When it comes to starting new businesses and encouraging innovation, few countries are more accommodating than the United Kingdom. Previously, if you wanted to set up an entrepreneurial pursuit in the UK, you would have had to come into the country on the now phased out Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa. This visa allowed entrepreneurs to come to the UK in order to start a business, provided they had seed funds and a strong business idea. The visa was well thought out but had one major stumbling block: a requirement for a large amount of capital to be available. For many start-up businesses, this was simply not an option.
So fast forward to 2019 and the introduction of two new visa routes for entrepreneurs to set up businesses in the UK. The first is the Innovator visa - which is an almost direct replacement for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa except with a lower investment threshold (£50,000 as opposed to the previous requirement of £200,000). The second is the Start-Up Visa. This is very much aimed at new entrepreneurs, and in this article we will assess its merits and eligibility criteria.
Who Is The Start-Up Visa Aimed At?
The Start-Up Visa is primarily aimed at new entrepreneurs who may not have either the experience or the funding required to get their big idea off the ground. The biggest issue with the previous incarnation of the visa - the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa - was the requirement to have a large amount of seed funding available as well as having some prerequisite experience in order to start a business. The visa has now been replaced by two separate visas: the Start-Up Visa and the Innovator Visa. While the Innovator Visa is almost direct replacement for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, the Start-Up Visa is more suited to those who are just getting started.
With Brexit on the horizon, an injection of new entrepreneurial ideas and businesses who have been endorsed by credible business authorities can only help keep the UK at the forefront of innovation. This new wave of innovation should help the UK to stave off the potential downsides of Brexit and help it emerge once again as a global powerhouse.
Why Does My Business Idea Need To Be Endorsed?
Previously, Home Office staff assessed business plans for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa. This, of course, was far from ideal - the staff are experts in immigration law, not business. It is the realisation of this fact that has led the Home Office to change the way in which business ideas are vetted. Now the job has been handed over to the appropriate authorities - these include higher education institutions and industry bodies, who are arguably far better placed to understand the needs of the industry and the merits of a business proposal.
It is hoped this significant change can help to streamline the application process and ensure that only the best businesses make it to the UK to get started and grow. These necessary changes can only help to improve the system and provide the UK with much needed innovation and entrepreneurialism.
What Is The Eligibility Criteria For The New Start-Up Visa?
To apply for a Start-Up Visa, you first need to have your business idea endorsed by an appropriately qualified institution (a list of which is available on the Gov.uk website). Once this element has been satisfied, you will be able to make an application as long as you fit the following criteria:
- You are over 18 years of age
- You can meet the English language requirement (a minimum level of English that must be proven unless you come from an exempt country)
- You must be able to prove that you have sufficient savings to support yourself while you are in the UK (at least £945 that has been available for at least 90 days before applying)
If you meet this criteria you will be able to make an online application. While this is being processed, you will need to give your biometric information at a visa application centre. This information is taken so that you can be given a Biometric Residence Permit, which acts as your proof of your ability to reside in the UK.
Can I Gain Indefinite Leave To Remain From The Start-Up Visa?
No - the vision with the Start-Up Visa is that it acts as a stepping stone which can be upgraded rather than allowing inexperienced entrepreneurs to progress directly all the way to Indefinite Leave to Remain. Because of this vision, the Start-Up Visa only lasts for 2 years. If at the end of this period your business has been a success, you have the option to upgrade to the Innovator Visa. The Innovator Visa will then be the route to your 5 years in the UK and give you the ability to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
The reason for the two-step process is simple: Start-Up Visa entrepreneurs are only granted leave to get their business off the ground. It's anticipated that many of these businesses will succeed, and the initial period ensures that after 2 years, the businesses doing well are the ones who will stay in the UK. The visa is an excellent incubator for business ideas, ensuring only the strongest businesses survive.
Where Can I Get More Help?
Our immigration solicitors are ideally placed to help with any and all immigration queries due to their extensive knowledge and experience. So, if you need more help with either the Start-Up Visa, Innovator Visa or any of the UK's various work visas, then please get in touch with a member of our team who will be more than happy to help.