A new Statement of Changes was presented to Parliament on 7 March 2019 which provides some clarification on the changes to the Immigration Rules which are due to take place but several questions remain.

The changes introduce two new categories, Start-Up and Innovator, for people seeking to establish a business in the UK. They will replace the existing Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) categories and come into effect from 29 March 2019.

Crucial to both these new categories will be endorsement of applicants by UK trusted bodies-such as business accelerators, seed competitions and government agencies, as well as higher education providers. These bodies will assess applicants’ business idea for their innovation, viability and scalability. This should be a positive step whereby the Home Office’s assessment of genuineness is replaced by people who are better placed to assess the potential of the individual’s plans.

The Start-up category is an expanded version of the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category. It is for those starting a new business for the first time in the UK. Applicants will not need to be graduates and will not need to have secured any initial funding. Successful applicants will be granted 2 years’ leave as opposed to the previous 1 year and will be able to progress into the Innovator category to continue developing their businesses in the UK after that time.

The Innovator category is intended for more experienced businesspeople. As well as an endorsement, applicants will need £50,000 to invest in their business from any legitimate source (reduced from £200,000 for most applicants in the current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category). The funding requirement will be waived for those switching from the Start-up category who have made significant achievements against their business plans. The category may lead to settlement in the UK.

In both categories, there is a greater emphasis on innovative businesses and endorsement for initial applications will be based on whether applicant’s ideas are innovative, viable and scalable.

Endorsement for extension applications in the Innovator category will be based on assessment of whether applicants have made significant achievements against their business plans, and whether their businesses are trading. Applicants whose original business ideas did not succeed may re-apply, with a new business idea, for endorsement under the criteria for the initial applications.

Endorsements for settlement applicants will be made against a range of criteria- covering investment, innovation, business growth and job creation- which applicants may choose from in order to qualify for settlement. Applicants may apply for settlement as soon as their business satisfies at least two of these criteria, providing they have spent at least three years in the category.

An English language requirement is being set at upper intermediate (B2) level (Up from intermediate (B1) under the previous categories) for both categories, to ensure those successful will possess the standard of English needed to interact with a variety of both businesses and consumers.

Applicants will be asked to maintain contact with their endorsing body every 6, 12 and 14 months to ensure they are continuing to build on their business ventures or pursuing new equally as innovative business ideas.

Interestingly, the new categories will be listed in a new Appendix W to the Immigration Rules. They do not include points-scoring tables. It is intended to be clearer and easier to follow than the existing Points-Based System.

Further clarification will follow once the new routes are open and we will be sure to keep an interested eye on these developments.

For further legal advice on any of the issues mentioned in this article, please contact Farleys Solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry online.