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A Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules has been published which, among other things, provides more detail on new work visa routes which were previously announced in the 2021 Autumn Budget.
The most common work visa is currently the Skilled Worker Visa. Reductions to the salary threshold and skills requirements have made this visa popular but there are issues with it which can make it cumbersome for start-ups and small companies. Skilled Worker Visas require sponsorship from an employer which is registered with the Home Office on the Sponsor Management System. This requires an application which can take several months to complete and requires certain documentation which tech sector start-ups might not immediately have available.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said that “an economy built on innovation must be open and attractive to the “best and brightest minds” and, while these new visas are not only available to the tech sector, it is clear that the intention is to support growing companies and entrepreneurs particularly in the tech sector.
The High Potential Individual (HPI) visa allows graduates from top universities outside of the UK to live and work in the UK without a sponsor. A list of eligible universities will be compiled on an annual basis and they will be ranked in the top 50 of at least two of a prescribed list of ranking systems.
The leave to remain will be for two years (three with a PHD) and does not lead to settlement. The intention is therefore for a route which is similar to the Graduate visa (which applies to graduates of UK universities) and which will give recent graduates time to live and work in the UK and later switch to another category of visa such as a Skilled Worker, Start-Up or Innovator visa once they have gained experience. This could allow tech start-ups to bring in talented graduates without the requirement for a sponsor licence and later sponsor them once the business is established. This route goes live on 30 May 2022.
Applicants for the Scale-Up visa route must have a job offer from an authorised UK scale-up company. To register for this route a company will need to demonstrate that they have an annualised growth of at least 20% for the previous 3-year period in terms of turnover or staffing.
Companies will also need to have had a minimum of 10 employees at the start of this 3-year period. Therefore, this will only apply to certain companies but it could allow a level of flexibility for newer tech companies that aren’t in a position to apply for a full sponsor licence but want to benefit from access to global talent.
The salary requirement is slightly higher than under the Skilled Worker route at £33,000 but it allows a level of flexibility for the migrant that is not available with the Skilled Worker route. Also, unlike the High Potential Individual route, it does lead to settlement. This route goes live on 22 August 2022.
The Intra Company Transfer and Sole Representative of and Overseas Business routes have been amalgamated into a new Global Business Mobility category and these changes came into effect on 11 April 2022. However, despite speculation that this route would now lead to settlement, this is not the case.
The government’s aims of attracting the “best and brightest” and making things easier for start-up growth companies are to be commended. These routes will offer new options which will be welcome and of use to some migrants and employers. This will particularly be the case for small but growing tech companies.
However, the changes do seem to fall short of the mark in many respects. The complexities involved in determining eligibility may put many off from using these routes. The loss of the Representative of an Overseas Business route and the refusal to allow intra company routes to lead to settlement are particularly disappointing and it seems questionable what the point of the Global Business Mobility Route is currently, given the availability of the Skilled Worker Route. If the Home Office is serious about attracting the “best and brightest” then routes should be simplified and give a clear path to long-term settlement in the UK.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Business Immigration at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.