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Tech Nation Visa Guide

The Global Talent Visa Guide

for Digital Tech

 

The Tech Nation Visa, officially known as the Global Talent Visa, enables the brightest and best tech talent from around the world to come and work in the UK’s digital technology sector, contributing their cutting-edge expertise, creativity and innovation to maintaining the UK’s position at the forefront of the global digital economy.

Tech Nation is the official Home Office designated endorsing body authorised to assess endorsement applications from individuals with expertise in digital technology and who want to come to the UK under the Global Talent visa. 

The Tech Nation Visa is for founders and employees with technical or business backgrounds, including all tech sub-sectors like fintech, AI, cyber, and games. The visa is valid for up to 5 years, enabling you to work, change employers, or be self-employed, without the need for further authorisation. The Tech Nation Visa can be extended to your immediate family members and after the initial visa period, you can either apply for an extension or permanent settlement in the UK. 

If you are a talented or promising individual and want to work in the UK’s digital technology sector, the Tech Nation Visa is for you. 

 

About this Guide

This Guide applies to all Tech Nation Visa applications submitted after 4 June 2020 and is subject to review. It is based on the official guidance available and is not a substitute, you must review the following official guidance before making an application!

Please ensure your application meets the latest version of the above resources.

A log of changes and Terms of Use is provided for this guide.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Typical applicants

Tech Nation accepts applications from applicants with technical and/or business skills in the digital technology sector. 

Technical applicants must demonstrate proven technical expertise with the latest technologies in building, using, deploying or exploiting a technology stack and building technical infrastructure. 

Business applicants must demonstrate a proven commercial, investment, or product expertise in building digital products or leading investments in significant digital product businesses.

**Suitable skill types are listed below, however, please note that this list is not exhaustive and only provides an indication of the typical applicant assessed by Tech Nation.**

Examples of Technical Skills

  • DevOps / SysOps engineers
  • Principal software engineers/developers
  • Experienced data scientists/data engineers
  • Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language
  • Processing and Machine Learning experts (AI, NLP, ML)
  • Cybersecurity experts
  • Hardware engineers
  • Experienced front-end developers
  • Operating systems engineers
  • Experienced video game developers
  • Experienced UX/UI designers
  • Experienced Mobile App developers
  • Experienced back end developers leading development of, or contributing heavily to major new technologies or open-source projects (e.g. blockchain, Scala, Golang, Elasticsearch etc)
  • CTO or VP engineering experience managing teams of in-house employees at a growing digital business
  • Virtual and augmented reality developers

Examples of Business Skills

  • Experience of leading substantial VC investment over £25m GBP
  • Experience as a commercial/business lead (P&L, growth, sales and distribution strategy) in a digital business
  • Experience of expanding or growing a significant product-led digital technology business
  • Sector-specific experience e.g. payment infrastructure in FinTech / international expansion in EdTech etc.
  • Solution sales experts
  • Experienced Product Manager
  • SaaS or enterprise sales leadership for digital services
  • Solution sales skills performed for a growing B2B digital business (i.e. not big-company experience)
  • Performance marketing experts, performed in house for digital businesses
  • Experienced and senior VC or PE analysts with track records of leading investments in digital businesses
  • Experience as C Suite in a SMEs + (CEO, CMO, CIO) or head of operations for a digital business

**Please note the following specialisms are generally not considered suitable**

  • Service Delivery, Process Delivery, Outsourcing, Consultancy (technical or management), ERP Consultancy, Systems Admin and all related fields.
  • Corporate roles or experience of managing large corporate teams.
  • Junior investors/analysts. Such specialisms must be supported by an investment track record made at a senior level and are not suitable for Global Promise.
  • Business skills apply to in-house work within product-led digital technology companies, not tech-enabled or service companies such as agencies, outsourcers, marketing firms etc.
 

Eligibility Criteria

There are two options for applicants applying for endorsement by Tech Nation: 

Exceptional Talent or Exceptional Promise

Exceptional Talent applicants will already be recognised as leaders in their field.
Exceptional Promise applicants will be emerging/potential leaders in their field.

Applicants who choose to apply under the Exceptional Promise criteria are likely to be earlier in their career, typically with 5 years or less commercial experience and therefore have yet to establish a track record in innovation.  This means that they might not have had the same levels of experience or commercial impact as those expected to apply via the Exceptional Talent criteria, however, they will need to be able to demonstrate the potential to be a leader in digital technology through their skills and achievements thus far.

