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Home Office Announces Start Date For Major Changes To Tier 1 Visa Routes

Move To Encourage International Business After Brexit


Jenny Batchelor, Press Officer | 0207 421 3951


The Home Office has brought forward plans for two new visa routes to be introduced for skilled businesspeople in a bid to attract more international talent and will reform the Tier 1 Investor route, the Immigration Minister has announced today (7 March).

The two new routes – the Start-up visa route and Innovator visa route – will open on 29 March 2019, when the UK is set to exit the European Union.

Expert Opinion
“This is a welcome move from the Home Office, but as always the devil will be in the detail – and the date on which these new visa routes are to be implemented will not go unnoticed.”
Philip Barth, Partner

The Start-up visa route is intended for those starting a business for the first time in the UK. Replacing the existing Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route, the Start-up visa will be for all people rather than just recent graduates. A key change is that entrepreneurs will have double the amount of time – two years rather than one – to make their business a success before needing to make any more applications.

The Innovator visa route is a new path for more experienced businesspeople with the funds to invest in their business, but they will only need £50,000 to invest rather than the £200,000 currently required under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route. After three years they will be able to apply for settled status if their business has succeeded.

The Home Office will also reform the Tier 1 Investor visa route by the 29 March. Applicants will now be required to prove they have had control of the £2m investment requirement for two years rather than the 90 days currently in place, or they will need to provide evidence of the source of those funds.

The reformed Tier 1 Investor route will also exclude investment in government bonds, meaning the route will only be available to those who invest in UK businesses.

The news comes after a botched announcement from the Home Office last year that the Tier 1 Investor visa route would be suspended pending reform, only for the government to backtrack on these proposals a day later.

Immigration experts at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth suggest the big changes to the Tier 1 visas are in a bid to both encourage international business to the UK following Brexit as well as to mitigate criticism of wealthy foreign investors whose money comes from dubious sources.

Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth has recently commented that London ‘will remain a world-class city for decades to come’ despite Brexit, which is supported by estate agent Knight Frank’s latest report of London remaining the premier financial centre of the world for 2019 ahead of New York.

Philip continued: “The lowered threshold for entry level across both routes will definitely encourage more international businesspeople to set up shop in the UK. The move to use endorsing bodies and business experts to assess applications is also a positive one.

“The Home Office must be careful to avoid placing too much emphasis on innovation to the detriment of traditional, but viable business models, as while the new and exciting businesses are important to the UK remaining a world-class financial centre, so are the ‘everyday’ ventures.

“Admittedly this announcement has little substance to it currently. We eagerly await sight of the proposed rules particularly on points such as job creation for the business people coming to the UK via the new routes, and hope the Home Office will address any knock-on effects these changes will have on other Tier 1 applications, notably the Exceptional Talent visa route.”