Guide: Navigating UK Work Visas for IT Business Leaders, Talents, and Specialists

Although the UK government recently announced a plan to reduce net migration, many state policies still allow skilled tech workers and business leaders to immigrate or work in the country, recognizing their contribution to economic prosperity. In 2022 alone, the UK national statistic demonstrated around 268,000 grants to applicants on work visa. Moreover, according to a consulting company, RSM UK, almost 54,000 international workers applied to work in the UK’s technology sector. The number of tech and IT-related migrants has increased yearly since 2017, as the UK government favors skilled migrant influx, offering several visa categories to help foreign business leaders, talents, and specialists in the IT industry facilitate growth and innovation in the country.

With the wide range of visa options, navigating the UK's legal landscape can be overwhelming. Our guide simplifies this process, highlighting four key visa types tailored for tech professionals. As we cover the Global Talent Visa, Innovator Founder Visa, Skilled Worker Visa, and Senior or Specialist Worker Visa, we aim to ensure your visa selection process is straightforward, allowing for a smooth relocation to the UK.

Global Talent Visa: Special Considerations for Leading Talents in Tech

The UK Global Talent visa opens doors for both established tech business leaders and innovative young minds to join the UK’s rapidly evolving tech and IT sectors. According to the UK official national statistics, as of September 2023, there was a 58% increase (+1,492) in Global Talent visas compared to the same month in the previous year. The total number of grants reached 4,046, a significant portion attributed to digital technology innovations. What makes this visa particularly appealing for tech entrepreneurs is the absence of a mandatory sponsorship or job offer requirement. This flexibility allows individuals to shape their professional journey and, upon successful settlement, may lead to naturalizing as a British citizen.

Eligibility Pathways

Your case may qualify for the Global Talent visa if you demonstrate concrete achievements in the digital technology field. There are two types of eligible applicants for the UK Global Talent visa:

  1. Technical applicants (e.g., programmers) from non-technical organizations.
  2. Non-technical applicants (e.g., business roles) from technical organizations.

Technical applicants for this UK work visa must demonstrate expertise in the latest technologies, such as building, deploying, or exploiting a technology stack, while business applicants must showcase commercial, investment, or product expertise in building digital products or leading investments in significant digital product businesses.

Examples of Technical Skills Include:

  • DevOps/SysOps engineers
  • Principal software engineers/developers
  • Experienced data scientists/data engineers
  • AI, NLP, ML experts
  • Cybersecurity experts
  • Hardware engineers
  • Front-end developers
  • Operating systems engineers
  • Video game developers
  • UX/UI designers
  • Mobile App Developers
  • Back-end developers leading major projects or contributing to new technologies.

Examples of Business Skills Include:

  • Experience leading substantial VC investment of over £25m GBP
  • Commercial/business leadership in digital businesses
  • Expanding or growing product-led digital technology businesses
  • Sector-specific expertise (e.g., FinTech payment infrastructure, EdTech international expansion)
  • Solution sales, product management, and SaaS/enterprise sales leadership
  • Performance marketing for digital businesses
  • VC or PE analysts with a track record of leading investments in digital businesses
  • C-suite or head of operations roles in SMEs for digital businesses.

If you fall under one of the eligible categories, the UK Global Talent Visa allows two routes for applicants: Exceptional Talent and Exceptional Promise.

Exceptional Talent

This pathway tends toward people with a career of 5 or more years in their field. To recognize the experience and talent in this case, the applicant must show that they have been recognized as a leading talent in the digital technology sector in the last 5 years and meet at least 2 of the following criteria:

  • Proven Innovation Record: The experience of being a founder or senior executive at an innovative product-led digital technology firm or a breakthrough demonstrated as an employee contributing to a novel digital field or concept.
  • Recognition Beyond Occupation: Evidence of substantial work outside your immediate occupation that adheres to digital technology advancements.
  • Distinguished Professional Contributions: Demonstrate substantial technical, commercial, or entrepreneurial contributions to the digital technology sector, serving in roles such as a founder, senior executive, board member, or employee of a product-led digital technology company.
  • Impact in Mentoring and Collaboration: Contributions to the digital technology sector beyond professional engagements through collaborative projects.
  • Academic Excellence: Scholarly accomplishments, such as published research papers or expert endorsements.

