Golden visa replacement 'dead on arrival'

The Government’s best alternative to the cancelled Tier 1 Investor visa route, which was favoured by money launderers, has been roundly derided for its lacklustre performance.

immigration stamp on paper with gold tipped fountain pen
Home Secretary Priti Patel announced yesterday that the Investor Visa, known as the ‘Golden visa’ will be cancelled with immediate effect. It allowed applicants to settle in the UK if they had £2m to invest. The Home Office now plans to enhance an alternative route, the Innovator visa, in order to attract the legitimate overseas investors who can no longer use the cancelled visa as a route to settlement in the UK.

Why have only 500 applied for new UK Innovator visa?

But immigration specialists describe the much-derided Innovator visa as ‘dead on arrival’ and doubt it will attract global entrepreneurs to set up shop in the UK as only a few hundred investors have applied for the visa in the three years since it was launched.The Home Office now intends to reform the Innovator route ‘to provide an ambitious investment route which works more effectively in support of the UK’s economy’.  But experts are questioning the effectiveness of this route which was introduced in March 2019 to much fanfare and was designed to ‘enhance the UK's offer to overseas entrepreneurial talent’ but which has only attracted around 500 applicants. The latest Home Office figures for the first three quarters of 2021 continue to show weak demand with just 79 applications in Q3. Final quarter figures due to be released later this month are expected to follow the disappointing pattern.Yash Dubal, visa expert and Director of immigration service A Y & J Solicitors doubts demand will increase, even with reforms. He says his company has seen such little interest in Innovator visas it has stopped advising clients about the option and recommends other, easier alternatives.“We do receive inquiries but when you drill down into the details, the application criteria are so stringent that only a very small number of interested parties qualify. We say sorry, but we just don’t do it.”With such little demand, there are doubts that the planned government review of the system will successfully revitalise it.“I fear it is dead on arrival,” said Mr Dubal.
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What do you need to apply for a UK Innovator visa?

Currently, to successfully apply for an Innovator visa, applicants must have their business idea endorsed by an endorsing body, which can cost up to £15,000 a year. Applicants also need to invest £50,000 in their business idea, which must be ‘viable, scalable and innovative’. Many potential applicants have been caught out by the ‘innovative’ requirement.“It can be very challenging and subjective,” continued Mr Dubal. “The applicants are also reliant on the endorsing body for the lifetime of the visa, which is three years and even if their business is a success there are no assurances around permanent settlement. These issues put a lot of entrepreneurs off investing in the UK. The whole route needs a serious rethink.”A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy policy paper, UK Innovation Strategy: leading the future by creating it, published in July 2021, stated an aim to ‘revitalise the Innovator route to attract and retain high-skilled, globally mobile innovation talent’. This has become a priority after the cancellation of the Investor route.Applicants will still need to demonstrate that their business venture has a high potential to grow and add value to the UK and is innovative, however.The government is also investigating a fast-track endorsement process for applicants ‘whose business ideas are particularly advanced’. The £50,000 investment criteria will be scrapped, ‘provided that the endorsing body is satisfied the applicant has sufficient funds to grow their business’.Jaffer Kapasi OBE, from the East Midlands Chamber in Leicester is another critic of the Innovator visa, describing it as ‘a complete disaster’. He called for a complete overhaul in order for it ‘to become user-friendly and highly attractive to innovators who will support and uplift the future of this nation’.

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