Accessing the best global talent: our recommendations for short-term business mobility policy reform

06 July 2023

The industry’s international strategy to make the UK the leading global financial centre highlighted that businesses need ready access to the latest global talent to succeed. Businesses listed this as one of the top three issues impacting their ability to grow and innovate. Good progress has been made, but there is still much more to be done.

Skilled, multinational, and multilingual workers are key to the success of the UK as an international financial centre and to promote innovation:

  • 19.5% of workers in UK financial services are from overseas
  • 42% of workers in UK FinTech are from overseas¹

Our research, ‘How to strengthen the UK’s short-term mobility system’, found that the UK’s current short-term business mobility rules are limiting organisations’ ability to leverage their global talent networks to support export and innovation. They are also hampering the UK’s ability to remain an attractive hub for international investment. Ultimately, the UK system needs to be more dynamic for fast-track short-term working visas. 

The government’s commitment in the 2023 Spring Budget to simplify rules for business personnel visiting the UK was a positive initial step to support greater business mobility. Ahead of the Autumn Statement, we urge policymakers to consider the following recommendations to address remaining barriers and position the UK for future growth:

1. Greater clarity around permitted visa-free activities

The UK has made international commitments to allow the short-term entry of certain business personnel. The government has committed to expanding the range of short-term business activities that are allowed without a visa and reviewing the list of permitted paid engagements. The industry has emphasised its preference for a positive list approach - where all permitted activities are explicitly listed - to reduce ambiguity and highlight compliance.

2. A new hybrid short-term global mobility stream through Inter-Company Transfer reform[1]

The UK would gain significant competitive advantage if it implemented a new hybrid short-term global mobility stream within the new Global Business Mobility Route. Industry recommends that businesses which have a Senior or Specialist Worker sponsor licence[2] with the Home Office be allowed to support overseas employees to enter the UK for short-term productive activity without a work visa, combining the controls associated with sponsorship with the flexibility of visa-free entry.

Businesses have stressed this would complement the extensive work they already do to train and develop local talent. Short-term business workers do not become UK-based workers and do not compete with domestic talent: they carry out short, targeted projects before returning home.

These small but important policy adjustments to the UK Government’s mobility policy would go a long way to helping businesses access the high-skilled talent they need to grow and compete globally.  This in turn drives wider economic prosperity, helping businesses to invest in all sectors across the country, and achieve their growth ambitions.

More information about these policy recommendations can be found in our 'Global talent mobility: Ensuring UK competitiveness' paper published by TheCityUK in partnership with the City of London Corporation and EY.

[1] Formerly known as an Intra-Company Transfer licence (ICT) sponsor licence.
[2] Source: TheCityUK report - Global Talent Mobility: Ensuring UK competitiveness one year on: our scorecard


Nicola Watkinson photo
Nicola Watkinson Managing Director, International

Nicola Watkinson leads TheCityUK’s International team, which provides unique insight and deep expertise into the markets and trade relationships underpinning the UK’s success as a leading global financial centre.

Prior to joining TheCityUK, Nicola was General Manager, The Americas, for the Australian Trade and Investment Commission and Deputy Consul General in New York, where she led a 90-strong team based across North and South America and managed five consulates.