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UK establishes plans for new "High Potential" visa scheme

16 August 2021 Jack Freeland Blog

On 22 July 2021 the UK government announced its vision to make the UK a global hub for innovation by 2035. The plans comprise of 4 pillars to support the achievement of that vision, one of which is the use of people to generate innovation through immigration with the introduction of a “High Potential Individual” visa route, “scale-up" route and the “revitalised Innovator route”.

The High Potential Individual route

Page 60 of the strategy document outlines plans to introduce a new visa route to allow individuals who demonstrate high potential to come to the UK:

“Eligibility will be open to applicants who have graduated from a top global university. The UK government will explore the scope to expand eligibility to other characteristics of high potential. There will be no job offer requirement, giving individuals the flexibility to work, switch jobs or employers and make contributions to the UK economy. The route will also allow eligible individuals to extend their visa and settle in the UK, subject to meeting specific requirements.”

Unsurprisingly the announcement bears very little detail on the substantive requirements of the route, and it is unlikely that we will know more until a formal statement of changes to the Immigration Rules is put forward. What we do know is that this will be an unsponsored route that gives visa holders the flexibility to work for different employers in the UK with no job offer requirement.

Who is deemed a “High Potential Individual”? The policy document suggests that eligibility will be open to applicants who have graduated from a top global university, but there is no further guidance on what universities are included in this definition.

The scale-up route

The government have also introduced plans for a new visa for skilled migrant workers to come to the UK to work for scale-ups. Substantive detail is again thin on the ground, but the policy does define a scale-up as a business that can:

“demonstrate an annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a three-year period greater than 20% and a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the three-year period.”

The Innovator visa

The policy paper also promises reform the current Innovator route to make the UK more attractive for overseas entrepreneurs and businesses. The government plan to make the UK a “competitive offer” by:

  • “Simplifying and streamlining the business eligibility criteria. Applicants will need to demonstrate that their business venture has a high potential to grow and add value to the UK and is innovative.
  • Fast-tracking applications. The UK government is exploring a fast-track, lighter touch endorsement process for applicants whose business ideas are particularly advanced to match the best-in-class international offers. Applicants that have been accepted on to the Department for International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur Programme will be automatically eligible.
  • Building flexibility. Applicants will no longer be required to have at least £50,000 in investment funds to apply for an Innovator visa, provided that the endorsing body is satisfied the applicant has sufficient funds to grow their business. We will also remove the restriction on doing work outside of the applicant’s primary business.”

Businesses will seemingly be required to meet a slightly lower threshold of “high potential to grow and add value to the UK”, and the removal of the minimum £50,000 investment level will be welcome.

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