UK work permit regulations 'putting tech innovation at risk'

19 Jul 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Britain's technology sector has grown exponentially over the past few years, with a particular boom seen around London's Silicon Roundabout. But suggestions have been put forward warning that problems with UK work permit access could soon start to delay this growth.

The area around 'Tech City' in London's East End has seen a huge level of investment and growth with 15,720 new companies recorded in the year to March 2013, according to UHY Hacker Young research. But the growth is unlikely to have been this extensive if it were not for the migrant workers that helped drive the boom. From a sample of 34 tech companies around Silicon Roundabout, taken by Management Today, around a quarter were shown to be foreign-born.

Unfortunately, a report from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research has found that difficulties in accessing UK work permits is putting entrepreneurship and innovation in the tech sector at risk.

One of the biggest issues for entrepreneurs looking to obtain a Tier 1 work permit is the need to prove access to a minimum of £50,000 funding, along with the requirement that they be resident in the UK for 180 days before they can obtain the permit.

An article from City A.M. highlighted that these requirements are adding to an already negative view of Britain's approach to technology. Russ Shaw wrote: “[These regulations] only adds to a general perception within the tech community that the UK’s immigration policy is bureaucratic, expensive and confusing; and immigration restrictions are only set to grow tighter.”

Mr Shaw, founder and chair of Tech London Advocates, added that the UK needs to “accept the importance of skilled migrants” and take another look at some of the blanket restrictions on immigration to ensure that the country doesn't “shoot itself in the foot”.