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Rules on new “Start-up” and “Innovator” visa routes published

Fundamental changes to the Immigration Rules have been published, which include a complete overhaul to the Tier 1 category.

Entrepreneur routes scrapped

The most fundamental change is that the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) categories are to be scrapped and will be replaced with the Start-up and Innovator categories respectfully.

Start-up visa

The Start-up visa is for those looking to set up a business for the first time in the UK. The changes mean that applicants will no longer need to be graduates, nor will they need to have secured any initial funding.

In order to obtain a Start-up visa, migrants will need to be endorsed by an endorsing body. Previously, under the Graduate Entrepreneur route, migrants were required to be sponsored by a Higher Education institution. Under the Start-up route, endorsing bodies can include leading incubators, accelerators, Government agencies and business development organisations. To be endorsed, an applicant must show that their business has “innovation, viability and scalability”.

The Start-up visa will be granted for two years, and holders of this visa may be eligible to switch on to an Innovator visa to continue their businesses in the UK after this period.

Endorsing bodies must be satisfied that the applicant will spend most of their time working for their business, and therefore applicants may be able to take on a part-time job elsewhere alongside establishing their business.

The Graduate Entrepreneur route will be closed to new applicants on 6 July 2019 with the new route opening in August 2019.

Innovator visa

The Innovator category will replace the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur visa) which will be closed to new applicants on 29 March 2019.

This category is for more experienced business people who have £50,000 to invest in their business from a legitimate source (£200,000 is the amount usually required for an Entrepreneur visa).

Those switching into the Innovator route from the Start-up route will not need to meet the investment requirement if they can show that they have made significant achievements against their business plan.

Like the Start-up route, applicants under the Innovator route must obtain endorsement from a endorsing body to show that they have innovation, viability and scalability. There is an additional requirement that they have already developed these skills and that they have potential for growth into national and international markets.

Innovators must work solely for their business and must stay in contact with their endorsing body regularly. The visa will allow applicants to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (settlement) after three years of continuous residence in the UK.

Under both routes, migrants must now show that they speak a higher level of English (B2) than previously required and demonstrate that their business plans are credible.

Tech Nation, one of the endorsing bodies for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa, has announced that it will begin processing endorsement applications for both the Start-up and Innovator routes for digital technology entrepreneurs in September 2019. Ward Hadaway can assist organisations with the application process for becoming an endorsing body.

Other notable changes

In introducing the two new visa categories, the Home Office has been clear that these two new routes do not form part of the Points Based System. They anticipate that other new visa routes will follow this approach and will not include points-scoring tables.

Tier 2 salary levels

The Tier 2 (General) route is the most popular immigration category for migrant workers to obtain a visa. Under this route, a migrant must be sponsored by an employer.

To obtain this visa, a migrant has to be paid at least the minimum salary threshold of £30,000 by their employer (a different rate applies to “new entrants”).

When the minimum threshold was raised to £30,000, certain professions were exempt from having to be paid this amount. This included nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers in certain fields.

The new rules have extended this exemption, which was due to expire in July 2019.  At present, the Home Office has not provided a new date for when this exemption will end.

EU Settlement Scheme

Further changes have been made to the EU Settlement Scheme, to reflect the situation if a “no deal” situation occurs. The rules reflect the announcement already made by the Government.

The main “no deal” point is that EEA nationals must have been continuously resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 in order to obtain settlement if there is a deal, however if the UK leave without a deal, EEA nationals must have been continuously resident in the UK by 29 March 2019.

The Government has confirmed that since August 2018 (when the first private test phase was opened) to the end of February 2019, 150,000 applications have been received with 90% being concluded. Of these concluded applications 71% were granted settled status, with the rest granted pre-settled status. No applications were refused.

How can we help

Our immigration team are able to provide advice to you and your employers on any immigration law queries you may have, please get in touch.