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|UK Tech Visa: Work In Tech Industry In UK by cbaba: 8:28pm On Sep 01, 2020
UK Tech Nation visa is one of the best visa schemes in the world that is offered to tech talent. During my sudden big transition from San Francisco in 2016 due to the US E2 visa refusal, UK Tech Nation visa allowed me to find a new home, London, which is one of the best tech ecosystems in the world where I settled in to build Highre. It is by far the most streamlined, fastest and the smartest visa scheme that is designed by any government to bring tech talent to the country.
As London is a great city to start a company with its strong ecosystem, proximity to the US and the rest of the EMEA market, and the phenomenal infrastructure, you should check out the UK Tech Nation visa option especially when you are having a hard time getting the US visa sorted out. 2 years after receiving the visa, I still find it fascinating that the UK government is paying so much attention to making things easy for the companies and people in the tech industry.
What Is the Tech Nation Visa?
UK Tech Nation visa is designed to attract tech talent to the UK from around the world. It is granted to individuals who meet the criteria and gives the right to stay in the UK for 3~5 years (can be extended after the term or converted to a permanent residency after 5 years of stay) so that they can come and boost the UK tech industry by either building companies or working for tech companies. You can change jobs or switch between building your own company and working for other companies without further authorization or notice. Basically, it lets you do whatever you want to do in tech for up to 5 years!
It was launched in April 2014 along with Tech City UK, the government body supporting the UK tech industry, piggy-backing the existing Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa scheme which the UK Home Office (the government department where they handle immigration and visas) has been offering to qualified individuals in the fields of science, humanities, engineering, the arts or digital technology in collaboration with endorsement bodies such as The Royal Society, The Royal Academy of Engineering, The British Academy, The Arts Council, and Tech City UK. The UK government had been issuing 1,000 of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas each year (200 visas a year per field) and UK Prime Minister Theresa May even doubled the annual quota to 2,000, starting from 2018. It means now 400 Tech Nation visas are available a year.
In the first year, 2014, the visa was undersubscribed because people didn’t get to hear about it much yet and the bar was set too high. (Elon-Must-could-get-it kind of bar) Tech City UK quickly reassessed the requirements and offered two routes: Tier 1 Exceptional Talent and Tier 1 Exceptional Promise. Also, Tech Nation and Tech City UK merged as Tech Nation in 2018 as it was too confusing for everyone.
In a nutshell, Tech Nation Visa (Tier 1 Exceptional Talent & Exceptional Promise) is the route for people who are building great things in tech. If you have already built the businesses that are scaling fast or well established, your option is most likely Tier 1 Exceptional Talent. If you are not a founder or a business owner, your achievements and recognition in your field need to be something equivalent to “building a successful tech company”. Tier 1 Exceptional Promise visa is for the folks who have the track record and history of work that shows the potential of recognizable success. At the end of the day, there’s a huge subjectivity going in the decision-making process just like any other visa process. Although, they have a panel of senior members in the industry who get involved in the process which brings more industry perspectives into the process.
What Is The Visa Process Like?
Overall, I would say it’s a fairly streamlined and easy process with lots of detailed instruction readily available on the Home Office website and the Tech Nation website, compared to most visas in other countries that are usually complicated. UK Government websites are super organized and their systems are well-digitalized so you can work on most parts of the process online.
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The visa process illustrated. You can find more details on the Tech Nation website.
Whether you go for the Exceptional Talent route or the Exceptional Promise route, it is a two-stage process — 1) obtaining the endorsement from Tech Nation, and 2) applying for the actual visa to Home Office. Once stage 1) is done, you can expect that stage 2) will be completed easily unless you have something very serious in your history. Therefore, getting the endorsement from Tech Nation means 95% of the process is pretty much done.
Before you go on, you must know if you are qualified. Let’s take a look at the criteria first. More details are available HERE on the guide by Tech Nation.
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The Tech Nation Visa Criteria. What do you think?
As you can see, it’s not a sports game scoring like any other visa. Once you figured that you seem to tick a few boxes, now it’s really your job to position yourself as an “exceptional talent” and paint the picture with your work history, documents, what you have built before, what you are building, etc.
Stage 1) Obtaining the endorsement from Tech Nation: takes up to 8 weeks, costs £456. This stage has two steps.
a) Apply to the Home Office for endorsement by Tech Nation
b) Complete the Tech Nation Visa application form and provide a number of documents as evidence of your eligibility.
And these are the required documents at this stage.
Completed Home Office application for endorsement
Completed Tech Nation application form which includes a personal statement (max 7,000 characters)
Two letters of recommendation from two different recognized experts who are familiar with you and your work.
Up to ten pieces of evidence to show that you meet the criteria (see above)
Writing these applications is pretty much like pitching for sales or investment — painting a beautiful picture for the values that you will bring to the table. It’s also a great opportunity for you to review/gather your history of work, structure it beautifully, and plan for your future work in the UK.
Once you have submitted all the document, within the next 8 weeks, you will hear from the Tech Nation. If you are endorsed, you will get a letter from Tech Nation which is requesting Home Office that this individual has been verified and approved therefore the visa must be granted. This concept of the endorsement letter is still really fascinating. It almost reminds me of those medieval movies where knights carry around the letter from queens or kings which open the gates to any castle in medieval movies.
