Start-up visas for tech companies – what’s all the hype about?

During this year’s London Tech Week, a new visa route aimed at the tech industry was announced.  The Start Up visa has been designed following advice from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) and feedback from the tech sector.

As the UK prepares for Brexit, the Start UP visa is aimed at encouraging more entrepreneurs from overseas to set up here and will replace the existing Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur scheme.

Current visa schemes

The Graduate Entrepreneur visa is aimed at recent graduates.  Up to 2,000 visas can be granted per year, however in year ending March 2018 only 839 applications were approved.

After a visa is granted, the existing Graduate Entrepreneur route doesn’t require applicants to show funding available to invest in a proposed business idea or meet any job creation requirements.  This is in contrast to the large investment requirement for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, where the applicant must show

  • £200,000 of available funds;
  • or £50,000 if the funding is provided by an FCA-regulated venture capital firm, approved seed funding competition or accelerator, or the Department for International Trade.

Tier 1 Entrepreneurs also need to show that they have created two full-time jobs lasting 12 months each during the period of their initial visa to qualify for an extension.

The Financial Times recently reported that 1,946 IT professionals from outside the EEA were refused visas since November last year due to restrictions on the availability of Tier 2 visas for Sponsored Skilled Workers. The tech sector was one of the worst affected with only the field of medicine being hit harder with 2,360 rejected applications.

New start-up visa scheme

The new Start Up visa doesn’t require applicants to have a degree.  In addition to widening the pool of talent by accepting professionals who don’t have a degree, we hope to see a rise in the number of visas granted.

Applicants under this scheme are required to have an endorsement and early indications show that the bodies that can provide have been [CP1] expanded from universities and the Government’s Entrepreneur Programme to include  approved business sponsors including accelerators.

The original MAC report suggested that ‘approved business sponsors’ should have to put up a minimum level of investment in the region of £20,000 to £30,000, in exchange for equity in the business. The proposed new route is currently silent about both endorsements and investment.

Based on Government announcements to date we assume that there will be no investment, or job creation requirements to be met.

The future

The funding and endorsement criteria issues are likely to be clarified by the Government when more details are released.

We are told that the application process is expected to be ‘faster and smoother’, but again the Home Office hasn’t identified how this process will actually work in practice.

The scheme is set to launch in spring 2019.