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.