If an individual is successful in being classified as Exceptional Talent, it would only qualify them to come and settle permanently in the UK after 3 years.

Exceptional Promise

If you don’t have 5+ years of experience but have the potential to evolve as a leader and innovator in the tech industry, you may consider an exceptional promise route. In this case, you should display participation in an impactful project or a substantial contribution to the tech and IT sectors within the early stages of your career. Furthermore, you must fulfil at least two of the following criteria:

  • Innovation as a Founder or Employee: Evidence of your role as a founder of a product-led digital technology company or demonstrate innovation in your role as an employee, particularly in a new digital technology field or concept.
  • Contributions Outside of Work:  Impactful contributions to the digital technology sector beyond your regular work responsibilities.
  • Technical, Commercial, or Entrepreneurial Achievements: Metrics or data that quantify the impact of your contributions on the company’s growth and success.
  • Academic Contributions: Research publications or endorsements by experts in the digital technology field.
  • Early Career Stage: Emphasis on the early stage in your career, highlighting the potential for further growth and impact in the digital technology sector.

How to Apply for a Global Talent Visa?

The application process for the Global Talent visa involves two distinct stages for individuals who are applying for the first time: Application for Endorsement and Application for Visa.

Stage 1 – Application for Endorsement:

During this stage, an endorsing body evaluates your skills, abilities, and accomplishments, providing recommendations to the Home Office regarding your eligibility for endorsement. This phase typically requires up to 8 weeks for processing. If your application falls under the ‘Fast Track’ category, you may receive a final decision in as little as 3 weeks. To initiate this stage, you must apply for endorsement on the official Global Talent visa website. Additionally, you need to complete a Tech Nation Visa application form for assessment.

During the endorsement stage, you need to be sure to prove your qualifications at least 2 out of 4 areas:

  • Contribution: Highlight and substantiate your significant technical, commercial, or entrepreneurial contributions to the field or demonstrate your involvement as a founder, senior executive, board member, or employee of a product-led digital technology company.
  • Innovation: Provide evidence of genuine and substantial product-led digital technology businesses that you have either established as a founder or led as a senior executive.
  • Recognition: Present proof that you have gone beyond your regular professional duties to engage in activities that contribute to the advancement of the sector.
  • Academic Excellence: Demonstrate exceptional ability in the field by showcasing your academic contributions through research, and ensuring that academic research is endorsed by a recognized academic expert.

Upon successful endorsement, the Home Office will send you an email containing a duplicate of your endorsement letter, which is essential for your visa application. It is crucial to initiate your visa application within three months of receiving the endorsement letter from the Home Office. However, successful endorsement does not automatically guarantee the issuance of a visa.

Endorsement exceptions:

If you have received a qualifying award, you can proceed to apply for the visa directly without the need for an endorsement application.

Stage 2 – Application for Visa:

For Stage 2, applicants must independently apply on the official Global Talent website within three months of receiving an endorsement from Tech Nation. The failure to do so in the mentioned time frame may invalidate the endorsement. To apply, submit a complete list of required documents listed on the official governmental website. After application, the Home Office assesses immigration-related aspects, including general grounds for refusal. If the applicant is already in the UK, the evaluation includes the possibility of switching to the Global Talent category. Processing times for Stage 2 are typically up to 4 weeks for applicants outside the UK and up to 8 weeks for those within the UK.

My Endorsement Application Failed – What Can I Do?

If your endorsement application is unsuccessful and you believe it’s due to an error, you can request a review by the Home Office through Tech Nation. The review process details, including submission guidelines, are available in the official guidance.

If you choose not to request a review, you can still consider reapplying through the same route, allowing you to add new evidence. However, be aware that this option requires paying the application fee again. Reflect on ways to improve your application based on feedback and previous decisions. Alternatively, explore other visa routes if you meet the criteria, but note that both options require a new application fee.


As of 2023, the application fee is £716.

