London's tech industry slams government's immigration policy

Tech leaders say Tory manifesto pledges would stifle growth and prevent access to talent

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Almost three quarters of London technology professionals believe that policies detailed in the Conservative manifesto would restrict the industry's ability to secure world-class talent.

That's according to a report released today by London Tech Advocates (TLA), casting doubt on the continued success of a sector that is heavily reliant on international workers.

Over half of 250 TLA members surveyed said the UK's current immigration policy is making it too difficult for foreign workers to secure entry into the UK.

Russ Shaw, the founder of TLA, which represents nearly 5,000 tech experts and leaders in the capital, said: "Access to global talent is a top priority for tech companies, and these results confirm that firms want a government that can establish an immigration and visa policy to meet this pressing need."

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With the cloud of Brexit negotiations casting uncertainty over the UK's technology industry, Shaw believes that the new Tory minority government needs to "bridge the skills gap", and create the best environment for companies to flourish in.

The Conservative party has recently repeated its comitment to bring immigration down to "sustainable levels", aiming to cut annual net migration to below 100,000 including Brexit. As part of that effort, the Conservative manifesto included a plan to double the Immigration Skills Charge to 2,000, the price a company would pay every year for each worker sourced from outside the European Economic Area.

This would mainly impact Tier 2 Visa applications, which are for those workers earning more than 30,000.

The TLA Immigration Working Group advocates the introduction of a Third Part Sponsorship Visa programme, which would allow skilled migrants who qualify for Tier 2 applications to receive sponsorship from startup accelerators and incubators on behalf of tech companies.

The report found that 72% of respondents would support the introduction of this alternative sponsorship programme, which is unsurprising given that 80% of startups said that they had hired overseas workers within their first five employees.

The report coincided with the launch of London Tech Week, Europe's largest technology festival and a celebration of innovation across the continent. Despite the findings, Shaw stated that "London is open and welcomes the world's best tech talent".

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