The scrapping of the Tier-1 Entrepreneur Visa was met with consternation by some and applause by others. But, how will its replacements be received?
The abolition of the Tier-1 ‘golden visa’ scheme is probably bad news for the global super-rich looking for an efficient and affordable way to get a British passport. But it has been replaced by two more nuanced visas designed to encourage inward investment from innovators and start-ups. That spells good news for ambitious foreigners thinking about setting up shop in the world’s fifth-largest economy – and enjoy the country’s highly competitive, low corporation taxes.
Importantly, the visas are offered to applicants from anywhere in the world, without prejudice and on a level playing field: EU, EEA or anywhere else. Success rests purely on the talent and capabilities of the individual and their business model: merit rather than a point of origin.
The Tier 1 Start-up category
The start-up visa is for early-stage but high potential entrepreneurs starting a business in the UK for the first time. Applicants do not need any funds to invest in their business at this stage – but they must not have previously set up a business in the UK. Successful applicants are granted leave for two years and can also bring their family members (spouses/partners and children under 18) to the UK.
During the two years, applicants will spend the majority of their time developing their businesses, after which they can switch into the Innovator category (see below) to extend their stay and develop their businesses in the country. So, what does it take to be awarded such a visa?
Applicants must demonstrate that they have an innovative, viable and scaleable business idea, which is supported by an endorsing body. Applicants should also have requisite funding to support their business.
The Tier 1 Innovator category
The Tier 1 Innovator Visa is for more experienced businesspeople seeking to establish a business in the UK. Like the Tier 1 Start-up Visa, applicants must have a business idea that is innovative, viable and scaleable – and endorsed by a relevant body. Those include UK higher education institutions and organisations that have a proven record of supporting UK entrepreneurs. All bodies will be approved by the Home Office.
Innovators will also have to show a minimum funding of £50,000. In return, they’re granted leave for three years at a time and family members can come along too. After three years, innovators can renew for three more years. If all goes well and they wish to stay, they can then apply for indefinite leave to remain.
These two visas are a powerful signal to the rest of the world that post-Brexit, the UK is serious about opening its doors to talent, especially people with truly valuable skills and ideas. Many sectors will welcome these ‘fit for purpose’ visas, particularly the technology sector, which has long been lobbying for them.
The low financial threshold shifts the balance away from the size of the applicant’s bank account towards skills, knowledge and tangible outcomes – what they can actually bring to the country. This is a shift in emphasis that should serve the UK well by attracting the kind of pioneering entrepreneurs and innovators we need – just when we need them most.