If you’re seeking endorsement, the £716 is divided into two payments:

  • £524 when applying for endorsement
  • £192 when applying for the visa

If you’re applying based on an eligible award, the full £716 is due with the visa application.

For each partner or child included in the application, an individual fee of £716 applies.

Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS)

Additionally, the healthcare surcharge must be paid as part of the application, typically £624 per person annually.

Important! Following an Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2023 of the UK government, the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) will increase from £624 per year to £1,035. The increase is set to come into effect on 16 January 2024.

Benefits of Receiving a Global Talent Visa for Tech Experts and Entrepreneurs.

The Global Talent visa offers flexibility, allowing you to:

  • Choose a visa duration of up to 5 years.
  • Engage as an employee, self-employed individual, or company director.
  • Change or discontinue your job without informing the Home Office.
  • Bring eligible partners and children as ‘dependants’.
  • Travel internationally and return to the UK.
  • Multiple visa renewals.

Upon successful application, you receive a comprehensive list of permissible and restricted activities. Although you will be ineligible for most benefits or the State Pension, you may obtain UK permanent Residency and later, citizenship:

Securing UK Permanent Residency

You may secure indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after either 3 or 5 years, depending on your occupation and application method, and demonstrating continuous UK residence, with no more than 180 days outside the country annually. Also, you must prove your business’s success in meeting settlement endorsement criteria. This ILR status grants you the freedom to reside, work, and study in the country indefinitely, with the option to apply for eligible benefits.

Obtaining British Citizenship

After obtaining ILR through the UK Global Talent Visa, you can apply for British citizenship in two years, meeting specific criteria. To do so, you should prove limited absence from the UK (not exceeding 450 days in the last five years and 90 days in the past year) to the Home Office.

UK Innovator Founder Visa for Business Leaders in Tech

The British government introduced the Innovator Founder visa on the 13th of April, 2023, replacing and canceling the two previous visa options, Innovator Visa and Start-Up visa. The new immigration route is designed to allow tech-savvy business entrepreneurs to come to the UK and set up a business, offering a product or service not yet presented on the market. Although this visa is new, we may look at statistics of its predecessor, Innovator Visa, to demonstrate its appeal. From September 2022 to September 2023, the UK government granted Innovator or Innovator Founder visas to 520 international entrepreneurs, exceeding the numbers from the previous year by 107%, according to national statistics.

With booming success rates of the abandoned Innovator visa, the Innovator Founder path stands out as an excellent avenue for tech business people at various stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur with a wealth of experience or an aspiring business founder, this visa presents an opportunity to initiate and propel your endeavors within the dynamic tech and IT landscapes of the UK market.

Requirements for Tech Innovators

To secure an Innovator Founder visa as a tech or IT entrepreneur, the applicant must navigate through three essential steps: meeting eligibility requirements, crafting a comprehensive business plan, and attaining the necessary endorsement.

Ensuring Eligibility.

Prior to visa application, the entrepreneur must meet the following requirements:

  • Age: The applicant must be 18 years of age or older;
  • English Proficiency: The applicant must demonstrate English proficiency of a level B2 on the CEFR scale through one of the following methods:

– Pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider.

– Possess a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher, or Advanced Higher in English obtained through UK school study initiated before turning 18.

– Hold a degree-level academic qualification taught in English; if studied abroad, seek confirmation of equivalency through Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) for a UK bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD degree.

  • Education: It is recommended that the applicant should have a Bachelor’s degree (not officially required);
  • Innovative Business Idea: The applicant must exhibit and prove a genuine intention to establish and operate an innovative business in the UK;
  • Endorsement: The business plan of the applicant must obtain endorsement from an approved body;
  • Financial Savings: The applicant must maintain a minimum balance of £1,270 in their bank account for 28 consecutive days before applying for an Innovator Founder visa, seeking an extension, or switching visas within the first year of their stay in the UK. It’s important to note that funds from investment and income earned through illegal work in the UK cannot be used to support an application. You can refer to the financial evidence guidance for details on the official governmental website.

Developing a Business Plan.

