The BEIS Innovation Strategy paper, the deadline for the EU Settlement scheme, the Displaced Talent visa scheme and information regarding making a continuous residence application for Indefinite Leave to Remain are all covered in this month's round-up.

BEIS Innovation Strategy paper announces commitment to promote talent to choose the UK

BEIS have this month published a new UK Innovation Strategy that includes a number of commitments on immigration to ensure the UK has access to the best talent.

1. A new High Potential visa route

The paper includes a commitment to provide a new immigration route to the UK for ‘High Potential’ individuals. This commits to provide access to the UK for graduates of top global universities. Critically this will mean that no job offer and no minimum salary requirements will be required to be eligible for the visa. It is intended that the route will allow eligible individuals to extend their visa and settle in the UK if specific requirements are met. This is a welcome signal for business who may then be able to access top talent without having to incur substantial visa sponsorship costs upfront and good news for self-employed individuals.

We are expecting further details of this new route to be announced in due course and will provide a further update at this time.

2. A new ‘Scale-Up’ visa route

The BEIS Innovation Strategy paper has indicated an additional commitment to open a further new Scale-Up category of visa that will be for migrants “with a high skilled job offer from a qualifying scale-up at the required salary level”. BEIS commits that business will be able to apply through a fast-track verification process. In addition BEIS has provided further details as to the definition of a Scale-Up business as one that is able to “demonstrate an annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a three-year period greater than 20%, and a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the three-year period”. The route will allow eligible individuals to work, switch jobs or employers. Individuals will be able to extend their visa and settle in the UK, subject to meeting specific requirements.

3. Changes to the Innovator visa route

The BEIS paper also appears to recognise that the current ‘Innovator’ visa route is problematic and under-used – with suggestions that the route will be ‘revitalised’. Proposals in the paper include (1) simplifying and streamlining the business eligibility criteria which will limit the requirement to demonstrate high business growth potential to a UK market rather than being required to be viable on an international level (2) providing fast-tracking for applications and (3) introducing flexibility to the route by removing the £50,000 pre-requisite investment fund requirement and enabling endorsing bodies to confirm that the applicant has access to ‘sufficient’ funds for their business needs.

The paper also includes a light-touch reference to a ‘Global Business Mobility visa’ that would “allow overseas businesses and innovative companies greater flexibility in transferring workers to the UK, in order to establish and expand their businesses” – this appears to hint at either/or a review of the existing ‘Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Route’ or Intra-Company Transfer visa route. Further detail on this is expected in due course.

EU Settlement scheme – deadline passes

The deadline to register under the EU Settlement scheme (30 June 2021) has now passed. Nevertheless late applications are still being accepted where there was a good reason for the initial deadline being missed. As Immigration status checks are now applicable to EU nationals, individuals are encouraged to register urgently if they haven’t done so already.

A Displaced Talent visa scheme

The UK Government have announced a pilot visa scheme that would allow some skilled people, displaced by conflict or violence, to come to the UK safely and legally and to be permitted to work on arrival. The pilot scheme will be open to refugees and displaced people from Jordon and Lebanon and will initially open 100 places to the UK. The Displaced Talent visa scheme will sit alongside the current Points Based System. Importantly the pilot is not intending to reduce existing eligibility criteria and factors such as minimum skill and salary levels will continue to apply, however the scheme does seek to address and remove some of the current barriers to work visas that displaced persons face. This UK pilot follows Australia and Canada who have run similar schemes.

Time spent in the UK as a visitor counts as ‘residence’ for ILR

A new Court of Appeal ruling has this month held that time spent in the UK as a visitor could be counted towards a ten year continuous residence application for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. The key point in application of this new case law is to establish the intention of the applicant at the time they left the UK between periods of residence. In this case (R (Mungar) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021]) the applicant had spent time in the UK as a visitor, departing in-line with the conditions of his visa and prior to its expiry. The individual left the UK with the intention of returning to their home country to apply for Entry Clearance to the UK as a student. The applicant was successfully able to argue that they did have a reasonable expectation at their time of departure, that they would be able to leave the UK and be able to lawfully return again. This was evidenced by their later successful grant of Entry Clearance as a student and subsequent return to the UK. At no point was the individual absent from the UK for more than six months.

This is therefore an important development albeit with likely limited application that will be heavily dependent on specific historic facts for applicants.