The Government is planning the future UK immigration system for 2021, although some of the new proposals may be implemented as early as Spring 2019. In part 1 of our White Paper review series, we take a look at the proposals, and what they may mean, for the Entrepreneur, Graduate Entrepreneur, Start-Up, Innovator and Exceptional Talent immigration routes.
The proposals, representing the most significant changes to the UK’s immigration system in decades, are contained in the White Paper (Cm 9722), entitled ‘The UK’s future skills-based immigration system’. This was published in December 2018.
The current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) routes
The current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route allows individuals to establish a business in the UK, providing they meet the requirements of the route. One of the main requirements is having access to at least £200,000 in funds (or in some limited cases, £50,000) to be invested in the UK business.
The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route is similar, except that applicants must obtain endorsement from a Higher Education Institution (HEI) or the Department for International Trade (DIT) and hold a degree. The applicant does not need to have access to investment funds to be able to remain in the UK under this route (although this does apply if they subsequently seek to move to the main Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route).
When Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) applicants apply for an endorsement, the HEI or DIT must assess whether the applicant has developed a ‘genuine and credible business idea’. This assessment is normally carried out by experts within the organisation.
Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) applicants must meet the Home Office’s ‘genuine entrepreneur’ requirement. As part of this requirement applicants must submit a business plan. Whether an individual is a genuine entrepreneur is a subjective assessment carried out by Home Office officials. The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Guidance confirms that officials will consider, amongst other things, whether the applicant:
‘genuinely intends to become and is able to establish, take over or become a director of one or more businesses in the UK within six months.’
As part of this assessment, Home Office officials consider the viability and credibility of the applicant’s business plan, the educational history and previous business experience of the applicant, as well as their previous activity in the UK. Officials may ask the applicant for an interview to further review whether the applicant is a genuine entrepreneur.
The new Start-Up visa – set to replace Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
A new Start-Up visa, which it is proposed will replace the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route, was announced in June 2018 and further details were set out in the White Paper.
The original announcement referred to an emphasis on ‘tech and innovation’.
In the White Paper the Government has set out that there is a commitment to make the UK ‘the best place for developing innovative ideas’.
The proposal is that the new Start-Up visa ‘will enable all business people, not just recent graduates, to apply for a visa following endorsement by a university or an approved business sponsor.
The potential range of approved business sponsors looks exciting. The Government has stated that: ‘We are working to ensure that there will be a range of accelerators, incubators and angel investment groups and strong representation across the UK.’
Offering endorsements from business sponsors, as well as universities, is a welcome move in our view as is changing the route to cover applicants who are ‘not just recent graduates’.
For the current Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route, only 2000 endorsements are available, which are divided between the current bodies who can issue them. Expanding the number of bodies able to offer endorsements appears to demonstrate that the new route is going to be open to a much wider range of applicants than the current scheme.
It is proposed that those who initially enter the Start-Up route will be able to progress to the Innovator route once the business has grown.
The Innovator route
When the Innovator route was announced in December 2018, the Immigration Minister stated that it will:
‘have a similar emphasis on endorsement by a business sponsor, who will assess applicants’ business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability.’
The White Paper echoes this proposal.
We believe, from our work with clients on Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) applications, that the concept of endorsement by third party sponsors that are experienced in the specific business, professional or academic activity in question creates a much fairer system than Home Office assessments. We will be working closely with business sponsors to ensure that our client’s applications are carefully reviewed in order to receive a positive outcome.
Various statements that have been made indicate that this route may replace the current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route and we have considered if this may be likely here.
Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)
The White Paper also confirms that the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route is here to stay and that the number of endorsements available under the route will be increased when the new immigration system is rolled out.
This route is for those who are regarded as leaders (in the exceptional talent category) or emerging leaders (in the exceptional promise category) in one of the following fields:
- digital technology
- the arts
- film and television
Applicants must first obtain endorsement from one of five Designated Competent Bodies (DCB):
- Arts Council England – for the arts and culture
- British Academy – for humanities and social sciences
- Royal Academy of Engineering – for engineering
- Royal Society – for natural sciences and medical science research
- Tech Nation– for applicants in digital technology
We have extensive experience in preparing successful applications under this route for our clients and we find that the DCBs are generally fair and reasonable to work with.
An exciting future
Setting aside concerns about the UK’s departure from the EU, many of our clients have signalled to us that they are positive about these proposals and are looking forward to engaging with the Home Office on the detailed design of the new system.
We believe that these new routes and opportunities represent an exciting future for the UK’s immigration system. Especially positive are recent statements from the Government that indicate that the new system may also herald an end to the net migration target, which has imposed unnecessary restrictions and hurdles that have hindered the UK’s ability to attract leading talent from around the world.
How we can help
We are experienced in preparing successful Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Exceptional) Talent applications and maintain a 100% success record.
If you would like further information about any aspect of UK immigration law, please contact us.
Future UK immigration system series:
We are exploring the future UK immigration system from a range of angles. You can find Part 2 – ‘Future UK Immigration System: Education Providers & Students, including Post Study Work’ – here.