Oct 7, 2017,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Brexit: City of London looking to introduce special "digital skills" visa

Financial technology start-ups in London risk losing their competitive advantage due to Brexit, amid fears that they will no longer be able to attract digital geniuses from abroad. Companies are thus asking the government for changes, most notably suggesting the creation of a visa specifically for immigrants with digital skills.

City of London


Brexit and the spectre of reinforced legislation in terms of immigration are causing concern for UK start-ups specialising in financial technology (FinTech). Companies in this particular field are worried that they will have greater difficulty recruiting top candidates from abroad, and as such have come up with 35 recommendations for the UK government, including the creation of a visa reserved for immigrants showing significant digital skills.


FinTech world No.1 spot in danger


As The Financial Times points out, the city of London is currently in danger of losing its world No.1 spot in the high-tech financial services sector. Credit, secure transactions, money transfers and payment methods are all among the specialist fields at risk.

Should start-ups in this sector no longer be able to hire the best in their field to develop their projects and products, they fear that they will be overtaken not only by competitors in France and the USA, but also by larger entities. "It is patently obvious that in FinTech, plenty of pioneers came from abroad, and it is easier to hire foreigners if you are a recognised company as opposed to a start-up," explained Mark Hoban, former UK employment secretary, to the FT.


New visas to make it easier for companies to hire


The idea of a visa for digital skills is among the solutions outlined in a report drawn up by the former minister and by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers. Not only would it counteract any fall-out from Brexit, but also make the current system more flexible and companies’ lives a great deal less complicated.

The United Kingdom already has a "technology visa", which is valid for five years. The application process is a slow one, however, and only 200 people from abroad manage to obtain one each year – a figure which is nowhere near meeting actual demand in the FinTech sector.


Current system long and costly


Companies also find this particular visa to be too restrictive. If the employee applying for it is from a country which is not part of the European Union, the company needs to sponsor the application, at a cost of GBP 7,000 (around EUR 7,900). The employer is also required to be paying the applicant an annual salary of over GBP 30,000 (just under EUR 34,000).

The authors of the report also suggested that foreign students who had studied in this sector in the United Kingdom should be able to remain in the country to work.


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