Leading immigration lawyers, Penningtons Manches, has today welcomed the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recommendations to the Government for reforming the visa route for entrepreneurs seeking to set up business in the UK.

In its report, Tier 1 Entrepreneurs: Review of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Graduate Entrepreneur route, the MAC says that a more selective approach would improve the quality of entrepreneurs and maximise the economic benefit to the country. It also recommends that the Government considers introducing a visa route specifically for talented entrepreneurs looking to establish their start-up businesses in the UK. 

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa route is open to non-EEA nationals who wish to invest in one or more businesses in the UK. Applicants must prove they have £200,000 to invest in a UK business, though this can be lowered to £50,000 in certain circumstances. 

Under the existing route, the MAC found clear examples of migrants establishing highly innovative, high-growth potential businesses but also found substantial evidence of low quality businesses being established. 

MAC also made the following recommendations: 

  • Where appropriate partners are identified, the Government may wish to build third party endorsement into the selection process. In particular, the Home Office could work with UKTI and the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA) to explore the feasibility of approving selected angel investor networks or syndicates to provide third party endorsement under the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route. 

  • The selection of migrant entrepreneurs should be carried out by industry experts where possible. Options for assessing the applications could include: appointing a panel of experts with expertise in early-stage entrepreneurship, such as angel investors or venture capitalists; recruiting specialist immigration officers qualified to review business plans; working with other government departments such as UKTI or BIS; or outsourcing the assessment of business plans to a professional services firm.
  • The entrepreneur visa routes should aim to attract entrepreneurs with innovative business proposals. 

As part of its submission to the MAC, Penningtons Manches undertook an extensive survey of Tier 1 entrepreneurs and industry experts to provide evidence-based recommendations for how improvements could be made to the current system. 

Pat Saini, head of immigration at Penningtons Manches, commenting on the MAC recommendations, said: “We are very encouraged by the overall direction and scope of the MAC’s recommendations to the Government and are pleased that so many of the findings from our survey and our recommendations are reflected in the MAC report.” 

“We are particularly glad that the MAC recommends that the Government seeks to make greater use of third party endorsement as we believe that this could help to remove many of the barriers to entry for talented entrepreneurs and their start ups.”