As our UK immigration lawyers noted back in June, the announcement of a new ‘start up’ visa created some interest, not least because of speculation around which visa route the new start up visa would replace. Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) routes are both in the frame; equally, the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa which has been closed since 2012 may also form the basis of the new start up visa.
Key requirements for a start up visa
As announced by Home Secretary Sajid Javid during Legal Tech Week, London business immigration lawyers recognise that the start up visa is designed to attract entrepreneurs and innovators to base themselves in the UK, developing their business ideas and creating employment and wealth. At present, the details of the new start up visa are vague. However, there has been much speculation amongst immigration solicitors in London about what the conditions for the visa might be.
Degree not required?
There is no indication that there will be any requirement for the applicant to have graduated from a UK institution (or to have any form of graduate qualification), unlike the current Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa. The aim of the start up visa, as understood by top 10 immigration lawyers in the UK is to encourage those with credible business ideas to come to the UK. As a result, while there may be no requirement to be a UK graduate, there will still be a requirement to have some form of sponsorship or endorsement to be eligible. This could be achieved through a university if the applicant has completed a degree at a UK university, but could equally be an approved business sponsor.
Level of investment?
The Entrepreneur Visa requires significant investment in the UK - £50,000 or £200,000 depending on the level of Entrepreneur Visa required. Those applying for a Graduate Entrepreneur Visa only need to show £945 maintenance in their bank account for 90 days before the visa application. There’s no indication yet whether there will be an investment requirement for the start up visa, or that eligibility will depend on a maintenance requirement.
English Language requirement?
Both Entrepreneur and Graduate Entrepreneur Visa routes require the applicant to demonstrate the English language requirement, either by taking an approved English language test or as evidenced by an academic qualification taught in English and equivalent to UK degree level as recognised by UK NARIC.
A route to settlement?
The current visa routes available to entrepreneurs differ in respect of whether they offer a route to settlement or not. The Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa does not offer a route to settlement, but the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route not only offers a route to settlement but provides the opportunity for an accelerated route to settlement after 3 years, as opposed to the usual 5. Equally, the Graduate Entrepreneur Visa allows the successful applicant to remain in the UK for a year, with the possibility of extending for another year. If the new start up visa is genuinely intended to attract fresh new talent to the UK, it seems sensible that it will offer a route to settlement.
Business creation or job creation?
The Entrepreneur Visa has strict employment creation requirements – but does not specifically require the applicant to create a new business. An Entrepreneur Visa may be granted to an applicant who wishes to invest in an existing UK business. The Graduate Entrepreneur Visa does require the new business to be set up, but even on applying to extend the visa, there is no requirement to details specific targets in terms of job creation – only to show ‘satisfactory progress’ in developing the business. It seems that the start up visa will be for new businesses rather than for investment in existing businesses.
A number of changes in the UK immigration system are already being seen as having a negative impact on the UK. The closure of the Tier 1 (Post Work Study) route has been criticised as contributing to a fall in numbers of overseas students. With fewer opportunities to remain in the UK following a period of study, international students are increasingly choosing to look elsewhere – Australia and the USA in particular – where there are more opportunities for post-study visas. With the publication of the latest Migration Advisory Committee report suggesting new approach to immigration under which EU citizens (who currently form a huge part of the UK’s migrant workforce) receive no preferential treatment, initiatives such as the start up visa may introduce innovation to the UK but are not designed to tackle the skills gap crisis in the UK labour market. Once we have more information about the new start up visa, we will report back.
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Posted on: Thursday, 20 September, 2018