18 Nov 2021

In May, the Government published a policy paper which laid the groundwork for changes it hopes to introduce, and bear out its commitment to attracting the ‘brightest and best to the UK, with a particular emphasis on the highly skilled and academically elite.’

These changes open up further possibilities for UK-based employers as well as for non UK-based business people who wish to explore options for coming into the UK to work without having to rely on a UK-based employer. The changes will also appeal to entrepreneurs or the self-employed whose options for coming to the UK have been reduced in recent years.

In the Budget in October, Rishi Sunak identified the need for innovative UK businesses to have access to the talent and skills they need. New visa routes and further changes to the immigration system were announced, to help attract highly skilled people to the UK and support inward investment.

In particular, the Budget report referred to Scale-up, High Potential Individual and Global Mobility visas, which are all set to come into force in Spring 2022. While precise rules for these visas have not yet been defined, we outline below the key content that has so far been provided.

  1. Scale-up visas

The aim of the Scale-up visa is to make it easier and quicker for companies experiencing rapid growth to hire the best skilled labour from around the world.

  Under this route:

  • An individual must hold a high-skilled job offer with a salary of at least £33,000 and meet an English language requirement.
  • Scale-ups will be able to apply to use the route through a fast-track verification process.

To qualify as a scale-up, a business must have:

  • An annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a 3-year period greater than 20%.
  • A minimum of 10 employees at the start of the 3-year period.

The route is set to launch in Spring 2022 and will be open to applicants who pass the English language requirement and have a high-skilled job offer from an eligible business with a salary of at least £33,000 (higher than the salary requirement of £25,600 for Skilled Workers).

Both the Skilled Worker visa and the Scale-up visa are part of the Home Office’s points-based immigration system and require a job offer from a UK employer.  However only the Skilled Worker visa requires applicants to be formally sponsored.

2. High Potential Individual visa

The High Potential Individual route will be open to high potential graduates from top global universities. The definitions and eligibility requirements for ‘top global university’ and ‘high potential graduates’ have yet to be defined, but are likely to respectively include a closed list of government-approved institutions, and characteristics such as age, salary and postgraduate qualifications.

This route will allow:

  • Graduates to relocate to the UK without first having secured a job.
  • Settlement in the UK – again, the parameters and requirements of eligibility for permanent residence under this route have yet to be defined.

3. Global Business Mobility visa

This route will allow innovative overseas businesses greater flexibility in transferring workers to the UK to establish and expand their businesses. It is expected that this route will:

  • Allow for intra-company transfers.
  • Facilitate the establishment of branches or subsidiaries.
  • Enable workers to come to the UK to undertake a secondment or short assignments.

4. Innovator visa

A ‘revitalised’ Innovator route has been announced which will enable overseas innovators and entrepreneurs to start and operate a business in the UK that is either venture-backed or is harnessing innovative technologies. Under this route:

  • There will be greater flexibility – there will no longer be a requirement for applicants to have at least £50,000 in investment funds, provided that the applicant has sufficient funds to grow their business. Applicants will also be able to undertake work outside their primary business on this route.
  • Business eligibility criteria will be streamlined and simplified – applicants will need to demonstrate that their business has the potential to grow, add value to the UK, and remain innovative.
  • An option will exist to fast-track applications – applicants whose business ideas are ‘particularly advanced’ will have this option available to them.

5. Global Talent Network

A Global Talent Network is set to be launched in 2022 which is intended to help identify talented people to bring to the UK to work in key science and technology sectors.

Launching initially in the Bay Area and Boston in the US, and in Bengaluru in India, the Network plans to work with UK businesses and research institutes to identify UK skill needs. It will subsequently source talent from overseas universities, innovation hubs and research institutions to bring to the UK.

The Network will also provide individuals with tailored advice and links to UK-based opportunities. While there is little information currently available, it has clearly been introduced to advance the Government’s intention to attract the best talent from around the world.

The Government will also maintain the Department for International Trade Global Entrepreneur Programme allowing it to continue to expand its global footprint to bring a small number (100) of innovative, highly-skilled entrepreneurs to the UK each year. More details will be published in the coming months.

6. Digitalisation of the UK border

Finally, by way of a reminder, UK-based employers need to remain conscious of pending changes at the border which will affect non-UK national employees travelling to the UK.

The UK is working towards Electronic Travel Authorisations for non-UK visitors by 2025. The intention is to have a fully digital immigration system, eliminating the need to provide physical documents that evidence immigration status, such as passport vignettes and biometric cards.

There are plans are to enhance watch-listing and to move towards greater automation for passengers on arrival, thereby improving the operational process at the border, as well as customer service delivery and security.

The UK is also set to introduce a universal permission to travel system, similar to the “ESTA” currently adopted by the United States. This system will require those travelling to the UK without a visa or a confirmed immigration status to obtain electronic travel authorisation ahead of travelling. This system is due to be in place by the end of 2024.

Contact us

If you have any questions about these issues in relation to your own organisation, please contact a member of the team or speak with your usual Fox Williams contact.


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