I first met Amila on slack in our #TechNationVisa Alumni group. The Alumni is a networking group for those who received the UK Global Talent Visa (formerly Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa) in digital technologies #TechNationVisa.
While most of the Alumni members are based in London and regularly meet up over breakfast events and social catch ups, Amila and I met in the North, namely Newcastle of all places!
Amila’s UK adventures started in 2012 with the commencement of his master’s degree in Advanced Computer Science at Newcastle University. While he was born in Sri Lanka, he was raised in the Sultanate of Oman before moving to Malaysia and completing a Bachelor’s degree in computing, specialising in Artificial Intelligence.
After graduating at Newcastle University with a distinction, he decided to remain in Newcastle because he felt very much at home there. He says, and I wholeheartedly agree (having lived in Newcastle myself!) that the Geordie people are very friendly, welcoming and genuine. It is also a very peaceful city, has some great opportunities where you can share your knowledge and give back to the tech community.
And because of this, he started his tech career in Newcastle working at Bede Gaming as a software engineer where he remained for 4 years.
While he absolutely loved working at Bede, who he says helped him integrate seamlessly into the UK working culture, Amila finally decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge to start not one but 2 companies! Logbook and Voice IQ. His UK immigration status was at uncertain so he researched different types of visa options.
He discovered that the Global Talent Visa application is a 2 step process. Stage 1 requires an endorsement for exceptional promise or exceptional talent by Tech Nation. Once Tech Nation endorses an applicant after being satisfied that they meet all the criteria in the digital technology sector, the successful applicant can apply for the Global Talent Visa in Stage 2.
However, like most applicants, his challenge was whether or not he felt his experience and voluntary work would be applicable to the exceptional promise category. He felt it was too vague and generic and wasn’t sure if he met the criteria. He was also overwhelmed and felt daunted by the application process.
It was his previous employer at Bede Gaming and startup co-founder Mujibur Choudhury who both supported him with his Stage 1 Global Talent Visa endorsement application process by providing most of the relevant supporting documents and letters of recommendation that made him realise that he could, on the off chance, succeed in receiving this visa. And that he did!
Achieving the UK Global Talent visa #TechNationVisa helped him make the move because the visa provides him with a lot of flexibility and has less constraints compared to other UK visa categories.
Looking at Amila’s Linkedin profile and his continuous contribution to the UK tech sector, namely in Newcastle, it is no wonder Amila received the endorsement by Tech Nation for exceptional promise so that he could apply for the Global Talent Visa! His hard work, perseverance and dedication to helping other startups and immersing himself in the Newcastle start up community certainly paid off not only for himself, but for all the people he helped and made an impact on.
Now that he has his right to remain in the UK to continue to be the CTO for Voice AI and Logbook, Amila’s long-term plan in the UK is to settle here and apply for the Indefinite Leave to Remain visa. This will allow him to continue to work for the two startups in the long term and help these two grow significantly.
In providing his advice to other applicants, he says:
1) Don’t discourage yourself thinking that you don’t meet the requirements for the Exceptional Promise category;
2) It’s not just about the work you get paid for. Mentoring, voluntary work, becoming involved in a tech startup on a part-time basis or working in your tech startup puts you in a good position to apply for this visa; and
3) If you don’t apply, you won’t know if you will get it or not. So be optimistic, be proud of the work that you have done and go for it!
Great advice Amila!
For more information on Amila’s start up Voice IQ, find out more at www.voiceiq.ai.
Read more blogs on how Tech entrepreneur Ryzal Yusoff and UK Global Talent Visa #TechNationVisa recipient received his endorsement and visa here!