Tech Nation experts will establish whether your skills and achievements meet the necessary criteria and whether you should be endorsed for Exceptional Talent or Exceptional Promise.  This is not determined solely by objective criteria. If the eligibility criteria are satisfied, Tech Nation’s independent panel of experts will determine whether, overall, they consider that the applicant should be endorsed and for which route. It is at Tech Nation’s discretion to assess each application on its own merits and make a recommendation for or against endorsement.

Applicants must either: 

Meet one of the Key criteria and two of the Qualifying “Exceptional Talent” criteria in the table below

OR

Meet one of the Key criteria and two of the Qualifying “Exceptional Promise” criteria in the table below.

 

Exceptional Talent

(leader in relevant field)

Key Criteria

  1. Have a proven track record of innovation in the digital technology sector as a founder or senior executive of a product-led digital technology company or an employee working in a new digital field or concept that must be clearly evidenced
  2. Proof of recognition for work outside your immediate occupation that has contributed to the advancement of the sector (e.g. evidence that you have gone beyond your day to day profession to engage in an activity that contributes to the advancement of the sector)

Qualifying Criteria

  1. Have made significant technical, commercial, or entrepreneurial contributions in the digital technology sector as either a founder, senior executive or employee of a product-led digital technology company
  2. Have been recognised as a leading talent in the digital technology sector
  3. Have undergone continuous learning/mastery of new digital skills (commercial or technical) throughout your career
  4. Have demonstrated exceptional ability in the field by making academic contributions through research published or otherwise endorsed by a research supervisor or other expert
 

Exceptional Promise

(potential leader in relevant field)

Key Criteria

  1. Provide more than one example of innovation in the digital technology sector as a founder of a product-led digital technology company or an employee working in a new digital field or concept that must be clearly evidenced
  2. Proof of recognition for work outside your immediate occupation that has contributed to the advancement of the sector (e.g. evidence that you have gone beyond your day to day profession to engage in an activity that contributes to the advancement of the sector)

Qualifying Criteria

  1. Have made significant technical, commercial, or entrepreneurial contributions in the digital technology sector as either a founder or employee of a product-led digital technology company
  2. Have been recognised as having the potential to be a leading talent in the digital technology sector
  3. Have undergone continuous learning/mastery of new digital skills (commercial or technical) throughout your career
  4. Provide more than one example of exceptional ability in the field by making academic contributions through research endorsed by a research supervisor or other expert
 

Fast Track

If you can provide evidence of being accepted onto a current or future programme at one of the recognised UK accelerator programmes listed below then Tech Nation will fast track your application.  The fast track is not applicable to alumni of previous accelerator programmes. The evidence in your endorsement application should provide clear details regarding your plans in the UK outside of your involvement in the accelerator programme. 

The following listed accelerators are currently eligible for this fast track (this includes any active programmes run by these accelerators throughout the UK):

 

The application process

If you are an initial applicant for Global Talent (someone who has not previously held leave in this category, or its predecessor Tier 1 Exceptional Talent) there are two applications stages:

Stage 1 - Application for Endorsement: an endorsing body assesses your skills, abilities and achievements, and advises the Home Office whether you can be endorsed. This stage takes up to 8 weeks to be processed. You must apply for endorsement on the Gov.uk website and then complete a Tech Nation Visa application form for assessment. If you are successful in receiving endorsement from Tech Nation, you can proceed to apply for the visa. 

Stage 2 - Application for Visa: Tech Nation is not involved in Stage 2. The Home Office consider immigration aspects, such as whether general ground for refusal apply and, if you are already in the UK, whether you are able to switch into the category. This stage takes approximately 3 weeks.

Tech Nation is only involved with Stage 1 endorsement. If you are successfully endorsed, you must apply for Stage 2 within three months on the Gov.uk website.

Note: Unsuccessful Stage 1 Applications

If your application for endorsement is unsuccessful and you think that a mistake has been made, you can ask the Home Office to request that Tech Nation checks the decision by means of an Endorsement Review. Full guidance on Endorsement Reviews can be found in the official guidance.

