Start-ups sign open letter to David Cameron on skilled immigration changes


More than 230 start-ups and entrepreneurs have come together to sign an open letter to the government urging them to reconsider a potential crackdown on skilled immigration in the UK.

The government is currently reviewing plans with the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to change regulations for eligibility under the Tier 2 visa for skilled migrants, making it harder for companies to hire qualified workers from outside of the EU.

Guy Levin, executive director of Coadec, said: "The government has a strong record supporting digital entrepreneurship, so it doesn't make sense that [they] are considering changes that would make it tougher for start-ups and scale-ups to thrive.

"Any changes to the immigration system must make it easier, not harder, for digital entrepreneurs to come to the UK to start their business, and for growing start-ups to hire top international talent."

People who have signed the letter, organised by Coadec, include Andrew Fisher, executive chairman of Shazam, Ben Medlock, co-founder of SwiftKey, and Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of and former government Digital Champion.

Earlier this year, Coadec launched a campaign - #SaveSkilledMigration - to raise awareness of the issue and rally support, warning that government plans to reexamine the rules around Tier 2 visas could negatively impact start-ups and stifle innovation.

Levin told IT Pro in August that the planned reform is already impacting tech companies, with some fearing for their jobs or saying they would have had to restructure in response to the potential restrictions. It could also have a negative effect on the outside perception of Britain as a pro-tech nation, he said.

"A lack of people with the right skills and experience is holding back the growth of the UK's digital economy," said Alex Depledge, co-founder of and chair of Coadec. "Putting coding on the curriculum and investing in apprenticeships are steps in the right direction, but it is also vital that we are attracting the best talent from around the world.

"The UK is now home to a world-class start-up ecosystem, but if we want those companies to scale, they need to be able to hire the best person for the job, wherever they come from."

Earlier this week Tech City UK announced plans to make it easier for start-ups to hire migrants from outside the EU with the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa, with four new measures brought in to expand the existing qualifying criteria.

While Tech City UK's plans were well-received, Levin told IT Pro that the Tier 1 visa is only part of the problem and "the bigger decision is yet to come".

The review will take place over the next few months before going to government in mid-December.

Sarah Wood, co-founder and co-CEO of Unruly, added: "If the government is serious about growing Britain's digital economy and competing on a global stage, it cannot afford to cut off the oxygen that feeds our ecosystem skilled talent from around the world, drawn to London and the UK precisely because of its diversity, creativity and vitality."

Caroline Preece

Caroline has been writing about technology for more than a decade, switching between consumer smart home news and reviews and in-depth B2B industry coverage. In addition to her work for IT Pro and Cloud Pro, she has contributed to a number of titles including Expert Reviews, TechRadar, The Week and many more. She is currently the smart home editor across Future Publishing's homes titles.

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