To gain an endorsement, it is necessary to elaborate on your project ideas and goals in a business plan. The plan should include the following aspects:

  • Innovative Nature: The plan must explain how the business will fill market needs and/or create a competitive advantage;
  • Viability: The applicant must portray a realistic prospect of achieving business success by providing proof of relevant experience, specific market knowledge, business skills, and the funds necessary to succeed;
  • Scalability: The plan should include proof of potential business growth, demonstrating the ability to create employment opportunities in both domestic and international markets;
  • Endorsement: The business plan  must receive approval from a UK endorsing organization.

Obtaining the Endorsement.

A crucial element in the application process for a UK Innovator Founder visa is the requirement for an endorsement from an approved endorsing body in the UK for your current innovative business or new business idea. The endorsing bodies authorized to issue endorsements for Innovator Founder Visas include:

In evaluating endorsement applications, endorsing bodies assess various factors, such as the need for your business in the UK, your understanding of the market, realistic goals, and potential for growth. Consequently, the endorsement ensures that only businesses with a promising chance of success progress to the subsequent phase.

If the endorsement application is successful, you will receive a letter of endorsement for processing your Innovator Founder visa application.

Innovator Founder Visa Application Procedure

When submitting your application, you must attach an ‘endorsement letter’ as proof that an endorsing body has assessed your business concept. Additionally, the following documentation is required:

  1. A valid international passport or other proof of identity and nationality.
  2. Bank statements with a minimum savings balance of £ 1,270 in your bank account continuously for 28 consecutive days prior to the application date;
  3. English language proficiency certificates;
  4. Tuberculosis test results if mandated by your country of origin;
  5. Certified translation of your documents, if they are issued not in English or Welsh;
  6. Ensure your passport has a blank page for the visa if you are from a non-EU country or from the EU with a non-biometric passport lacking an embedded chip;
  7. Depending on your circumstances, additional documents may be required as part of your application.

As part of the application process, you must verify your identity. The method varies based on your nationality and passport type. You will either:

  1. Have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application center to obtain a biometric residence permit.
  2. Use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document and create or sign into your UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account.

The specific instructions will be provided when you apply. If an appointment is necessary:

  1. The center may retain your passport and documents during processing.
  2. You might need to travel to your nearest visa application center, which could be located in another country.

Opportunities After Obtaining UK Innovator Founder Visa for Tech Leaders

The UK Innovator Founder Visa opens doors to a wide range of opportunities for tech entrepreneurs, such as access to global venture capital, private equity firms, and accelerators. Beyond facilitating entry into the UK market, the visa exposes individuals to advanced technology and expert networks. An often underappreciated feature of the Innovator Visa is its flexibility. Unlike some other business visas, it allows entrepreneurs to take up employment outside their business venture. This flexibility can be crucial for maintaining financial stability while growing a new business.

This visa not only accommodates entrepreneurs but extends its benefits to their families, including spouses and children, ensuring access to top-tier healthcare and prestigious educational institutions for you and your family.

After establishing and managing your business in the UK for three years, you can attain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), granting permanent residency. Moreover, after five years, you may potentially receive British citizenship.

Skilled Worker Visa: Focus on Tech and IT Roles

Are you a highly skilled tech or IT specialist with a job offer from a British employer? If the answer is yes, then you might be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa. This visa category is also available for the scarce occupations in high demand in the UK. The national statistics prove the visa appeal to highly skilled international minds: from March 2022 to March 2023, ‘Skilled Worker’ visa grants to main applicants have surged by 59% compared to previous year, reaching approximately 69,423. Thanks to abundant opportunities in the tech and IT sectors and a potential for British citizenship, the Skilled Worker visa is an attractive option for individuals seeking professional growth and international opportunities.

