New High Potential Individual
visa for top global

On 22 July 2021, the UK government launched its new Innovation Strategy, which sets out long-term plans to boost private sector investment in research and development, in order to put the UK ‘at the front of the global innovation race’.

The strategy includes key immigration reforms which will open our borders to top talent, making the UK open and welcoming to highly skilled migrants.

To help achieve this aim, the government has pledged to introduce new High Potential Individual and Scale-up visa routes to attract and retain high-skilled, globally mobile innovation talent. Furthermore, the existing Innovator route is set to be revitalised to allow talented innovators and entrepreneurs from overseas to set up and operate a business in the UK.

The High Potential Individual route

As part of the government’s Plan for Growth, a new High Potential Individual visa route will be introduced, making it easier for overseas citizens to come to the UK without a job offer if they demonstrate high potential.

The route will be open to applicants who have graduated from a top global university, and the government will explore the scope to expand eligibility to other high potential characteristics.

As there will be no requirement for applicants to hold a job offer in the UK, the route will provide individuals with the flexibility to work, switch jobs or employers and make contributions to the UK economy. The High Potential Individual route will also allow eligible individuals to extend their visa and settle in the UK, as long as they meet the specific requirements to do so.

The Scale-up route

The proposed new Scale-up route will allow talented individuals to come to the UK if they hold a high skilled job offer from a qualifying scale-up at the required salary level.

Scale-ups will need to apply to use the route using a fast-track verification process. In order to qualify, they must be able to demonstrate an annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a three year period greater than 20%, plus a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the three-year period. The government will also explore whether scale-ups who can demonstrate an expectation of strong growth in future years may also qualify following a review.

The Scale-up route will allow eligible individuals to work and switch jobs or employers in the UK. Individuals will also be able to extend their visa and settle in the UK, subject to meeting specific requirements.

A revitalised Innovator route

The Innovator visa is an existing UK immigration route which allows eligible individuals to come to the UK to set up and run an innovative business which has been endorsed by a Home Office approved body.

The Innovation Strategy sets out the government’s plans to revitalise the Innovator route, to allow talented innovators and entrepreneurs from overseas to start and operate a business in the UK that is venture-backed or harnesses innovative technologies, creating jobs for UK workers and boosting growth.

The route has been reviewed in order to build a competitive offer, with the following reforms set to be introduced:

  • Simplifying and streamlining the business eligibility criteria – Applicants will need to show that their innovative business venture has a high potential to grow and add value to the UK.
  • Fast-tracking applications – A fast-track, lighter touch endorsement process is being explored for applicants with particularly advanced business ideas. Applicants that have been accepted onto the Department for International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur Programme will be automatically eligible.
  • Building flexibility – Applicants will no longer be required to have at least £50,000 in investment funds to apply for an Innovator visa, as long as the endorsing body is satisfied that the applicant has sufficient funds to grow their business. The restriction on doing work outside of the applicant’s primary business will also be removed.

Keep up to date with UK immigration news

Smith Stone Walters will provide an update on the High Potential Individual and Scale-up routes when further details are released.

To keep up to date with the latest immigration news, sign up to our free news service. Or, to discuss your immigration requirements with a SSW advisor, please contact us today

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