Lawyers are calling for clear guidance from the Government on how one of the UK's flagship visa routes will be administered after the body that endorses applications for it announced its closure.

The Global Talent Visa was promoted as one of the central planks of Britain's revamped immigration system when it was launched in February 2020 to attract "the world's scientists and mathematicians", according to PM at the time, Boris Johnson, who said it would prove that post-Brexit "the UK is open to the most talented minds in the world". Applicants from individuals with expertise in digital technology were endorsed by Tech Nation, a government-backed organisation 'serving the UK scaleup tech ecosystem'. However, Tech Nation is due to close from 31st March 2023 after the Department for Culture, Media and Sport withdrew funding, leaving the visa application process in doubt.

No details have been given of how Global Talent Visas (GTV) will be administered after Tech Nation closes. The Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (ILPA) is calling for guidance, with at least one member advising new applicants to explore other visa options until firm details are given about the future of digital and technology-based GTV applications.

The ILPA has been told that previous Tech Nation endorsements will remain valid but that the organisation taking over some of Tech Nation's work, Barclays Eagle Labs, will not take over the visa endorsement process. The ILPA is now calling for guidance from the Government, particularly on what the replacement endorsing body will be and whether requirements from applicants will change.

In the meantime A Y & J Solicitors is advising potential applicants to consider other visa routes, such as 'self-sponsorship', which is not promoted by the UK Home Office, but is within immigration rules and has been used by several firms to establish companies in the UK and hire workers.

Although the Home Office says it is looking at options to ensure the continuity of the Global Talent visa scheme there remains a lot of uncertainty and until we know what will happen to IT and technology sector applicants, some will be better suited to self-sponsorship, which applies to those who are genuinely serious about setting up bona fide businesses in the UK and is an innovative idea that hardly anyone knows about. It is open to anyone who has experience in the field in which they wish to run their business and enough money to fund their expansion.

To self-sponsor, overseas individuals and business representatives must first establish a UK company and then issue themselves with a Skilled Worker visa, allowing them to come to the UK to work for their own company and eventually to settle as a UK citizen if they so wish. The scheme is possible because foreign nationals are allowed to set up UK businesses. Once the business is established, it can apply to the Home Office for a sponsor licence, which then enables it to employ foreign workers on a Skilled Worker visa. As a legally recognised entity, the business can then employ its owner, who can then work for it legally in the UK.

The system has already been used by several individuals who are now established and trading in the UK and is a good option for anyone who is concerned about the uncertainties in the current system.

One of the first businesspeople to use the route was Tennessee businesswoman Kate Corey, founder of travel firm 6 Degrees. She had tried for several years to move to the UK but no visa routes were open to her. She is now based in London, having used the self-sponsor system.

She said: "I never thought I would find a visa route. I own a small business and for years I'd been told by every solicitor under the sun that there wasn't a visa for someone who was self-employed. I gave up on it for several years and I was then connected to Yash and A Y & J Solicitors."

The system also offers business owners a route to permanent UK residency.

The Global Talent Visa attracted less than 3,000 of the world's top scientists and mathematicians

in the year to September 2022. It was targeted at winners of top international awards in science, arts, film and theatre, such as the Nobel Prize and the Turing Award. In November 2021, the government was forced to admit that there had been a lack of interest as there hadn't been a single applicant from science, engineering, humanities or medicine. Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokeswoman, dismissed it as a "marketing gimmick".

The fast-track visa is uncapped, and applicants do not need a job offer before arriving in the UK. It provides an accelerated path to settlement for all scientists and researchers who are endorsed. In the 12 months to September 2022, 2560 were issued, down from 2768 the previous year.

When it was launched the Global Talent Visa was hyped by the government but up until now it has been a bit of a damp squib. The fact that less people applied in the second year could be seen as an embarrassment. However, it should be remembered that only a small number of people qualify for the visa and those that do have a truly global choice of destinations to choose from.

An edited version of this story appeared in

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