Fintech Talent Visa Plans in Budget 2021 Immigration Reforms

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Brexit visa rules now limit access to the vast professional skill base available in the EU. One of the UK industries expected to be negatively impacted is financial technology or fintech. Plans for a new government visa scheme aimed at fintech specialists is underway to protect the sector.

The end of free movement between the UK and the EU restricts the right of European nationals to work in the UK. As a result, thousands of skilled Europeans choose to leave the country rather than navigate complicated visa applications. Sectors that rely on recruiting talent from abroad raised concerns after suffering significant personnel losses.

Fintech Visa Essential to Compete

‘Tech visas are a great thing and essential if we are going to keep a competitive tech and fintech sector.’ Digital challenger bank Tandem CEO Ricky Knox shared his support and discussed the challenges posed by Brexit. ‘Over half of our coders are from outside the UK and some have already left due to Brexit.’ Despite the pandemic, a 48% increase in global talent visa applications for fintech was recorded in 2020.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to include new tech visa within the budget
Chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to include new tech visa within the budget [image by Sky News]

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce new tech visas to reinforce the UK’s technology industries and attract more foreign investment. The proposals involve a fast-track visa scheme intended to encourage global talent to the UK.

Whitehall sources have reported that the scheme will likely be endorsed by the national tech entrepreneur network Tech Nation. CEO of the network Gerard Grech has stated: ‘Fintech is a UK stronghold with billions of pounds going into the sector last year.’

The UK’s fintech sector’s worth is estimated at £7 billion, due to a large number of unicorn firms (companies worth over a billion) and startups established here. An exodus of global talent puts both growth and reputation at risk. To maintain momentum, the UK must compete against Fintech hubs in Berlin, Amsterdam, and Barcelona for the best global talent.

Talent-based Visas More Open

Whilst the majority of EU nationals are subject to the post-Brexit points-based immigration system to work and live here, talent-based visas are more open to those with specialist qualifications and experience. Insiders have speculated that this visa will be similar to the global talent visa announced in 2020. Designed to attract leading scientists to the UK. they are a reformed version of the pre-Brexit ‘Exceptional Talent’ visas.

Industry leaders welcomed the news after pushing for specialised visas. Shawn Tan, the CEO of AI fintech firm Skymind commented: ‘As an international company that has recently set up its operations in London, we want to make sure that we can hire the talent we need.’ Tan also explained that the UK fintech industry is an advanced ecosystem with favourable regulation. A sectors’ openness to innovation can be attractive to global specialists seeking to progress their careers.

An exodus of global talent puts both growth and reputation at risk

The technology visa plan follows an independent review of the fintech sector conducted in July 2020. Designated tech visas are believed to be one of its recommendations to the government to sustain the UK’s industry.

Fintech visa route would allow Britain's financial technology sector to compete
Due to the pandemic, the Home Office has a lack of data on how many people have left the country [Image: pexels]

New Visa Rules Reshape Financial Industries

Suspension of international passenger surveys poses a challenge to accurately measuring migration flows out of the UK. Face-to-face border interviews have been similarly affected with data suspended in March 2020. Despite data inconsistencies due to the pandemic, labour force surveys suggest the UK’s migrant population shrank by 840,00 between 2019 and 2020.

Travel restrictions imposed by lockdowns may have also stalled many more foreign nationals from exiting the country. Estimated figures could rapidly rise once restrictions are lifted. Currently, it is impossible to ascertain how Brexit and the new visa rules may re-shape UK based industries and communities. However, sectors built on attracting global talent are likely to suffer from isolationist policies without specific visa routes.

[Header image by Pexabay]