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The UK's New Plans to Lead Global Innovation

Posted by: Gherson Immigration

In July 2021, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy published their UK Innovation Strategy - Leading the future by creating it, which has provided further information regarding several areas of new immigration, and some proposed amendments to existing immigration routes, aimed at furthering the UK’s mission to “build back better” and become a global hub for innovation.

The paper specifically recognises that international cooperation and talent is required to create such an environment, and actively seeks to facilitate this through immigration reforms aimed at making the UK ‘the most exciting place for innovation talent’.

To this end, the following immigration proposals have been put forward as part of the Government’s vision to reduce Britain’s ‘brain-drain’ by 2030 and achieve their larger innovation vision by 2035. 

  • We are opening our borders to top talent from everywhere in the world, via a merit-based system rather than one based on country of origin.”
  • We are making a bold offer to early career innovators, making the UK the best possible home for those starting out in a career in innovation.”

The Global Talent visa route

The Global Talent visa route is a recently launched visa route open to those leaders, or potential leaders, in the fields of research, academia, arts and culture, or digital technology.

In May of this year, the Government expanded the criteria for this route, allowing those who have won globally recognized prizes (for example, an Oscar or Nobel Prize) to automatically qualify under the route. Encouragingly, this list of eligible prizes continues to be expanded, but the bar continues to be at a high level. 

Currently those who may not hold such awards, but who are recognised as leaders or emerging leaders in their field, can apply for endorsement from an approved UK endorsement body, and thereafter apply under this visa route.

The High Potential Individual route

The High Potential Individual route is a new introduction to the skilled migration immigration categories, with the intention to make it as simple as possible for those who are internationally mobile and who demonstrate high potential, to come to the UK.

Eligibility under the route will be open to applicants who have graduated from a top global university, and the Government is exploring the possibility to expand the scope of eligibility for this route to other characteristics of high potential. However, the definition of a ‘top global university, and ‘characteristics of high potential’ have yet to be provided.

Interestingly, this route will not require the applicant to hold a UK job offer, therefore intending to give individuals the flexibility to work, switch jobs or employers and therefore increase their contributions to the UK economy.

Encouragingly, it is expected that that this route will also lead to settlement in the UK. Read more from Gherson’s Immigration team about the New ‘High Potential’ Visa announced by the UK Home Office.

A Scale-Up route

A Scale-Up route has been proposed, with the goal of supporting UK scale-ups by targeting talented individuals who have secured a high-skilled job offer from a ‘qualifying scale-up’ at the ‘required salary level’ to apply. Those ‘scale-ups’ wishing to participate in sponsorship will be able to apply through a fast-track verification process to use the route. In order to be eligible, scale-ups must be able to 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 Government is exploring whether scale-ups who can demonstrate an “expectation of strong growth in future years” may also qualify following a review, however the criteria for this expected growth is forthcoming. This route will allow those eligible to work, switch jobs or employers, and will lead to settlement in the UK, subject to specific requirements.

A revitalised Innovator route

A revitalised Innovator route intends to allow talented innovators and entrepreneurs to create and run their business in the UK. Currently the Innovator route requires the applicant to have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsement body, hold a level of maintenance funds, and have a viable, scalable, and innovative business proposal.

The crux of the route is to generate businesses in the UK that are venture-backed or harnesses innovative technologies which create jobs for UK workers whilst boosting growth.

The Government is currently reviewing the Innovator route, and intends to make the following changes:

  • Simplify and streamline the business eligibility criteria, altering the current requirements to require applicants to simply demonstrate that their business venture has a ‘high potential to grow and add value to the UK' and is ‘innovative’. The definitions of these simplified criteria will need to be reviewed upon publication, in order to specifically ascertain how they differ from the current requirements.
  • The Government is exploring a ‘fast-track, lighter touch’ endorsement process for those applicants whose business ideas are advanced enough to match their best in class international competitors, and those applicants who have been accepted on to the Department for International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur Programme will automatically be eligible under this route.
  • Altering the investment funds requirement, so that applicants will no longer need to evidence at least £50,000 in available capital in order to be able to apply for under this route. However, the responsibility will be passed to the applicant’s relevant endorsing body, which must be satisfied that the applicant has ‘sufficient funds’ to grow their business, contextually within their specific business plan. The Government also intends to remove the restriction for work outside of the proposed business plan, thus allowing successful applicants to work whilst developing their business, heralding an encouraging easement of the current restrictions imposed upon this visa route.

The new Global Business Mobility visa

The new Global Business Mobility visa intends to combine several aspects of the work visa wheelhouse, such as the old intra-company transfer visa route and the representative of an overseas business route, into a yet to be fully announced, “Global Business Mobility” route intended to cater to ‘import and export related secondments’.

The route aims to allow overseas businesses and innovative companies greater flexibility in transferring employees to the UK, with the purpose of establishing and expanding their businesses.

The Graduate Route

The Graduate Route, which has been open since July 2021, grants international students with qualifying UK degrees, 2 years of permission to stay in the UK post-completion of their course, and 3 years for those who have completed a UK PhD. There are few restrictions associated with this visa route, and successful applicants will be allowed to work in the UK post-graduation. The Government hopes that this route will help ensure that the ‘best and brightest’ from across the world who come to the UK to study, will choose to remain, whilst also providing students with time to contribute to UK innovation.

The above newly announced routes and proposed amendments to some existing routes, will be introduced in addition to the currently existing skilled worker routes for those with a UK job offer.

The immigration proposals are encouraging, as is the overall tone of the paper. This office will be interested to explore the specific wording of the above proposals, once published, and will continue to provide updates accordingly.

Gherson has extensive experience in all aspects of skilled worker migration, and is able to assist in relation to both corporate and entrepreneurial immigration matters. Should you have any questions in relation to this blog, please do not hesitate to contact us for advice, send us an e-mail, or alternatively, follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn to stay-up-to-date.


The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.

©Gherson 2021

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