OakNorth boss calls for ‘unicorn visa’ to attract foreign talent

Rishi Khosla, CEO of OakNorth, has urged ministers to launch a fast-track visa for overseas talent to join the UK’s fastest-growing tech disruptors

OakNorth, the business bank, has called for the Government to introduce a “unicorn visa” that would slash the time it takes start-ups to recruit international talent after Brexit.

The specialist SME lender wants a fast-track system that would process visas within 48 hours if the applicant has secured a job with a “unicorn” – a tech company valued at more than $1bn.

Read: Are you on track to be running a $1bn unicorn business?

It would be for individuals who would usually apply for a tier 1 exceptional talent visa for digital tech leaders, or tier 2 visas for skilled workers, with the aim of ending processing delays which can stretch to two months or longer.

The company has told ministers that tech unicorns such as Monzo and Funding Circle should be given priority over other fast-growing businesses because they have the best chances of becoming the next Google.

Chief executive Rishi Khosla told the Sunday Times: “Our hope is that even in a post-Brexit world, we’d still be able to attract diversity of talent – and I think we will.”

Other tech companies also want the Government to speed up visa approvals to ensure they can attract skilled workers after Brexit.

Unicorn visa

Will Shu, the American co-founder and CEO of Deliveroo, has already called for a special unicorn visa to ensure Brexit does not threaten the growth of the tech sector.

The number of tier 2 visas issued by the Home Office for workers outside the EU rose by 15pc to 106,524 for the year to March. Applications for the Tech Nation tier 1 exceptional talent visa rose by 45pc to 650 over the year to June.

Boris Johnson has urged Government departments to draw up a fast-track visa system to attract scientists.

However, the innovator visa – launched in March for foreign founders who have started or plan to launch scalable businesses – is barely in double-digits, while more than 1,100 of its predecessor, the entrepreneur visa, were granted last year.

Further reading

Rishi Khosla of OakNorth – ‘Scale-up businesses are totally underserved’

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