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Boris Johnson floats idea of 'London visa' to attract tech talent

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London's tousle-haired ultra-blond mayor, Boris Johnson, has called for the creation of a special "London visa" to tempt the world's tech and fashion superstars to the capital.

The London Mayor's office has submitted an application to be given an allocation of 100 of the "exceptional talent" visas that the Home Office hands out to 1,000 people a year. Generally, the great and good who receive these visas are endorsed by one of four "competent bodies": the Royal Society, Arts Council England, the British Academy or the Royal Academy of Engineering. These four bodies divvy up the visas between them over the year.

Under the Mayor's plans, Tech City, the Fashion Council and London Design Festival will choose the applicants who will recieve these visas – presumably endorsed by City Hall.

The Mayor has previously attacked the government for clamping down on student visas, which he claimed was harming Britain's universities.

“It is a clear message to the elite of Silicon Valley or the fashionistas of Beijing that London is the place they should come to develop ideas, build new businesses and be part of an epicentre for global talent,” Boris told the Financial Times.

Kit Malthouse, London's deputy mayor for business, told the Evening Standard that 100 visas was just the beginning.

He said: “If it goes well, hopefully we might be able to apply to the government to expand it in future.”

Malthouse also described the UK's visa system as "sclerotic", resulting in a situation where Chinese tourists spend eight times longer in Paris than they do in London.

“Having a system which is difficult, bureaucratic, especially for some of those countries where there’s a growing middle class that wants to travel, it seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face,” he added.

Is your tech firm struggling to hire talented foreign workers? Have you had a run in with the Home Office? Let us know. ®

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