'Delays likely' over new UK innovator visa

Concerns have been raised that a new visa scheme, aimed at attracting innovators to the UK, could take months to come into effect because of bureaucratic delays.

Young investors on laptop
The UK innovator visa was introduced this month as a replacement for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa scheme, which was officially abandoned on 29 March. A key difference between the two schemes is that, under the new visa, the investment requirement is just £50,000, compared to £200,000 under the entrepreneur scheme."Applicants will have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body,” says the Home Office.However, Sanwar Ali, founder of workpermit.com, says there are uncertainties over endorsing body requirements and processing times for the new scheme."Following the closure of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa on 29 March 2019, the UK innovator visa is now officially open for applications," he says. "However, how many of the assessing bodies are actually ready? It could take a number of months before assessing bodies can consider new applications under the new UK visa scheme."

Teething problems to be overcome

Sam Meymand, a partner and head of the immigration team at London law firm Fletcher Day says, "Inevitably, the new visa route will have some teething issues. The new endorsing bodies improved 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."

UK tech sector at the forefront of innovation

Writing on the computing.co.uk website, Mr Meymand said that by reducing the funding requirement, the government was hoping to make more UK visas available to foreign tech entrepreneurs, "thereby signalling its intention that the UK tech sector is very much open for business post-Brexit and remains at the forefront of innovation".He added, "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."Mr Meymand said that if a person overseas simply wanted to invest in business in the UK – as opposed to actually working in the country – then the Tier 1 Investor visa route, which requires an investment of £2 million (the so-called 'golden visa'), remained open to them.

Business plan assessment overhauled

"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," he said."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."
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