The Home Office has brought forward plans to introduce two new visa routes for skilled business to enter the UK in a bid to attract more international talent.

The two new routes – the Start-up visa route and Innovator visa route – will open on 29 March 2019, when the UK is set to exit the European Union.

Start-up visa route

The Start-up visa route is intended for those starting a business for the first time in the UK. Replacing the existing Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route, the Start-up visa will be for all people rather than just recent graduates.

A key change is that entrepreneurs will have double the amount of time – two years rather than one – to make their business a success before needing to make any more applications.

Innovator route

The Innovator visa route is a new path for more experienced business people with the funds to invest in their business.  They will only need £50,000 to invest rather than the £200,000 currently required under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route. After three years they will be able to apply for settled status if their business has succeeded.

Changes to Tier 1 Investor visa route

The Home Office will also reform the Tier 1 Investor visa route by the 29 March. Applicants will now be required to prove they have had control of the £2m investment requirement for two years rather than the 90 days currently in place, or they will need to provide evidence of the source of those funds.

The reformed Tier 1 Investor route will also exclude investment in government bonds, meaning the route will only be available to those who invest in UK businesses.

The news comes after a botched announcement from the Home Office last year that the Tier 1 Investor visa route would be suspended pending reform, only for the government to backtrack on these proposals a day later.

How will these changes impact on businesses?

The big changes to the Tier 1 visas are designed to encourage international business to the UK following Brexit and mitigate criticism of wealthy foreign investors whose money comes from dubious sources.

The lowered threshold for entry level across both routes will encourage more international business people to "set up shop" in the UK. 

However, the Home Office must be careful to avoid placing too much emphasis on innovation to the detriment of traditional, but viable business models, as while the new and exciting businesses are important to the UK remaining a world-class financial centre, so are the "everyday’" ventures.

Need more information?

Please contact our expert, Philip Barth, head of immigration at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth.