Replacement of Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Graduate Entrepreneur

Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Graduate Entrepreneur visas are being replaced by new Innovator and Start-Up categories. Applications under the new categories will open from 29 March 2019.

Applications for Entrepreneur visas will close on 29 March 2019. Migrants who were planning to apply for a Graduate Entrepreneur visa will need to do so by 5 July 2019. Transitional provisions are in place for migrants who already hold these visas. However, they will be affected by new rules that require them to provide an overview of their business’s activity, details of their role in the business and the job titles and descriptions for the settled workers they are relying on to qualify for extension or settlement.

Both of the new categories will require endorsement from a ‘trusted body’ such as a higher education provider, business accelerator, seed competition or government agency. They will assess the applicant’s business plan for innovation, viability and scalability. This is a significant change from the current system for entrepreneurs, where only the Home Office assessed the merits of their business plan. The endorsing body will monitor the migrant’s progress after 6, 12 and 24 months.

Both categories will require a higher level of English than has previously been the case (level B2 rather than B1).

The Innovator category is aimed at migrants with prior experience in business. In addition to endorsement (see previous page), they will need £50k to invest in their business from any legitimate source. This is a reduction from the £200k that is currently required.

The Start-Up category replaces Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneurs. However, applicants will not need to be graduates and will not require any initial funding. It is designed for migrants who are starting a new business for the first time in the UK. They will be granted two years leave. They will then be able to progress to the Innovator category and if they have made significant achievements against their business plan, the requirement for them to have the £50k funding will be waived.

Extension applications will be possible for Innovators. These will be based on assessment of their achievements against their business plan. If the original idea did not succeed, then the migrant would need to re-apply with a new business idea, for endorsement on the same basis as an initial application.

Settlement applications will be permitted as soon as the migrant has spent at least three years in the Innovator category and subject to them meeting a range of criteria covering investment, innovation, business growth and job creation.

Tier 1 Investor

As anticipated, significant changes are being made to the Tier 1 Investor visa route. These are designed to address concerns raised about the character and conduct of some applicants and in particular about the source of their funds. The Government is also aiming to increase the economic benefits arising from these investments in the UK.

The changes include (amongst others):

  • requirement to demonstrate that funds have been held for two years (rather than 90 days) prior to the date of initial application
  • requirement for the bank with whom an account is held to confirm all due diligence checks have been carried out
  • investment in UK Government bonds will no longer be permitted
  • tightening of rules regarding the use of intermediary vehicles and also the definition of ‘active and trading’ companies
  • new provisions to allow investment in pooled investments, but only where they also receive funding from a UK or devolved government department or agency.

Tier 2 General

Before sponsoring a Tier 2 migrant, the sponsor must match the role in question to the appropriate SOC code. These are set out in the codes of practice at Appendix J of the Immigration Rules. The codes of practice stipulate minimum salary levels that must be paid for each SOC code. Those rates have been reviewed and increased rates will apply to any Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) assigned after 29 March 2019. Before assigning new CoS, sponsors should check that the salary being paid to the migrant is above the new minimum required.

The overall minimum salary of £30k for experienced workers continues to apply. The exemption applied to nurses, medical radiographers, paramedics and secondary school teachers of maths, physic, chemistry, computer science and Mandarin is being extended.

The minimum salary levels for applications for indefinite leave to remain will continue to rise in accordance with inflation. For application made on or after 6 April 2023 the minimum will be £38,800, and for those made on or after 6 April 2024 it will be £40,100.

The monthly quota system for considering requests for Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (RCoS) will continue. The priority order for requests is not changing, but it is becoming slightly more nuanced. Shortage occupations and PhD level roles will continue to have priority. Applications are then prioritised by salary. But instead of using £5k salary bands, the new system will apply £1k bands. All applications which score the same number of points receive equal treatment. Last year this meant that we often had a position where, for example, 50 RCoS were available, but as 200 requests had the same score, they all had to be rejected and the 50 RCoS left just got carried forward to the next month. Allowing more differentiation in the number of points scored, means there is more chance of requests being granted and all available RCoS used.

The new rules are designed to fully implement the Scheme, following the current pilot phase. This means opening it to applications from nationals of Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, plus their family members. It will also allow applications to be lodged from overseas. In addition there is provision for ID checks to be completed by taking documents to a scanning centre, instead of being required to use the app.

The new rules have expanded the scope of the EU Settlement Scheme to cover more complex cases. These are known by the name of the litigation that established the particular rights in question: ‘Surinder Singh’, ‘Chen’, ‘Zambrano’ and ‘Ibrahim and Teixeira’.

A new Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) scheme has been approved. This is a pilot scheme to allow Jamaican nurses to come and work in the UK for up to three years, on an ‘earn learn and return’ basis. The scheme also envisages that nurses from the UK will offer training support in Jamaica.

The scheme is designed to help the Jamaican Government improve the capability and capacity of their nursing workforce and establish a network of professionals between both countries. The Government has suggested that the scheme may be widened in the future to other countries and Trusts.