The government used London Tech Week to announce a new Start Up Entrepreneur visa. The new visa class will replace one that exists solely for graduates and the Home Office promised it will make the visa process “faster and smoother” for entrepreneurs coming to the UK. These are brave words not often seen in recent years in the the immigration world. We wait to see if this government promise (those 2 words together are an oxymoron) becomes an actuality.
The visa route has been designed following advice from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) and feedback from the tech sector. The government looks to justify most immigration changes by reference to an MAC report. A start up visa and extension of the Graduate Entrepreneur visa were first recommended by MAC in its report of October 2015.
Sajid David, Home Secretary, says the UK needs to do more to attract businesses. “Our migration system plays a key part in that. “This [new visa] will help to ensure we continue to attract the best global talent and maintain the UK’s position as a world-leading destination for innovation and entrepreneurs,” he said.
The Start Up Visa will require endorsement of the applicant and their business idea. The list of approved endorsers is to be made broader than under the existing Graduate Entrepreneur visa to include business sponsors, such as an accelerator, as well as universities.
The Home Office said the new visa will become available from spring next year and further details will be announced “in due course”. It is a shame so little information has been supplied with this announcement. If you are a start up entrepreneur, it is not possible at this stage to know if you have any chance of meeting the requisite criteria or if it is a worthwhile visa to apply for. There are too many outstanding questions.
The current graduate visa is capped at 2,000 people and had 839 approved applicants in the year ending March 2018.
What the current Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa requires
You can apply for a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa if you are a graduate who has been officially endorsed as having a genuine and credible business idea.
You can get an endorsement from Department of International Trade. This is explained in the link at http://www.siriusprogramme.com/faqs
You should get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks if you have been endorsed by DIT. The earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel. You usually get a decision on your visa within 8 weeks if you have been endorsed by a UK higher education institution
You can stay in the UK for one year on a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa. This can be extended for an additional year – so maximum 2 years for this category of visa.
• Savings of £945 are required if applying from inside the UK, or £1,890 if applying from outside the UK – you must have had this in your bank account for 90 days before you apply
• You must satisfy the English language test.
1 How long is this new visa going to be for? It will not be attractive if it does not lead to the opportunity to apply for indefinite leave to remain which requires 5 years under the normal process or 3 years under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa route
2 How does a business qualify to become an endorsement body? When can that process start? How long will it take? Clearly if a business can only start to apply to be an endorser in Spring 2019, a visa applicant cannot start to apply for the new visa till much later.
3 How long will it take to get an endorsement? How long after that to get the visa?
4 Will there be an annual cap on the number of these visas available?
The new Start Up Entrepreneur visa is to be welcomed. But the devil will be in the detail. It would be good to get some detail on the process as soon as possible. If this visa doesn’t have any catches to it, then it is a great advert for Great Britain to partly offset the negatives of Brexit.
To further offset those negatives, we need a friendly system for work visas for EU nationals post Brexit, both high and low skilled.