As tech becomes the world’s hottest subject and one of its few growth sectors, the international borders are straining as talent moves around the globe in search of the best startups and projects. European countries are increasingly alive to this, and we’ve seen huge efforts made by tech celebrities to lobby the White House over the Startup Visa concept. But it seems the news that the tech industry is now a big deal had not reached a certain immigration official at Dublin Airport today.
An unnamed officer today turned away one of the world’s top UX guys from entering Ireland because they didn’t believe his “story”. The “story” turned out to be told by one Brian Flanagan – a name normally recognised as being Irish in extraction, but more to the point, Flanagan is currently working with one Joi Ito on a project.
The problem was that the official simply did not buy the idea that UX is a “real job” and promptly sent him off to a waiting room where he was due to be deported back to the US from where he’d traveled.
Despite telling officials he was in Ireland to hire people he was told bluntly: “You couldn’t be hiring people, you’re – like – 23!”
Brian told us that he is a long-term (5.5 years) resident of Ireland: first as a student, then as a co-founder and employee of a web app company (hypertiny.ie). His work visa expired at the end of October, and since then he’s been employed (as a U.S. citizen) by a new San Francisco-based company called New Context (newcontext.com – wholly owned by Joi Ito’s Digital Garage).
Part of his job description is the establishment of an Irish branch (growing to about 15 employees over the next few years).
He was in SF this past week meeting with his management team and execs, and on his way back to Ireland he was stopped at immigration.
As Brian told us via email: “I’m 23 years old and dress the part. But I figured it would take a phone call or two (or even just a Google search) to verify. For a gov’t pushing its “smart economy” so hard, it would seem like this is exactly the kind of tech investment they would want,” Brian told us.
However, there is a happy ending.
An ensuing Twitter storm erupted about Brian’s predicament, under hashtags #dublinairport and #innovationisland, roping in an Irish Senator in the process.
Within two hours, a senior politician put in a call in and had the hapless immigration officer’s decision reversed.
And it’s worth pointing out that us Europeans often experience similar problems in U.S. (it happened to me only the other day when the guy didn’t believe I was a blogger going to TechCrunch Disrupt in SF – but they let me in eventually…).