Alternatively, you can make a new application for Stage 1 or make an application under a different immigration route if you meet the relevant criteria for that route. Both of these options will require you to pay a new application fee.

 

Documents & Evidence

 

Document Checklist

To allow your application to be assessed, you must provide all of the following documents, uploaded to the Tech Nation platform as part of your application:

A completed Tech Nation Visa application form which is available on Tech Nation’s website at: https://technation.io/visa/apply.  This includes a Personal Statement (maximum 1000 words in length) written by you to explain the contribution that you will make to the UK digital technology sector.  The statement should include answers to the following questions and any other information you deem relevant:

  • Why do you want to come to the UK?
  • What is your planned occupation in the UK?
  • Which region or city of the UK are you planning to live in?
  • How will the UK digital technology sector benefit from your work? (Examples of this might  include the technological advances you will bring, the creation or new markets, the planned growth of a digital technology company, the activities you will take part in outside of your direct occupation.)

Curriculum vitae outlining your career and any relevant publication history (of no more than three A4 sides in length). 

Three letters of recommendation signed by three different senior members of different established organisations in the digital technology sector.  The signatories must be familiar with the applicant’s work and their contribution to the digital technology sector, and be qualified to assess the applicant’s claim to be a leader or potential leader in this field. Each letter must:

  • be dated and typed, not hand-written
  • show the organisation logo and registered address, if written on behalf of a third party organisation
  • specifically refer to and support the Global Talent application, not be a general, all-purpose letter
  • be written and signed by an authorised member of the organisation they represent, such as the Chief Executive, Chief Operating Officer, Finance Director or Head of Course
  • include details of the author’s credentials (for example, a curriculum vitae)
  • include details of how the recognised expert knows the applicant
  • include the applicant’s achievements in the specialist field, and how, in the opinion of the recognised expert, the applicant exhibits talent or promise
  • include how the applicant would benefit from living in the UK and the contribution they would make to the UK digital technology sector
  • include details of any future professional engagements the applicant has in the UK, where applicable
  • contain full contact details, including telephone number and email address, of the third party to allow the document to be verified if required
  • be a maximum length of 3 single sides of A4 paper, excluding the authors credentials and/or curriculum vitae.

Up to 10 pieces of evidence in relation to the relevant Key & Qualifying Eligibility Criteria

  • The evidence you supply to demonstrate you meet one Key and two Qualifying criteria must consist of no more than ten documents in total, with each piece of evidence (i.e. document) of no more than three A4 sides in length. Each document represents a single piece of evidence. For documents longer than this, please summarise or condense the document to the most important aspects, e.g. key terms of employment for an employment contract.
  • Evidence of any active businesses established or businesses that have been dissolved in the last 5 years, either which must have been commercially successful or otherwise demonstrate how you meet the endorsement criteria, in which you have been a founder or senior executive, or evidence of share ownership through business in a digital technology sector company.
  • You must use the Tech Nation application form to state which of your supporting documents relate to your chosen Eligibility Criteria. If you choose to provide this information in the form of a cover letter you will need to upload it as one of your ten supporting documents.

Note: You do not need to send printed hard copies to Tech Nation or the Home Office. Documents containing only links to online sources are not acceptable. Authorised English translations must be provided for all documents which are not originally written in English. 

If appropriate, Tech Nation will undertake checks on the information applicants provide. If Tech Nation finds that false or fraudulent evidence has been submitted, the application will be ineligible for consideration and the Home Office will be informed immediately.

 

Examples of evidence

When assessing applicants Tech Nation will take into consideration all of the following: 

  • The applicant’s track record/career history (including their international standing, the significance of their work and the impact of their activity in a company or as an individual)
  • The strength of the supporting statements in the letter of personal recommendation, and evidence in relation to qualifying criteria
  • The expected benefits of the applicant’s presence in the UK in terms of the contribution to the UK digital technology sector 
  • Factors including but not limited to, the applicant’s academic track record and salary level if employed, the company the applicant is being hired by if an employee, the amount of money raised if an entrepreneur
  • The commercial impact of the applicant’s previous work, achievements and experiences

The following examples indicate the type of evidence that could be assessed by Tech Nation when considering the Key and Qualifying criteria for either Exceptional Talent or Exceptional Promise. 

These examples are not exhaustive and alternative relevant evidence can be supplied to demonstrate you meet the relevant criteria.  

