Sunday, 28 November 2010

Dear British Government: You've Screwed Up Visas Badly

Last week the British government announced they're effectively wiping out the Tier-1 visa. For those not familiar with it the Tier-1 visa is the points based visa that most non-EU software developers and startup founders use to operate in the UK (it's also used by academics, scientists and engineers).

The announcement this week reduces the number of Tier-1 visas from 14,000 down to a mere 1,000. To put that in perspective there are 330,000 professional software developers in the UK. Many of the most talented developers I've had the pleasure to work with in the UK have been here on Tier-1 visas.

Whereas before any talented software developer with a track record could come to the UK on a Tier-1 visa to start a company, now to enter the country they'll have to get a specialist "founder visa" which is much harder to qualify for.

The UK government is shooting itself it in the foot, they're introducing a hard to qualify for "founders visa" while removing the visa option that most foreign startup founders actually use in practice.

To make matters worse the government is actually using the cut in Tier-1 visas to increase the number of Tier-2 visas. The difference between the two categories is that a Tier-1 allows the holder to move freely between jobs (or start their own company), while Tier-2 ties the holder down to a particular company.

The Tier-1 visa didn't surpress salaries, if an employer didn't pay the holder a competitive salary then the visa holder could just go and work for another employer in the UK.

However the Tier-2 visa does surpress salaries. With a Tier-2 visa the holder is tied to their employer (as long as they want to remain in the country) and can't change jobs, so the company knows that it doesn't have to pay a competitive salary. That's the reason why employers wanted Tier-2 visas rather than Tier-1 visas.

In one week the UK's gone from having one of the most talent and entrepreneur friendly visa systems in the world to one of the worst.

I'm making an open plea to the government: When people complain about immigration, they're not complaining about software developers, engineers, scientists and academics. Please don't ruin our international competitiveness for the sake of appearing to do something about immigration.


  1. I hear you on this. The other changes compounds this problem. The increase in university fees for local students reduces the overall talent pool. The resulting students are starting their careers with a bigger debt potentially up to £25k.

    Now which industries would you go into if you were a talent programmer with a truck load of debt -- why investment banking of course!

    So, now startups can't recruit overseas students due to the post-study work visa eliminated. Startups also cannot recruit highly skilled migrants now. The resulting local talent pool is being lured to the riches of the city. Getting a Tier 2 sponsor license is really an unneeded distraction. The system is structurally fucked. All this talk about developing a tech hub in East London is bullshit. Classic case of the left hand not talking to the right hand.

  2. That was my main reason for not picking UK when deciding to work abroad, event though that was my first preference in terms of destination because of the English language. Eventually I ended up moving to the Netherlands, because of their more liberal policies.

    Your visa being tied to an employer can pretty easily turn into exploitation, if you end up picking the wrong employer.

    But seriously, even worse is the appearance of how you're being treated. Why would I want to live there under those conditions?

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  4. It's not like their Tier-2 visa system is any good either. I'm a science PhD, had money waiting for me (so it's not like I'd be a mooch on the NHS or anything), and was denied a visa because I failed to produce a passport - when they never even asked for one. A friendly "dear mr. _____, we are processing your visa, and you seem to be missing your passport" would have been nice.

    Well, their loss. I got a job in the states instead, and spent a year pushing forward a potential cure for cancer and now I'm working in biofuels.

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  7. Tier 2 Visas, Tier 2 Visa - Global Migrate

    This section explains how you can come to the UK or remain here as an intra-company transferee under Tier 2 Visas of our points-based system.

    Tier 2 Visas, Tier 2 Visa
    Contact Us:-
    Head Office (pre booked appointments only)
    International House,
    39 Great Windmill Street,
    W1D 7LX
    Tel: +44 (0)207 993 4762
    Fax: +44 (0)207 691 7969

  8. 14 000 to 1000 is just a ridiculous number. This system might not be perfect, but isn't it better to improve it, rather than make such a big reduction, they almost canceled it as for me. It will make people go and look for job in other contires, this may cause some bad losses. Some really brilliant minds will work for some goverment which will appriciate them and support as much as they can
    Alicia from: payday loans

  9. It's a good Idea for Tier 2 Visa especially for foreign country Visa…….

  10. It is known to all that Tier-2 visa the holder is tied to their employer as long as they want to remain in the country and can't change jobs, so the company knows that it doesn't have to pay a competitive salary. That's the reason why employers wanted Tier-2 visas rather than Tier-1 visas. This is good info for us all and you have done a good job by posting it. Thanks.

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