The Future of Tier 1 visas
Tier 1 (Investor) visa -is it suspended?
On Thursday 6th December 2018 most of the major news organisations were reporting that the Tier 1 Investor visa was being suspended with near immediate effect. It was reported that the suspension would start at midnight the following day.
This created considerable alarm among immigration specialists as well as their clients’, who were rushing to adhere to the extremely short deadline and searching for ways to implement damage control.
As specialists in Tier 1 (Investor) visas our phones and inboxes felt the pressure that day. However, having extensive experience in dealing with the Home Office, our approach was one of ‘wait and see’. For our immigration specialists it was evident that even though a press release was sent out by the Home Office to news outlets about immediate suspension, it was an unlikely outcome.
The Home Office had indicated for a while that they wanted to have a fresh look at the Tier 1 (Investor) route, yet no concrete steps had been taken. Moreover, a suspension with immediate effect would have been too drastic a step which was uncalled for at that point. Our predictions were confirmed yesterday, when ILPA (Immigration Law Practitioner’s Association) announced that they received confirmation from the Home Office that the route was not suspended.
Therefore, the Tier 1 (Investor) route remains open and operational and seems to be set to remain so until Spring 2019. But what will happen to the route after this deadline and will it be closed?
The Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes made a Statement regarding Immigration Rules on the same day news outlets were reporting on the suspension. Within her succinct statement, some clues can be found on the future of the Tier 1 (Investor) route. As mentioned above, the new rules will come to force in Spring 2019. There has been no mention of the exact date yet, however it is most likely to be April 2019, as this is when changes to Immigration Rules are usually implemented. We expect to see the Statement of Changes on Immigration Rules setting out the details of the new route sometime soon, hopefully before the Christmas break.
The information we have so far is very vague, however it is possible to make some predictions. The Immigration minister has stated “These reforms will be introduced in the spring and will ensure the UK remains a world-leading destination for investment and innovation.” While extremely brief, it indicates that there is no intention to close down the investment route, however it is likely that it will be changed significantly to ensure that it addresses the issues related to the route. Judging from the wording, we consider it to be entirely possible that the investment will have a new requirement related to innovation. Thus, it is possible that only certain UK based Companies will qualify for purposes of accepting investment through this route. Further changes are likely to relate to the source of funds and other money laundering regulations.
The Tier 1 (Investor) route is not the only route subject to changes come spring, other routes will also be affected.
Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) – is it being scrapped?
The Immigration Minister’s statement also offers some insight into what the future holds for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visas. Immigration practitioners have rushed to assert that the route is being scrapped. This isn’t entirely accurate; however, it certainly seems that the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route as we know it will cease to exist.
So, what the Minister has said?
“The Government is clear that entrepreneurs play a key role in creating jobs and driving economic growth, which is vital to the prosperity of the UK. In June of this year, we announced a new Start-up visa route. This will build upon the successes of the current Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route, expanding it to ensure that the UK can benefit from a wider pool of overseas talent looking to establish new businesses in the UK. Applicants will be endorsed by either a business or higher education institution sponsor.
We are announcing that we will build on this offer further by introducing a new Innovator route, for more experienced business people. This will replace the current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route and have a similar emphasis on endorsement by a business sponsor, who will assess applicants’ business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability.”
Analysis of her statement allows us to get an idea of what the new routes will look like.
First, it seems that Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) will be replaced with the new Start-up visa route. Since announcement last June of the introduction of this new route, the best immigration solicitors have been attempting to gain a better understanding of what this route would offer and how it would be different from the existing Graduate Entrepreneur one. We now seem to have the answer that the existing route will be replaced. The Minister’s words also seem to suggest that the route will be open to those who are endorsed by a business or higher education institution sponsor. Currently, the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) requirement is that the applicant is endorsed either by a Higher Education Institution or the Department for Trade and Investment.
It also looks possible that there may be some relaxing of the requirement for the level of education which currently stands at UK recognised, Bachelor, Master’s degree or PhD.
In respect of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route, it seems that the route will cease to exist, at least with that name. A new, Innovator route will replace it. However, the Minister’s statement indicates that this might be a rebranding of the old route rather than a substantially new route. The statement that an endorsement by a business sponsor will be a requirement, indicates that we possibly will have designated business bodies who will be tasked with assessing the proposed business. The Home Office has considered this idea for a while now and it seems it will now be implemented. In practice, this will mean that the business plan and possibly the interview with the applicant will be conducted by professionals within the proposed field of business, rather than the Home Office, as it is done now. The Minister’s statement sets out the main points that a business plan will need to satisfy for this new route – innovation, viability and scalability. Depending on what the criteria for the above would be, the new route will limit the businesses where an investment can be made via this new route.
It is yet unknown what the investment criteria would be for this new, innovator route, however it is possible that the requirement will rise, as the Home Office has long indicated intention to raise the threshold, with £400,000 being suggested as possible new minimum threshold.
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To summarise, our assessment is that while Tier 1 (Investor) will remain and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) will effectively be replaced by a similar program, both routes will have requirements that will be much harder to meet. We therefore believe that all those considering taking these routes in attempt to secure residency in the UK, should act now. Come spring the rules will change making it a lot more difficult to access them.
Contact us, if you require help with your Tier 1 (Investor) or Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa.