New Immigration rules for Entrepreneurs

Summary Impact of Changes

On 29 March 2019 both the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route will be scrapped and replaced by “Start Up” and “Innovator” visas.

These changes are big as in BIG.

The funding requirement almost disappears – the new requirement (but only for Innovator visa) will be £50k. The core requirement is for a credible business plan that is innovative, scalable and viable and which needs to be approved by an endorsing body.

The endorser must also be “reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures”. So an entrepreneur who has other business interests around the world to manage may not be able to use this route.

The route to settlement from this visa is also made more difficult. The start up visa does not lead to settlement.  The Starter Upper should look to move to the Innovator visa. The Innovator visa does lead to settlement provided the business the subject of the visa has been successful, measured against a number of criteria.

When will it be practically possible to apply for the new visa? Who knows, but it won’t be 29 March 2019. There is not as yet a list of organisations that can endorse someone for the new visa. There is no guidance on the new rules and there is no new application form.

Rule changes common to both new visas

For both routes, applicants will need to:
• be endorsed by trusted organisations in the UK, “such as business accelerators, seed competitions and government agencies, as well as higher education providers”
• stay in contact with those endorsing bodies regularly
• show that they speak English at level B2 (this is higher than the current required level B1)
• that their business plans are “credible” (they may be called for interviews to test this)
• and that they have held £945 in their account for 90 days prior to the application (although these funds can now also be provided by the endorsing bodies).

They will be allowed to come with, or by joined by, their dependants, with rules similar to those currently applicable.

Start up visa

The Start up category is for those who are looking to establish a business in the United Kingdom for the first time. In order to qualify under this category, applicants need a business idea that is (a) innovative, (b) scalable; and (c) viable. Applicants do not need to be graduates and will not need to have secured funding. The idea itself must be supported by an ‘endorsing body’. A grant of leave under this category is for 2 years and does not lead directly to settlement. Visa holders may then switch to the Innovator category which does offer the opportunity to apply for settlement.

It is important to note that the 2 year time limit for length of leave will include time already granted under the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route.

On 6 July 2019 the Graduate Entrepreneur route will be closed to new applicants. Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) applications can therefore continue to be made until 5 July 2019.

Innovator visa

The Innovator category is intended for more experienced business people. As well as an endorsement, applicants will need £50,000 to invest in their business from any legitimate source (reduced from £200,000 for applicants in the current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category). The funding requirement will be waived for those switching from the Start-up category who have made significant achievements against their business plans. The category may lead to settlement in the UK.

The three main endorsement criteria are, like for start-up visas, innovation, viability and scalability, although an applicant is expected to show that they already have the necessary skills (start ups can show that they are “developing” them; and that there is potential for growth into national and international markets (rather than national only for start ups). Innovators cannot work other than for their business.

Innovators will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain after 3 years continuous residence in the UK as innovators, provided they satisfy at least two of a list of criteria relating to how much money they invested, how much the business grew and/or how many jobs they created.

Extension applications for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrants will remain open until 5 April 2023, and settlement applications until 5 April 2025. Successful Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrants applying for an extension from abroad will be granted 2 years and 4 months leave (as opposed to the current 2 years).

Tom Redfern