The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published a policy paper on the new UK Innovation Strategy. It focuses on supporting businesses to innovate by utilising the UK’s research, development and innovation system. Notably, the paper sets out details of two new visa routes: ‘High Potential Individual’ and ‘Scale-up’, and it also signposts changes to the Innovator route, with the aim of attracting and retaining ‘high-skilled, globally mobile innovation talent.’
1 High Potential Individual visa route
The route aims to make it as simple as possible for individuals who demonstrate ‘high potential’ to come to the UK for work purposes. The applicant will meet this requirement if they graduate from a top global university. The paper says the government will explore the scope to expand the eligibility criterion to other characteristics.
There will be no job offer requirement, and the individual will be able to extend their stay, and also apply to settle in the UK in due course.
2 Scale-up visa route
The route will allow individuals with a high skilled job offer from a qualifying UK-based scale up, at the required salary level, to come to the UK to work.
Eligible scale-ups will be able to apply through a fast-track verification process if it can demonstrate:
• an annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a three-year period greater than 20%
• a minimum of ten employees at the start of the three-year period
The paper states that the government will explore whether scale-ups who can demonstrate an expectation of strong growth in future years may qualify following a review.
The Scale-up route will also permit individuals to extend their stay, and apply for settlement in due course.
3 Changes to the Innovator route
This visa route which has been going 2 years has not been a success so far and has been in need of reform since day 1. I believe the main problems are because:
A all endorsing bodies, with the exception of the universities and DIT Global Entrepreneur Programme, are private companies. They all want to make money out of the endorsing process.
B the visa is not flexible because it is linked to the business being set up and the reviews at intervals during the life of the visa
C innovators often do not want to spend all their time in the UK, they have interests in other countries too.
The three key proposed changes are:
• streamlining the business eligibility criteria. Applicants will need to demonstrate that their business venture has a high potential to grow and add value to the UK, and is innovative
• introducing a fast-track option for endorsement applications by individuals whose business ideas are ‘particularly advanced’. Individuals that have been accepted on to the Department for International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur Programme will be automatically eligible
• removing the investment funds criterion, and removing the employment restriction. Applicants will no longer be required to have at least £50,000 in investment funds, provided that the endorsing body is satisfied that the applicant has sufficient funds to grow the business. The immigration condition restricting employment outside the applicant’s primary business will be removed