Rishi Sunak walking

Immigration system reforms to attract brightest global talent and drive economic growth is expected to be announced by the Chancellor @RishiSunak at the #Budget2021 

Highly skilled migrants with job offers at ‘scale ups’ will qualify for a fast-track visa to boost UK firms’ international competitiveness, reduced bureaucracy will help businesses attract the talent they need to innovate and grow.

British businesses will be able to attract the brightest and best international talent to the UK under ambitious reforms to the migration system, the Chancellor is expected to announce at Budget next week.

Rishi Sunak will outline a series of targeted reforms to encourage high-skilled workers including researchers, engineers, scientists and those in the tech sector to come to work at UK firms and help maintain Britain’s position as a top destination for world-class overseas workers.

Central to the changes will be a new “elite” points-based route that will help start-ups and fast-growing firms like fintechs recruit the talent they need to innovate and grow. As part of the route, highly skilled migrants with a job offer from a recognised high-growth firm will qualify for a visa without the need for sponsorship or third-party endorsement.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:

“We’ve taken back control of our borders and are backing business with a skills-led approach to migration that works for the whole of the UK.

“These reforms will ensure we maintain our global status as world-leader in science and innovation – welcoming those with unique expertise.

“Our immigration system will attract top talent to boost firms, drive economic growth and help us to build back better from the pandemic.”

Rishi added:

“This new fast-track scale up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow.”

As part of the wider reforms:

  • A simpler sponsorship process will be introduced to reduce bureaucracy and the burden on businesses wanting to sponsor skilled workers
  • The Global Talent route will be reformed to allow recipients of international awards, including the Nobel Prize, to automatically qualify for a visa
  • The UK’s Global Entrepreneur Programme, which actively recruits international entrepreneurs and supports them to develop their business in the UK, will be expanded. The government will also look at how it can use its networks overseas to target high potential individuals in talent hotspots and promote the UK as a top destination for a career in science and technology.  
  • The UK’s Innovator visa route – which allows entrepreneurs with existing skills and experience to set up an innovative business in the UK – will also be reviewed, with a view to making it easier to obtain endorsement and apply for a visa.

Further details on the elite points-based route are expected in July and the reforms are anticipated to be made through immigration rule changes and secondary legislation over the next year.

The UK’s fintech sector is world-leading and contributes £11bn to the economy, from hubs in London, Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and elsewhere. 

Enhancing the UK’s fintech capabilities is an important part of the Chancellor’s plan to make the UK the most open and dynamic place in the world to operate a financial services firm, with more advanced technology delivering better outcomes for people and businesses.

The independent Fintech Review released this week found that 42% of fintech workers come from overseas and argued it is crucial that UK firms can attract and retain global talent in order to grow and stay internationally competitive.

The Review recommended a faster and more flexible immigration route within the existing immigration system to reduce bureaucracy, which can deter the most sought-after global specialists, and lend the UK’s high growth fintech firms a competitive edge over other markets.

Following the UK taking back control of borders on 1 January and ending freedom of movement from the EU, the Government implemented a new points-based system that caters for the most highly skilled workers, skilled workers, students and has a range of other specialist work routes including for global leaders and innovators.

High-growth firms disproportionately employ or are founded by migrants, with 49% of the UK’s fastest growing businesses having at least one foreign-born founder.

Additionally, around 42% of fintech workers and 40% of science, technology, engineering or maths staff at UK universities are foreign born and play a crucial role in training the country’s future workforce.

High-skilled migration boosts growth and drives the competitiveness of our high-growth businesses. These businesses disproportionately contribute to innovation and job creation in the UK. Despite accounting for less than 1% of all UK firms high-growth small businesses make a disproportionate contribution towards net employment growth, generating around 84% of net jobs growth in 2016-17.

Modernising the UK’s visa system will complement recent Government investment in innovation after the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency – which aims to cement the UK’s position a global science superpower. The new body, backed by £800 million of funding, is tasked with supporting pioneering research that offers the chance of high rewards and supports ground-breaking discoveries that could transform people’s lives for the better.


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