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SMBs need more time to adapt to new immigration system, says techUK

For the UK to remain a world leader in tech it must remain open to international talent, trade body warns

The Home Office has announced further details on its new points-based immigration system, set to start in January 2021.

At the start of 2021, once freedom of movement between the UK and EU has ended, foreign workers wishing to come to the UK will need to score a certain amount of points from a swappable list of criteria, such as a guaranteed salary of £23,040 and ability to speak English. 

Anyone coming to the UK, including citizens of the EU, will need to meet these requirements, but further details have revealed that there is no overall cap on the number of applicants who can apply for the 'skilled worker' route - which is of particular interest to the tech sector.

There is also no limit on the number of international students who can come to the UK to study and, what's more, the government will encourage students to stay in the UK for two to three years and work at any skill level and switch into work routes if they find a suitable job. 

"At a time where an increased number of people across the UK are looking for work, the new points-based system will encourage employers to invest in the domestic UK workforce, rather than simply relying on labour from abroad," home secretary Priti Patel said in a statement. 

Trade association techUK welcomed the proposal to attract STEM talent and suspending the cap on skilled workers, but CEO Julian David said it was also "concerned" that SMBs will not be given enough time to adapt to the new system.

He added that more needed to be done to reduce the cost for businesses and applicants. 

"The digital skills gap is not unique to the UK, making tech talent in high demand across the global digital economy," he said.

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"techUK's members are committed to building a strong domestic talent pipeline, but for the UK to remain world-leading in fields such as AI and quantum it must remain open and attractive to international innovators, investors and the talent that supports that ambition.

"The development of a new immigration system provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a system that meets the needs of our dynamic, modern economy whist also creating a high level of public trust. This needs to include the ability to support digital tech talent to move around for short term activities to support their customers and supply-chains." 

David called the tech sector the UK's "modern success story" and said that it was vital to delivering the government's ambition to create a high-skill, high-wage economy that is fit for the future.

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