Conditions for Obtaining a Skilled Worker Visa for Tech and IT Specialists

To qualify for a Skilled Worker visa as a tech or IT specialist, you must meet the following conditions:

  • Job Offer: Job Offer: you must secure an offer from a UK employer approved by the Home Office. You may find the list of approved UK employers here. If your employer is currently not authorized, they can seek eligibility and apply for a sponsor license;
  • Certificate of Sponsorship: Your employer must provide a ‘certificate of sponsorship,’ which elaborates on your role in the UK company;
  • Eligible Occupation: Your job must fall within the list of eligible occupations, including roles in tech, such as IT analysts, systems designers, etc. The complete list can be found on the official government website. If you cannot find your exact job title, you may search for similar ones;
  • Salary: Ensure your salary meets the minimum requirement based on your job type. The minimum salary is the highest among the three options: £26,200 per year, £10.75 per hour, or the ‘going rate’ for your type of work. Your employer must comply with UK rules on wages and working hours. Still, you may receive a salary ranging from 70% to 90% of the standard rate for your job if your annual income is at least £20,960, and you fulfill one of the following conditions:
  • your job is in a shortage occupation;
  • you are under 26, currently studying, a recent graduate, or in professional training;
  • possess a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) PhD relevant to your job. For other PhD qualifications, the salary must be at least £23,580;
  • hold a postdoctoral position in science or higher education;


Starting from the Spring 2024, the minimum salary threshold will rise from £26,200 to £38,700, following the governmental ruling of December 2023.  

  • English Proficiency: Demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English at least at level B1 on the CEFR scale. This can be proven through a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider, specific academic qualifications obtained in the UK, or foreign degrees validated by Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC).

Application Process

To initiate your application for this type of UK work visa, you must apply online within three months of receiving your certificate of sponsorship. Ensure you have the following documents ready:

  • Certificate of sponsorship reference number (provided by your employer);
  • Proof of English proficiency;
  • Valid passport or another identity and nationality document;
  • Job title and annual salary details;
  • Job’s occupation code;
  • Employer’s name and sponsor license number (available on the certificate of sponsorship).

Proving your identity and demonstrating eligibility depends on your nationality and passport type. You can do this by attending an appointment at a visa application center or using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ smartphone app. The specific method will be determined at the beginning of your application.

Once you’ve submitted your online application, completed the identity verification, and provided the necessary documents, you can typically expect a decision within three weeks if you’re outside the UK and eight weeks if you’re inside the UK.

Additionally, you must ensure adequate financial resources to:

  • Pay the application fee, generally between £610 and £1,408, depending on your circumstances. If your occupation is in shortage, you may pay a reduced application fee;
  • Pay the healthcare surcharge, usually £624 per year;
  • Live on when you arrive in the UK. You must possess £1,270 or more unless you are exempt from this requirement.

If your partner and children apply to come to the UK with you, they have similar financial obligations. You will be informed how much you have to pay at the time of your application.

Advantages and Limitations Under Skilled Worker Visa

A Skilled Worker visa may allow you to engage in various activities, including working in an eligible job, pursuing educational endeavors, and bringing your partner and children as dependents if they meet the eligibility criteria. Furthermore, you are flexible to undertake additional work under specific circumstances, participate in voluntary activities, and travel internationally with the ability to return to the UK. Workers under this visa category also can change employers, but such actions require an application to the Home Office to update their visa, particularly in response to specific employment-related alterations. After residing in the UK for five years and satisfying other eligibility requirements, you can apply for permanent settlement, known as ‘indefinite leave to remain,’ and later, British citizenship.

Despite all the opportunities, the Skilled Worker visa is not without its limitations. It restricts the application for most benefits (public funds) and the State Pension. Additionally, changing jobs or employers is subject to approval through the visa update application process. Upon a successful application, you will receive a comprehensive list detailing the activities permitted and prohibited under the Skilled Worker visa.

Senior or Specialist Worker Visa (Global Business Mobility): Relevance for International Tech Companies

Senior or Specialist Worker visa, a part of the UK’s Global Business Mobility route, is an option for senior managers and specialist employees taking part in a temporary assignment or project in the UK. The international worker must have an employer overseas, assigning them to a linked UK business. Allowing global tech specialists to work in the UK temporarily, this visa facilitates the movement of top talent in areas like software development, network security, and systems management. By allowing temporary relocation, Senior or Specialist Worker Visa plays a crucial role in the global exchange of cutting-edge skills and knowledge, vital for keeping pace with the rapidly evolving tech industry.

