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November 15, 2019

Why we think an Australian-style visa system would work for UK tech

One of the first things Boris Johnson did as PM was ask Priti Patel, his new Home Secretary, to look at whether the UK’s existing visa system can be replaced by the Australian points-based migration system.

Within days the Home Secretary mandated the Migration Advisory Committee, a group within the Home Office, to open an inquiry into what a future visa system might look like. 

The Home Secretary was unequivocally clear: she wants an immigration system that ‘people can have confidence in’. Here at LendInvest, we agree – but also think we need an immigration system that says the UK is open for business. What we have now doesn’t achieve either goal. 

As well as submitting evidence to this important inquiry (which readers can view in full here [link to letter as pdf]), our CEO Christian has written on AltFi.com this week, outlining LendInvest’s views on the proposals to replace the visa system. 

Here are some of our highlights:

More must be done to protect the potential of UK tech on the world stage

So far this year, FinTech businesses in London alone have attracted $2 billion of new investment. Support for the sector is strong, yet it continues to be a challenge to find the right people. 66% of respondents to a recent survey by the Digital Finance Forum (which Christian chairs) said hiring enough good people across all disciplines is the biggest challenge; 56% identified engineering and product roles as the hardest to fill.

Read more: Full findings from this year’s Digital Finance Forum Survey. 

UK tech companies are competing on a global basis for the best engineers and developers. We’re up against tech businesses in all parts of the world and serving all industries. We need to have a visa system that acknowledges how grateful UK businesses is to these talented individuals for uprooting their lives to make a career in London or elsewhere around the UK, and so to support our economy and business success. 

The five key attractions of an Australian-style points based system to UK tech businesses

  1. The points-based system works well when a candidate’s determining characteristics are weighted appropriately. 

We put the greatest stock in a candidate’s prior work experience and relevant training, regardless of where this has happened. A candidate’s age and track record of having or having not studied in the host country previously should be deprioritised.

  1. A points-based system does, by its very make-up, treat EU and non-EU visa candidates equally. 

The points-based system bases the case for candidates’ visas on whether they have the right attributes required for the role in question, not where they were raised. 

  1. The points-based system removes the need to band candidates by salary bracket. 

This is a highly ineffective and inefficient way to match overseas talent to the roles that UK businesses need to fill.

  1. A clearly defined points-based system places a lot less administrative burden – and cost – on the small/medium-sized businesses that are applying to recruit overseas talent. 

Adopting an Australian approach, we could spend more time building our businesses and contributing to the UK economy, and less time on paperwork. 

  1. The existing visa system allows the employer and migrant employee no internal mobility once they apply. 

If business requirements change, or the employee outgrows their role and deserves the opportunity to move into a different part of the company in a potentially more senior role, the same application process must be gone through again, creating an unnecessary burden on the employee and the company.  

The problem that underpins the migration of talent issue

Ultimately, if we had an amazing stock of talent and specialist expertise in the UK, the question of how to improve our visa system for employers and skilled employees would be far less pressing. The reality, however, is that the UK has a massive talent shortage and so we have to look globally to find the right people. This is a constant and real problem. 

The Inquiry is due to report its findings in the new year. It’s an exciting prospect. As Christian summed up for AltFi:

“At a time when UK politics has never been more disrupted in all of living memory, there’s a real opportunity to do something revolutionary and extraordinary about how we attract the world’s best talent, and to really show the world that the UK is open for business and open to migrants. Let’s not waste this opportunity.”