You should provide financial documentation and proof of earnings to enable Tech Nation to assess the strength of your application where evidence relates to business ownership, commercial contracts, employment contracts, revenue history, product/market traction, or financing history in the case of investments or funds. For work within a startup, the company’s capital raised and revenues should be provided.

Any statements regarding your previous or future impact on the UK digital technology sector should be supported by relevant evidence where possible.

You must meet one of the Key criteria and two of the Qualifying criteria. 

Examples of evidence for these criteria are below.

 

Key criteria

1) How do I demonstrate that I have a proven track record or examples of innovation in the digital technology sector as a founder or senior executive of a product-led digital technology company or an employee working in a new digital field or concept?

You can demonstrate this by providing evidence of any genuine and significant product-led digital technology businesses you have established as a founder or senior executive which is currently active or has been dissolved in the last five years.  Any company provided as evidence should demonstrate a level of income beyond solely covering the applicant’s salary and must have been commercially successful or otherwise demonstrate how the applicant meets the endorsement criteria.

Examples of relevant evidence include:

  • Evidence of innovation/product development, proof of product in market and associated traction through revenue.
  • Evidence for each business should include your last set of audited accounts, projections for current financial year and articles of association.
  • Evidence of domestic and/or international sales should show customer numbers for each country in which the company is operating, including a ranking of your distribution channels with a breakdown of when these sales were achieved for each channel (i.e. online, physical retail, 3rd party distributors, resellers etc.).
  • Evidence of employment contract with salary information including any bonus and equity options and history of earnings.

If you are an employee working in a new digital field or concept, this must be clearly demonstrated, for example by providing a patent application (patent should include verifiable ID on Google Patents).

2) How do I demonstrate that I have been recognised for my work outside of my immediate occupation that contributed to the advancement of the sector?

You can demonstrate this by providing evidence that you have gone beyond your day-to-day profession to engage in an activity that contributes to the advancement of the sector.  Examples may include mentoring, advising, organising interest groups, leading on policy, teaching at a university or participating in clubs or societies for the furthering of the field.

Examples of relevant evidence include:

  • Evidence of contributions to an Open Source project
  • Your GitHub profile demonstrating active participation in a collaborative project
  • Your Stack Overflow profile showing significant contribution to discussions around code
  • A link to one or more videos of talks or conferences that have had a significant viewership
  • An op-ed or news article that exemplifies thought leadership, evidence of mentorship.
  • Evidence of mentorship (i.e. the sharing or teaching of skills and knowledge). Mentorship should have been done within an organised, structured and recognised mentoring scheme, which can be clearly demonstrated through evidence. Training a colleague or simply providing support or advice is not considered sufficient evidence for these criteria.
 

Qualifying Criteria

1) How do I demonstrate that I have made a significant technical, commercial, or entrepreneurial contribution in a product-led digital technology company, either as a founder, senior executive or employee?

Tech Nation will distinguish whether you are a technical applicant (whether your occupation requires you to write code or manage developers) or whether you are a business applicant (any occupation within a product-led digital technology company that doesn’t require you to write code).

Please note that the term ‘significant contribution’ in this criteria requires you to demonstrate impact, not necessarily innovation. This is different from Key Criteria 1 where you are required to demonstrate high levels of innovation, not necessarily impact. If these are your chosen criteria then your evidence should clearly demonstrate this differentiation. Submitting the same evidence for both criteria may not be sufficient if it does not meet these different requirements.

Technical examples of a “significant contribution” include:

  • Having led in the development of high-impact digital products or services;
  • Starting or contributing to open source projects in a way that has been acknowledged by peers as advancing the field;
  • Having worked as a key engineer in the core product of a start-up, showing evidence as to how you have contributed to its success.

Documents that will be considered as acceptable evidence include (please provide more than one piece of evidence.  The list below contains suggestions – other types of documents can be submitted):

  • Employment contract with salary information including any bonus and equity options (although you will have to demonstrate how you have gone beyond your day-to-day activities to demonstrate that you have made a significant impact in the sector);
  • Letter from an employer wherever applicable.  This is in addition to the required letters of endorsement and should to be written by another individual;
  • Documentation on product designs or architecture diagram clearly showing your contribution.  Please ensure this evidence is no more than three A4 pages long and demonstrates your personal work, not that of the company or team of individuals;
  • GitHub account that contains lines of code clearly showing your continuing contribution.