Eligibility for Tech Workers

To be eligible for a Senior or Specialist Worker visa, you need to fulfill the following criteria:

  • You must currently be an employer of an organization that has obtained approval from the Home Office as an authorized sponsor.
  • Your employer should provide you with a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ containing details about the job you will be undertaking in the UK.
  • Your occupation must align with the list of eligible professions specified for this visa category.
  • Your annual salary must be at least £45,800. Keep in mind that each occupation code has its own designated annual going rate. To determine the applicable rate for your job, refer to the going rates table.

Documents Required for Visa Application

When applying for the visa, you will need to collect the following list of documents:

  1. Certificate of sponsorship reference number provided by your employer;
  2. Passport or another document that certifies your identity and nationality;
  3. Confirmation of your job title and yearly salary;
  4. Occupation code for your job;
  5. Proof of personal savings that will enable you to live in the UK;
  6. Documents to show your relationship with the partner or children, if they are applying with you;
  7. Tuberculosis test results, if you come from a country on the list;

Depending on your circumstances, you might be asked to provide:

  1. Evidence of your employment with your current employer outside the UK.
  2. An ATAS certificate, if your job involves researching a sensitive subject at PhD level or higher, as instructed by your employer.

For visa applicants needing to provide biometric information, ensure there is a blank page in your passport. You will be informed if this is necessary when you apply.

If your documents are not in English or Welsh, a certified translation is necessary.

Evidence of Employment Outside the UK:

If your annual earnings are less than £73,900, you may be required to demonstrate that you have worked for your employer outside the UK for at least 12 months. Provide evidence such as printed or online payslips, supported by a letter from your sponsor signed by a senior staff member, or bank statements.

For those earning £73,900 or more annually, there is no minimum time requirement.


Application Fees:

  • Standard Fee: Based on the circumstances, the cost may vary from £719 to £1,500.
  • Duration up to 3 years: £719 if applying from outside the UK, or £827 if applying from within.
  • Duration more than 3 years: £1,420 if applying from outside the UK, and £1,500 if applying from inside the UK.

Healthcare Surcharge:

  • Typically £624 per year of stay.

Double-check the exact amount before submitting an application.

Financial Support:

You must have at least £1,270 in your bank account.

  • The funds must be available for 28 consecutive days, ending within 31 days of the application date
  • Exceptions:
  • If you’ve held a valid UK visa for 12 months or more
  • If your employer covers your costs during the first month (up to £1,270)

Additional Considerations:

  • Partners and children must also demonstrate financial capability
  • Employer support: Confirm through the ‘sponsor certifies maintenance’ section on the certificate of sponsorship

Review financial evidence guidelines for detailed information on required funds and proof methods.

Extending Senior or Specialist UK Work Visa and Possibilities of UK Settlement

For individuals whose contract in the UK is extended, there is an option to easily renew the visa as long as the requirements are met. This flexibility enables skilled professionals to contribute to the British workforce over an extended period, fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between the individual and the host country. Still, the maximum duration an individual can stay under this visa route is 5 years in any 6-year period unless they are high earners with £73,900 or more in annual income.

Regardless of the duration of stay or financial status, the Senior or Specialist worker visa does not provide a direct pathway to settlement in the UK. Nevertheless, skilled professionals who wish to make the UK their permanent home may explore alternative immigration routes and switch to a different visa, such as the Skilled Worker, if they meet the eligibility criteria.


The visa options available in the UK, such as the Global Talent Visa, Innovator Founder Visa, Skilled Worker Visa, and Senior or Specialist Worker Visa, allow tech entrepreneurs and IT specialists to come to the hub of technological advancement and business innovation. Each visa caters to different needs and career stages, from the globally recognized talents seeking entry through the Global Talent Visa to the established professionals and entrepreneurs eyeing the Innovator Founder and Skilled Worker Visas. The Senior or Specialist Worker Visa further enhances this spectrum by providing a pathway for those in managerial or specialist roles within multinational companies. Ultimately, the UK’s visa options underscore its commitment to attracting and nurturing tech talent worldwide. This not only benefits the individuals who relocate but also significantly contributes to the vitality and diversity of the UK’s tech sector, fostering an environment where innovation thrives.

To explore your UK relocation options, you may:

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