What do the tech sector redundancy rounds mean for international employees working in the UK?
The technology sector is a significant UK employer competing for the very best talent from around the world. Yet it is not immune to the slowdown in the global economy, with many businesses having announced plans for mass workforce reduction.
Individuals that have chosen to relocate to the UK to develop their careers sponsored by their employers face not only losing their job but their right to remain in the UK.
Yet the Government’s commitment to strengthening the UK’s position as a ‘global science and tech superpower’ has created many different visa routes that may allow tech talent to remain in the UK and build their careers.
What happens to a sponsored employee when made redundant?
International employees working in the UK and sponsored by their employers will typically hold a Tier 2 (General or ICT), Skilled Worker, or Senior or Specialist Worker Global Business Mobility visa. Their right to stay and work in the UK is directly linked to their current job.
When a sponsored worker’s employment ends, the sponsor must report the end of employment to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). At that point, they will then typically have 60 days during which to find new employment, change their immigration status or leave the country.
The easiest route is to apply for a new Skilled Worker visa having secured a new job from an employer holding a sponsor licence. That application, which can take five working days to process via the priority service, must be approved before the individual can start work.
However, given the current economic picture, that may not be possible.
Helpfully, the Government in its efforts to attract the best individuals from around the world, have created several non-sponsored visa routes that may allow individuals who have lost their job to remain and work in the UK.
Here are five visa routes to consider.
Global Talent is a flexible visa route for individuals who can show they have exceptional talent or promise in their chosen field of expertise. Tech Nation is the endorsing body for applicants. Its criteria are designed for applicants with technical and business skills in the digital technology sector. A Global Talent visa holder can live and work in the UK without restriction, and their visa is not contingent on working for a specific company, although they must work within their endorsed field to qualify for settlement.
Unfortunately, Tech Nation have announced that they have taken the difficult decision to stop their activities from 31 March 2023. In the meantime, they will continue to accept new endorsement applications but it’s not clear for how long.
Given the UK Government’s focus to nurture the development of the UK Tech industry, it would be reasonable to expect the endorsing duties to be transferred to another body.
The High Potential Individual visa allows individuals who have graduated from the top 50 non-UK universities in the past five years to work in the UK on an employed or self-employed basis. The visa route was created with the aim of bringing the ‘best and brightest’ from around the world and a means of addressing a shortage of highly skilled labour in the UK. The Government publishes its list of the top 50 universities every year here.
Those who would like to set up their own business may want to explore the Start-up or Innovator visa categories. The Start-Up visa is aimed at entrepreneurs starting their first UK business. There is no requirement for initial capital investment; however, the visa is only granted for a maximum period of two years. Therefore, individuals would need to switch to another visa category at the end of this period.
The Innovator visa is intended for established entrepreneurs looking to set up a business in the UK. While this visa comes with a requirement of at least £50,000 investment funds, it provides an accelerated route to permanent residency in the UK after only three years.
A key requirement to qualify for these visas is that applicants must obtain an endorsement from an approved endorsing body confirming that their business idea is innovative, viable and scalable.
Individuals should also explore whether they can switch to a non-sponsored visa category by family connections. Visa routes may open if a partner or spouse is working in the UK and is sponsored by their employer or if there is a subsisting relationship with a British citizen or someone settled in the UK.
As the UK continues to navigate its post-Brexit and post-Covid era, immigration policies will continue to adapt based on the country’s needs to ensure the UK remains a global technological hub. Individuals who face losing their job and wish to remain in the UK may find other and more flexible routes.
Kinka Tonchev is a Manager and Solicitor with immigration services specialist Fragomen.