “a bit weird, but everything is weird lately, so I suggest you apply before it gets any weirder.”

Global Talent visa: what’s next?

It’s undoubtedly great news that the government has moved to provide a safety net for the scheme. But, it remains unclear who will emerge to pick up the slack in the long term. A new endorsing body will apparently take over responsibilities soon, although an official timeline has not been confirmed.

In an update published on GOV.UK, the Home Office said: “We’re committed to maintaining a strong digital technology offer as part of the Global Talent visa.

“We’ll try to minimise disruption to those applying for the visa while a new endorsing body takes over from Tech Nation. We’ll provide a further update in the coming weeks.”

Hiring from abroad? Check out our employers’ guide to Right to Work Checks to ensure that any new hires have the legal right to work in the UK.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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