A number of new and exciting immigration routes are due to be launched in Spring 2022 which have been specifically designed to attract top global talent and international businesses to the UK.
When it published its UK Innovation Strategy in July 2021, the UK government reiterated its ambition to establish the UK as a ‘world-leader in science, research and innovation’. Further details were then provided in the October 2021 Autumn Budget. To implement this goal, the government outlined a number of new UK visa routes and we explore these here.
Global Business Mobility Route
It is anticipated that this route will fall under the sponsor licence system. The government’s aim is that it will enable overseas businesses to send workers to the UK to establish and expand the businesses.
The new route will consolidate the following existing visa routes:
- Intra-Company Transfer
- Intra-Company Graduate Trainee
- Sole Representative of an Overseas Business
- Temporary Worker – International Agreement
The government has indicated that the new route will have five sub-categories:
- Senior or specialist worker to meet specific business needs;
- Graduate trainee as part of a training programme;
- UK expansion worker to establish a UK presence (this may allow up to five workers to be transferred to the UK if the MAC’s recommendations are followed);
- Secondment employee (although if the MAC’s recommendation of a £50 million threshold are followed, this may mean that no more than a ‘handful’ of applicants can use it); and
- Service supplier (in line with UK trade agreements). The Home Office has indicated that applicants will require sponsorship in all cases, although final confirmation of this is still needed.
In order to qualify for the route, applicants will need to satisfy several requirements such as:
- in certain cases (likely to be the first two sub-categories above) sponsorship by the UK entity receiving the applicant (similar to the current Skilled Worker sponsor licence application process);
- a minimum skill level for the role;
- a salary threshold;
- a minimum period of employment overseas;
- be on a temporary assignment to the UK.
The nature of this visa route is that individuals will be sent to the UK temporarily to establish or expand the business. It is not yet clear if there will be an English Language requirement or whether this route will lead to settlement.
Currently, under the Intra-Company Transfer visa there is no route to settlement which may indicate the Global Business Mobility visa will be the same. However, the MAC has made recommendations to allow time spent on the temporary intra-company transfer route to count towards settlement. If implemented, this recommendation will be welcome by those who do end up needing to stay in the UK on a more permanent basis.
High Potential Individual Route
The High Potential Individual route is aimed at attracting top international talent to the UK. The route will allow eligible individuals to come to the UK without needing a job offer and it is not expected that this route will require sponsorship. This will enable organisations they work with to avoid the procedures and duties involved in the sponsor licence regime. For individuals, the High Potential Individual visa may present a more suitable alternative to the existing Skilled Worker and Global Talent options.
It is envisaged that the application process for this route will be relatively quick and simple, as well as offering more flexibility. It is also expected that individuals approved under this route will be able to be employed or self-employed and will be able to switch jobs or employers without having to inform the Home Office. It is also anticipated that this route will lead to settlement in the UK.
There is little detail so far on the eligibility criteria, other than the applicant will need to have graduated from a ‘top global university’. Exactly what this means is still unclear, but it is assumed that the government will use specific league tables for global universities to determine which graduates qualify (such as QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education World University Rankings). It remains to be seen where the cut-off point will be.
The Scale-Up route is intended to support the growth of UK businesses by allowing talented individuals with a high skilled job offer from a ‘qualifying scale-up’ to come to the UK.
The route will allow eligible individuals to work, switch jobs or employers, extend their visa and settle in the UK, subject to meeting the specific requirements.
Business that are regarded as ‘qualifying scale-ups’ will need to demonstrate:
- an annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a three-year period greater than 20%; and
- a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the three-year period.
Individuals will require a ‘high skill’ job offer and will need to be paid a minimum salary of £33,000 and meet the English language requirement. Unlike the Skilled Worker route, sponsorship is not required which will be appealing to both individuals and companies. However, it is worth noting that the minimum salary requirement is higher than that of the Skilled Worker visa (£25,600).
Applicants will be entitled to a fast-track visa if they can meet the above requirements. They will also benefit from greater flexibility to work in the UK because they will be able to move between different employers, and will also be eligible to apply for settlement in the UK after five years (subject to meeting specific requirements).
It has not yet been confirmed whether dependents can join the main applicant on this route. However, similar visas do permit this.
Revised Innovator Route
In addition to the above new routes, the government is also planning to make the Innovator route more accessible.
Currently, the Innovator route requires the applicant to have an endorsement by an approved UK endorsement body, investment funds of £50,000, hold a level of maintenance funds and have an innovative business idea.
The government has announced plans to revitalise this route with the aim of creating jobs for UK workers and boosting growth.
Under the revised route, applicants will no longer need to demonstrate they have at least £50,000 investment funds providing the endorsing body is content that there are enough finances to build the business.
Applicants will however, need to demonstrate that their business venture has a high potential to grow and add value to the UK and is innovative.
The government has also proposed to revitalise this route by fast-tracking applications for applicants whose business ideas are particularly advanced. Applicants that have been accepted onto the Department for International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur Programme will be automatically eligible.
The government also intends to remove the restriction relating to working outside of the proposed business plan, allowing successful applicants to work whilst developing their business.
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