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Visa scheme for ​highly skilled overseas ​workers 'dramatically under-used'

Published 16/05/2016

Under-use of the scheme is particularly pronounced in the engineering sector
Under-use of the scheme is particularly pronounced in the engineering sector

A UK visa for highly skilled overseas workers has been "dramatically" under-used over the last few years, with just 12% of those made available by the Government taken up since 2013, a study has found.

Under-use is particularly pronounced across the digital technology and engineering sectors, meaning the UK could be missing out on an opportunity to address skills shortages in these areas, said a report.

There have been 361 applications for a UK visa for exceptionally talented individuals over the last three years, despite 3,000 being made available by the Government, said Collyer Bristow, a private client law firm.

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas were introduced in 2011 and are available to talented overseas individuals across the fields of science, medicine, engineering, digital technology, the arts and humanities.

James Badcock, a partner at Collyer Bristow, said: "Under-use of these visas is quite dramatic at present, which could mean the UK is missing out on an opportunity to address skills shortages.

"Public perceptions surrounding immigration, as well as targets, may mean that the Government is reluctant to pour resources into promoting their use. However, they can service a valuable function in encouraging talented individuals to the country.

"Use is most widespread amongst talented individuals from the arts at present, and this will have had a positive cultural impact. However, it would now be great to see greater use by individuals from other sectors, such as digital technology, who might be able to provide a boost to the UK's growing fintech sector."

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