Silicon Valley’s tech dynamos are often unable to move to London due to strict immigration laws that are complex to navigate, according to Tech London Advocates.

Many of the talented techies in the Bay Area see London as a natural place to expand their business but they’re unable to relocate as a result of too much red tape surrounding immigration and complex visa forms, according to Tech London Advocates CEO Russ Shaw.

Flickr/Micu Radu
Flickr/Micu Radu

“Despite being the home of digital innovation, the Bay Area is experiencing some challenges around access to talent, engagement with the local community and support from government and digital entrepreneurs, who are looking overseas for solutions to these problems. As Europe’s leading tech hub, London is a perfect alternative,” Shaw told Techworld.

“We brought together around 80 advocates and members of the local digital community to examine the relationship between London and San Francisco and foster connections between digital entrepreneurs in both cities."

Following the Tech London Advocates event in San Francisco, the Home Office and immigration specialists at law firm Penningtons Manches LLP ran a series of Home Office Hours workshops designed to help digital entrepreneurs in the Bay Area understand British immigration legislation. 

"We know that a lack of talent is one of the biggest impediments to London’s tech future and that tech sector businesses can find immigration policy daunting," said Shaw. 

The "Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa", which costs £874 to apply for, was introduced by the Home Office in a bid to attract overseas talent to the UK. In April, the Home Office endorsed Tech City UK to give out 200 of these visas each year but the government quango is yet to reveal how many it’s issued to overseas entrepreneurs and software developers.

Last week the agency said it has number of applicants in the pipeline but they are still being processed. 

The Home Office and Tech City UK have been actively promoting the Tier 1 visa through UK workshops but Shaw, whose organisation boats over 900 advocates from the likes of Google, Facebook and Cisco, said the visa needs to be promoted more overseas if it is to be successful.

“The challenge here is how do we promote the exceptional talent visa because I don’t think there’s a big take up of it so far,” he said. “I don’t think we should be actively promoting it here. If we’re smart we’ll take this out to some of those other places around the world, promote it, and that could be, I don’t know yet, a good way to fill more of these exceptional talent visas.”

It's understood that the Home Office Hours workshop in San Francisco touched on how to apply for the Tier 1 visa but there was no event dedicated exclusively to promoting it.