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Yesterday, the Government announced a Tier 1 Entrepreneur update. This included the ending of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa and the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa. The former will cease on 29 March and the latter will end on 5 July.
Both of the visas will be replaced with two new ones: the Innovator Visa and the Start-Up Visa. Applications for these can be made from the 29 March.
There has also been a raft of changes announced to the Tier 1 Investor Visa. But the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent category remains unchanged and unaffected.
So, how do the two new visas work and how will they be different from the old ones? And what changes are being brought in for the Tier 1 Investor Visa?
The Start-Up Visa has been described by the Government as an expanded version of the Graduate Entrepreneur Visa. In other words, the new route will mean those who are not graduates can also apply. In addition, the list of approved bodies that can sponsor your business will be extended. This means your chances of setting up a business in the UK are far more likely.
Another feature is that you won’t have to secure any initial funding to get the visa. However, you will need to show proof of maintenance funding unless you have already got the backing of at least £945 from your sponsor. Your sponsor will usually be a university or business, who agree to support your business plan and any other relevant documents. This is a requirement for the Start-Up Visa.
The other main feature is that the visa will last for two years instead of the original one year. This provides extra time for you to develop your business. It also gives you more time to consider upgrading to the Innovator Visa at the end of your two-year period.
The Government has been clear to stress that the Start-Up Visa will not lead to a permanent settlement in the UK. However, if you do move on to the Innovator Visa after your two years, then there is a route towards Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Another benefit in doing this is that you won’t be required to show any funding. That’s the case so long as you can show your business has so far been successful.
If you want to proceed with an application for the Start-Up Visa, then it will cost you £363. The same price as the Graduate Entrepreneur Visa. You will also be expected to cover the costs of the Immigration Health Surcharge, which for the two years will amount to £800. Your total bill for applying and coming to the UK will, therefore, be £1,163.
Transitional measures mean if you’re on a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa, you don’t need to switch right away. You can do so, or you can switch into the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa until June 2021.
You can move from a Start-Up Visa to an Innovator Visa once your two years has expired. This visa is considered more for businesspeople who are developed and wish to grow their business in the UK further. However, you do not need to have come in on a Start-Up Visa to apply for this one.
Like with the Start-Up Visa, applications for an Innovator Visa will require an endorsement. You can’t get an endorsement from a university on this visa. Instead, the endorser is usually a business sponsor who agrees to support your outlined business plan and any other relevant documents. Having an endorser is a requirement for the Innovator Visa.
The criteria for getting a business sponsor has been listed under three main headings: Innovation, Viability and Scalability.
To be considered ‘innovative’, the business must be original and genuine and must meet the market needs and/or bolster a competitive edge.
To be considered ‘viable’, the business must show it can be successfully run by the applicant. This can be shown by demonstrating they have the skills, market awareness and business accruement to do so.
To be considered ‘scalable’, the business must show evidence of planning. This includes the potential for development into foreign markets.
The endorser must also be happy that the applicant will spend most of their time in the UK, working on developing their business.
Once an endorsement has been made, applicants will need to prove they have at least £50,000 in approved funding. This is far less than the £200,000 expected under the old Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa.
Further costs will also be incurred when making an application. To apply will set you back £1,021. You will also need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, which will cost you £400 each year.
Those who are currently on Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visas will still be able to extend this until April 2023. However, they would be expected to provide details around their role in the business. They would also be expected to show the employment opportunities they’ve provided.
The Investor Visa is not being scrapped, but there are some major changes to the way you acquire one.
The first is that the length of time you need to have £2,000,000 funds in your bank account is being significantly increased: from 90 days to 2 years. If there are funds but they have been in the account for a shorter length of time, then they would need to show where that funding has come from.
If you need to open a bank account to show this, then the checks being made when applying for this visa will be strengthened. Confirmation of this will have to be provided to the Home Office.
Previously, an applicant could purchase UK government bonds as a means of qualifying as an investor. However, this is being closed as an option.
The other change is that applicants must provide details of any financial middlemen used for their business. These companies must be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Rules around what qualifies as a trading and active company are also being strengthened. Firstly, they must be registered to Companies House in the UK. Secondly, they must make sure they are registered with HM Revenue and Customs for tax purposes. Thirdly, they must have a UK bank account showing regular trading activity. And fourthly, they must have at least two employees who are based in the UK and are not directors.
Those who are currently in the UK on a Tier 1 Investor Visa can continue on this and apply for settlement until April 2023.
These changes by the Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes have to go before parliament for approval. Once this process has been completed, the changes can then become law.
As already outlined, most of them will become effective as of 29 March.
The Immigration Advice Service can help with any queries you have over the new visas or transitioning from the old ones. You can give our experienced lawyers a call on 0333 363 8577 or make an enquiry to request a free consultation at a time that suits you.