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Chancellor Rishi Sunak Confirms New ‘Scale-Up’ Visa in Autumn Budget

Back in May 2021, the Home Office published a policy paper entitled, ‘New plan for immigration: legal migration and border control strategy statement’. Paragraph 21 of this policy paper stated, “In Spring 2022, we will also introduce a new, unsponsored points-based route to attract the brightest and best to the UK, with a particular emphasis placed on the very high skilled and academically elite. Within this route, we will create a ‘scale up’ stream that will allow those with a job offer at the required skills level from a recognised UK scale-up to qualify for a fast-track visa, without the need for sponsorship”. The notable words here are ‘unsponsored’, ‘very high skilled and academically elite’, and ‘fast track’. Fast forward to Rishi Sunak’s Autumn 2021 Budget speech, in which he made further reference to this new visa, “Thanks to our brilliant Home Secretary, today’s Budget confirms the eligibility criteria for our new Scale-Up Visa…making it quicker and easier for fast-growing businesses to bring in highly skilled individuals…And the Trade Secretary’s new Global Talent Network, launching initially in the Bay Area, Boston and Bangalore…will identify, attract and relocate the best global talent in key science and tech sectors…All part of our plan to make our visa system for international talent the most competitive in the world”. Mr Sunak’s Budget Speech also explained that there will also be a new £375 million Future Fund: Breakthrough, which will enable the government to co-invest in the scale-up of the most innovative, R&D-intensive businesses in the UK. In this article, we will explain what is known about this new Scale-Up visa, including its purpose and eligibility criteria.

What is the new Scale-Up visa?

The Scale-Up visa is a work visa that will be targeted at those with high levels of skills and qualifications but will differ from the Skilled Worker visa in that no sponsorship is needed to acquire one (a job offer is still required, however). The aim of the visa is to make it easier and quicker for companies experiencing rapid growth (i.e., those in the scale-up phase) to hire the best skilled labour from around the world. The scheme will be open to those with a highly skilled job offer with a salary of at least £33,000 with a UK business that meets the criteria of a scale-up company. Applicants will also need to meet the English language proficiency requirement.

According to Tech Nation, “scale-up is a distinct phase of company growth. It’s a company that has achieved a lot, had some impressive success and is ready to take it to the next level”. More specifically, using the OECD’s definition, a scale-up is a high-growth company, which is one that has experienced growth of 20% or greater in terms of employment or turnover “year on year for at least two years, and have a minimum employee count of 10 at the start of the observation period”. As such, a scale-up is past the startup phase and has developed greater confidence when it comes to return on investment (ROI).

Paul Scully MP, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, in his foreword for ‘The Scaleup Review 2020’, states that there are “34,000 scale-ups in the UK, we continue to be one of the leading OECD countries for our share of high growth businesses. The number of scale-ups has grown by 25% since 2013, and they are an increasingly critical part of our economy, making a significant contribution to economic growth and national productivity”.

It is, therefore, possible to see why Rishi Sunak and the Home Office are so keen to put a visa in place which specifically supports business at this stage of growth.

What is the difference between the Skilled Worker and the Scaleup visa?

Both visas are part of the Home Office’s points-based immigration system, and both require a job offer from a UK employer, but only the Skilled Worker visa requires applicants to be formally sponsored. The salary requirement for the scale-up visa is also higher at £33,000 compared to £25,600 for the Skilled Worker visa.

What else did the Autumn 2021 Budget say about immigration?

In addition to confirming the planned introduction of the scale-up visa, the Budget also confirmed that the government intends to launch a new ‘Global Talent Network’. As the Autumn Budget 2021 document explains, this network will “bring highly skilled people to the UK in key science and technology sectors. This network will work with businesses and research institutions to identify UK skills needs and source talent in overseas campuses, innovation hubs and research institutions to bring to the UK. A concierge service will also be available to support people moving to the UK. The Global Talent Network will launch in 2022 in the Bay Area and Boston in the US, and Bengaluru in India. The government will also maintain the expanded Department for International Trade (DIT) Global Entrepreneur Programme. This will allow the programme to continue to expand its global footprint to bring an extra 100 innovative, highly skilled entrepreneurs to the UK each year”.

While there is not much information available on this network as yet, it sounds like the government have decided that to attract the best talent from around the world, they need representatives in key locations who can actively headhunt those with suitable skills and qualifications to meet specific needs in the UK.

Final words

Further details on the new Scaleup Visa and the Global Talent Network will be published by the Home Office in the coming weeks and months. We will keep you updated with developments as they are released, including the full eligibility criteria, the application process, the visa duration and conditions, the fees, and expected processing times. If you are unsure whether to apply for an existing visa route or to wait until the new Scale-Up visa route is opened, speak to an immigration Solicitor who will be able to advise you.

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