Business examples of a “significant contribution” include:

  • Having led or played a key role in the growth of a product-led digital technology company, such as influencing investment and strategy or delivering major products or releases;
  • Having founded a successful product-led digital technology company or other organisation and leading it.

Documents that will be considered as acceptable evidence include (please provide more than one piece of evidence.  The list below contains suggestions – other types of documents can be submitted):

  • Employment contract containing salary information including any bonus and equity options
  • Letter from an employer wherever applicable.  This is in addition to the required letters of endorsement and should be written by another individual;
  • Documents detailing your significant contribution towards commercial success (such as evidence of sales pipeline built and delivered, growth generated, leads generated, processes developed and implemented).

2) How do I demonstrate that I have been (or have the potential to be) recognised as a leading talent in the digital technology sector?

Any activity you are providing as evidence of recognition should have occurred within the past 5 years.

Examples of relevant evidence include:

  • You have authored a well-reviewed book on digital technology or on programming or published material in a professional or major trade publication.  You must include the title, date and evidence that you are the author of such published material and any necessary translation;
  • You led the growth of a product-led digital technology company or product, as evidenced by a letter from a leading industry expert describing your work, or as evidenced by news clippings, lines of code or similar evidence of your choice.

Please note that evidence of media recognition should include details about the publication and target audience. LinkedIn is not considered sufficient as a trade publication. Evidence of recognition provided by a colleague, friend or manager is not sufficient for meeting these criteria.

3) How do I demonstrate continuous learning/mastery of new commercial or technical digital skills throughout my career?

Continuous learning is defined as being able to show a record of consistent and frequent patterns of study, ranging over an extended period of time (e.g. the past 5 years). Each course should have required at least 20 hours to complete and you should evidence the hours required for each course. Short courses (less than 20 hours) would not be considered sufficiently strong evidence.

Mastery of skill is defined as a comprehensive knowledge or set of sector specific skills developed over the course of your professional career, culminating in expert knowledge of the latest commercial or technical processes / software.

Examples of relevant evidence include:

  • Evidence of having continuously updated technical or commercial skills showing clear progression and achievement. This can be in the form of various projects or courses completed (whether at university or independently), which demonstrate a clear progression either in-depth or breadth;
  • Evidence of learning processes or tool such as Agile or Scrum or experimenting with new technologies, coding libraries or languages, or tools, as evidenced for example on your GitHub or Stack Overflow profile;
  • Evidence of expertise and maintaining up-to-date knowledge of your sector trends, as shown for example by a relevant qualification, or by a talk in a prestigious conference (you should provide conference details and number of actual attendees, not registrants)
  • Evidence of sector specific and recent software expertise or valuable domain knowledge acquired through experience at a senior level. Also, a record of consistent career progression that demonstrates your level of expertise regarding the latest technologies or sector specific processes.

Please note that internal company awards, training or certificates would not be considered as sufficiently strong evidence to meet this requirement.

4) How do I demonstrate that I have exceptional ability in the field by making academic contributions through research?

 Examples of relevant evidence include:

  • Evidence of at least one significant contribution to the field in the form of a paper published in a top-tier peer-reviewed journal.  Research undertaken as part of an undergraduate or MSc thesis does not qualify for this criteria;
  • Evidence of awards received for outstanding applied work, supported by excellent academic achievement (a first-class degree or distinction);
  • A letter of support from a research supervisor or other expert in your area of expertise affirming their potential world-class standard.  This is in addition to the required letters of recommendation and must be written by another individual;
  • Evidence of an award that has been granted by an organisation of a similar standing and distinction to the Royal Society in the UK, as well as the selection criteria for this award.

Please note that awards must be of merit and not solely monetary (e.g. grants, bursaries or scholarships).

 

Our Legal Partner

Kingsley Napley is the legal partner of Tech Nation Visa.
If you would like a referral to this firm, please contact us using the “Help” button.

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Useful resources and further reading:

 

Visa Guide change log

Below is a log of changes made to our unofficial Visa Guide. It does not necessarily reflect changes to the visa route or immigration rules, you should consult the official Guidance and Statements of Change for official changes. Our guide does not replace the official guidance, any changes, errors or omissions within our guide cannot be used within an Endorsement Review.