If you reach this point, you can be a bit relaxed because it’s almost done!
Stage 2) Applying for the visa to Home Office: takes 2~3 weeks, costs £152.
This is the super simple list of documents you need at this stage:
a current passport or other valid travel identification
a printed copy of your endorsement letter
your tuberculosis test results
And there are additional fees:
the national health insurance of £200/year (so up to £1,000)
Tuberculosis test fee to the hospital of your choice
Premium processing fee (Optional): this seems to have changed recently but you process your visa faster by paying a premium processing fee.
What you actually have to do at this stage is to a) make an appointment at a certified hospital, b) take the tuberculosis test, and c) make an appoint at the British embassy while you are waiting for the test result.
When you bring all the documents to the meeting at the British Embassy, the officers will help you submit the documents, take your photo that they will use for the BRP (biometric residence permit card), and ask you a few simple questions. Since you are applying for the visa with the endorsement from a government body, you don’t have to worry about anything.
Depends on the country/if you opted in premium processing/time of the year, it will take between 1–3 weeks to hear back from them. They will tell you to come and pick up your passport with the entry clearance visa attached which shows that your visa category is the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent! (the wording still cringes me quite a bit) Now you can book the flight to the UK
What happens when I arrive in the UK?
Pick up your BRP
When you are granted the visa, you will also receive instruction on where to pick up your BRP card. Basically, the entry clearance visa attached in your passport is a temporary entry visa which helps you enter the country by showing that you have already obtained the visa. Yet it’s not a real visa and it’s only valid for a month or so.
When you arrived in the UK, you can go to the assigned post office to pick up your visa. The people in the post office who handle the process are very familiar with the process and people like us to are the recent residents so they’ll be able to help you. The envelope with BRP card enclosed must have been there already so you can just open the card and feel the excitement from holding your BRP card in your hand!
With this card, you can freely travel in and out of the UK and use it when it’s necessary. Congratulations!
2. Join Tech Nation Visa Alumni Group
People with the Tech Nation visa are mostly new residents in the UK and people in tech. They are up for networking, making new friends, and build a bond with like-minded people. There’s a Tech Nation alumni network that is initiated by members, voluntarily. They run monthly meet-ups and events to get people together. It’s an excellent new way to meet the people on the same wavelength!
3. Beyond Tech Nation
There are so many groups, coworking spaces, communities in tech in London. You will get to connect with many before you know it! So now, you can relax and start enjoying your life in London while building your next crazy idea into reality or working with a super cool team on a great mission. Also, there was a recent announcement that Tech Nation is launching new visa categories — Startup Visa and Innovator Visa — so if you are a talent in tech interested in working in the UK, there are even more opportunities from later this year.
I hope this guide was helpful whether you are in the process already or just browsing around some of the options available around the world! This has been my long-overdue task since I have received my visa 2 years ago and I am so happy that I finally get to share this with the world. I would be thrilled if this could make someone’s life much easier even if it’s just one person as I completely understand how difficult visa problems can be.
If you are reading this before/during your application, I wish you the best of luck and hope to see you soon!
8 Likes 1 Share
|Re: UK Tech Visa: Work In Tech Industry In UK by marveltrades01: 11:09pm On Sep 11, 2021
@cbaba thank you so much for this. You broke this down into really easy to understand steps. I’m interested and I’m coming from the business background going for exceptional promise. I need a sample personal statement for reference purpose, please can you help me with any?
|Re: UK Tech Visa: Work In Tech Industry In UK by Ibroh24: 1:51am On Nov 09, 2021
Very resourceful and insightful
I hope to start my process next year
|Re: UK Tech Visa: Work In Tech Industry In UK by JudeAfoo(m): 8:22pm On Dec 15, 2021
Is anyone else here on this tech nation visa journey? I am a software developer based in Lagos and I would sincerely appreciate it if I could get more information on this process. Thanks.
|Re: UK Tech Visa: Work In Tech Industry In UK by rushman003: 6:10pm On Dec 21, 2021
@judeAfoo.. I have been looking for resources for this purpose too, an intermiediate programmer, Fully into hardware; Security, Audio Visual and Control Programming.. Tho i will be applying for potential talent, we can share resources as im also looking into this oppportunity.
|Re: UK Tech Visa: Work In Tech Industry In UK by Ibroh24: 10:33am On Feb 13, 2022
I've always wanted to apply for the tech nation but i needed one criteria; i must have participated in non-profit organization project which i must show video or photo proof. The organization must also be well known.
If not because of that clause, i would have applied for exceptional promise because i have over 4years experience in software development.
You can read from this forum if interested, people state their docs and those that have the endorsement review it and suggest some other criteria. : https://discourse.tnvisaforum.org/
|Re: UK Tech Visa: Work In Tech Industry In UK by Ibroh24: 12:08pm On Feb 17, 2022
This is not true, i've gone through the criteria example, i found out that either video, stackoverflow reputation or github account with open source project is okay for the key criteria.
So, i'm gathering all my requirement again to apply. wish me good luck!
|Re: UK Tech Visa: Work In Tech Industry In UK by Shareful: 7:17pm On Mar 03, 2022
I made a video on this here -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPI_VluARRA - see if it helps
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