UK tries to lure the tech talent that Trump blocked from the US

Key Points
  • The U.K. tech community is trying to persuade talented individuals that would have moved to the U.S. on the H-1B visa to consider moving to the U.K. to start a company.
  • President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday that suspends foreign work visas. 
Old Street roundabout, in the area known as London's Tech City
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The U.K. tech sector is trying to encourage entrepreneurs affected by President Donald Trump's immigration restrictions to move to the U.K. and start a company in a city like London.

Trump signed an executive order on Monday that suspends foreign work visas including the L-1 visa that allows firms to transfer staff from overseas offices and the H-1B visa that enables companies to hire highly-skilled people in certain fields.

"If you've been affected by the ridiculous decision to suspend H1-B in the US, take a look at the U.K. Global Talent Visa," wrote James Wise, a tech investor with Balderton Capital, on Twitter.

Wise claimed that the U.K. is a hub for global tech and that it has more developers and venture capital money than most of the East Coast. His tweet, which has been retweeted and endorsed by other VCs, founders and policymakers, includes a link to the U.K. Tech Visa website.

Richard Howard, who works for Amazon Web Services in London, said the U.K. "should be absolutely taking the lead here" adding that "it should be an automatic welcome for anyone who qualified for H1-B or L."

Some U.K. firms have already expressed an interest in hiring people affected by Trump's decision.

Sam Gill, the co-founder and chief operating officer of carbon offset monitoring platform Sylvera Carbon, took to Twitter to encourage people that have been impacted to get in touch. "We always have an open door for talented people — no matter where they come from," he said.

While the U.K. tech sector has created a number of multi-billion dollar companies, it has never created a behemoth on the scale of Apple, Google, or Facebook, which are worth hundreds of billions.

Poaching people that may have normally gone to the U.S. could be viewed as a way to try to close the gap between the two tech sectors.

The U.K. isn't the only European nation keen to attract tech workers that would have normally gone to the U.S.

Gonzalo Sanchez, head of growth at start-up relocation service Jobbatical, said Trump's executive order is "one of the most important things to happen to European tech in a while."

He pointed to data from venture capital firm Atomico that suggests Europe's tech sector has been on an upward trajectory for the last decade, calling out the fact that it has now over 100 companies valued at over $1 billion and 6.1 million developers.

While London is the "logical winner" in Europe, there are other tech hubs in countries like France and Estonia, Sanchez said.

Others pointed out that it would be wiser to move to a country that's in the European Union.

"Relocating to an EU member state would be the smarter move," said pro-EU campaigner Richard Scott on Twitter. "Citizenship grants you Freedom of Movement in 27 countries, allowing you and your children to study, work, start a business and retire wherever you like."