June 2020

ABOUT THIS GUIDE:

  • Updated guide effective date to 4th June 2020

TYPICAL APPLICANTS:

  • Added ‘latest technologies’ wording to Technical applicant definition (i.e. emphasising expertise of latest technology)
  • Split Consultancy/ERP in the list of unsuitable roles and added technical/management definition of consultancy for clarity

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA:

  • Replaced the word 'director' with 'senior executive' in the first Key Criteria for Talent (this clarifies that the previous use of ‘director’ referred to internal executives and not non-exec directors).
  • Replaced 'entrepreneur' with 'senior executive' in the first Qualifying Criteria for Talent (the use of ‘entrepreneur’ duplicated the use of 'founder' and ‘senior executive’ was a necessary addition).
  • Removed 'entrepreneur' from the first Qualifying Criteria for Promise (again the use of ‘entrepreneur’ duplicated the use of 'founder', but ‘senior executive’ not added to Promise as not relevant).

FAST TRACK:

  • Added wording to Fast Track to clarify it relates to current/future programmes, and that past programmes are not applicable.
  • Added three Accelerators to the list (Antler, Creative Destruction Labs and NatWest Accelerator).

EVIDENCE - DOCUMENT CHECKLIST:

  • Added bullet to stipulate that Letters of Recommendation should be a maximum of three pages of A4 (excluding credentials of the author)
  • Increased evidential page limit to three pages of A4 (this applies to the ten pieces of evidence provided by the applicant and aligns with the applicant’s CV and Letters of Recommendation which also now have a three page limit)
  • Updated text regarding the use of letter headed documents in order to modernise. Letters must show the organisation logo and registered address, if written on behalf of a third party organisation.
  • Added wording to stipulate that where the applicant has active or dissolved businesses the businesses should demonstrate commercial success or otherwise meet the endorsement criteria.

EXAMPLES OF EVIDENCE:

  • Applied the same ‘director’ and ‘entrepreneur’ word changes to reflect changes in Eligibility Criteria above. 
  • Applied same wording where the applicant has active or dissolved businesses the businesses should demonstrate commercial success or otherwise meet the endorsement criteria.
  • Expanded the example / definition ‘mastery of skill’ in the third Qualifying Criteria, so that it now is also applicable to Exceptional Talent (i.e. skills acquired through professional career).
  • Added bullet/wording to examples for third Qualifying Criteria regarding 'latest technology / sector specific processes / senior domain knowledge' (i.e. emphasising expertise of latest technology etc.)

February 2020

  • Global Talent wording updates.
  • FAQs updated to reflect Global Talent route changes regarding grant periods and removal of the cap to visa numbers
  • Application Process section wording updated (no change to process)
  • Suitable Applications section wording updated (no changes to example suitable roles box)
  • Eligibility Criteria section wording updated (no changes to Eligibility Criteria except wording in fourth Qualifying Criteria - see next bullet point)
  • Update to wording for fourth Qualifying Criteria for Global Promise - “Provide more than one example” (no actual change in requirement, updated from “Provide two or more examples”)
  • Fast Track - list of Accelerators updated (Microsoft & Wayra updated, GCHQ removed as its part of Wayra, and Founders Academy added)
  • Documents & Evidence section updated to reflect wording in official Global Talent rules (no changes to actual evidence requirements except changes to CV length - see next bullet point)
  • CV uploads may now be of three A4 pages in length

Further reading

Read about our Alumni

Reasons to choose the UK

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Terms of Use

The ‘Tech Nation Visa Guide’ is provided for information only, is unofficial and is not a substitute for the official Global Talent visa guidance. Applicants should not rely on the Tech Nation Visa Guide on its own when making an application and must review the official guidance and seek professional advice where needed prior to making an application. Submitted applications will only be assessed against the official guidance.

This guide does not necessarily reflect changes (immediate or otherwise) to the visa route or immigration rules, you should consult the official guidance and statements of change for information regarding official changes. Whilst it is our aim to maintain this guide as accurately as possible, Tech Nation accepts no responsibility for any changes, delays, errors or omissions within our guide and any such faults in our guide cannot be used as evidence within an Endorsement Review.

The Tech Nation Visa Guide is not moderated by or associated with the Home Office or any other official body.