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New UK visa available for foreign tech entrepreneurs

Tier 1 of the points based system of UK immigration has been significantly reformed in recent weeks. The biggest change has been the closure of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa route to new applicants from 29 March 2019. In its place, the new Innovator visa has been launched.

A key difference between the Innovator visa and the Entrepreneur visa is the funding requirement. Applicants who are applying from overseas for entry clearance now need to have access to just £50,000 of investment funds. This contrasts to the previous figure of £200,000.

By reducing the funding requirement, the government is hoping to make the UK more available to foreign tech entrepreneurs who may not have a high level of funding capital available thereby signalling its intention that the UK tech sector is very much open for business post Brexit and remains at the forefront of innovation.

These changes to the funding requirement have been bought about largely because the UK has recognised that access to funds is not of fundamental importance.

Having foreign innovators in the country with plans that can help advance key sectors such as tech is of much greater importance than the initial capital the applicant places in the company. If an applicant simply wants to invest in business as opposed to work in the UK then the Tier 1 Investor visa requiring an investment of £2 million remains open to them.

Aside from the reduction in funding required for new applicants from overseas the most significant change relates to how the business plans of applicants will be reviewed and assessed.

Previously this was done as part of a ‘genuine entrepreneur test’ that was carried out by UK Visas and Immigration and would take the application as a whole and assess whether on the balance of probabilities the application was genuine.

This test received a lot of criticism if an application was refused and would often be challenged by an appeal which could take months to reach a decision.

The new system outsources this crucial part of the assessment by adding a requirement that an Innovator must have an endorsement of their business from an approved endorsing body.

The Home Office has recognised that certain private endorsing bodies who have expertise in assessing business plans could better assess the potential of a business amongst three key criteria. The three key criteria that the business would be assessed on are

  • Innovation;
  • Viability; and
  • Scalability.

Inevitably, the new new visa route will have some teething issues. The new endorsing bodies approved by the Home Office must all provide clear information on the process required to receive an endorsement to ensure a fair process but it is too early to say how this will work in practice.

Nevertheless, we welcome the new visa route in reducing the required level of funding and therefore making the United Kingdom more accessible to genuine innovators with business plans that can promote growth in key sectors in the United Kingdom.

This article was first published by Computing magazine on 26 April 2019.

For further advice, or to discuss your case, please contact Sam Meyand.


The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.