Key immigration reforms
announced in 2021
Autumn Budget

Chancellor Rishi Sunak presented his Autumn Budget and Spending Review to Parliament yesterday, unveiling the government’s plans to deliver a stronger economy and invest in growth as the UK continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Budget Report confirms that the government is implementing changes to the UK’s immigration system to help attract highly skilled people to the UK. Recognising that high skilled migration boosts innovation, jobs and competitiveness, the report sets out government plans to create a ‘dynamic and open economy’ through key immigration reforms. The changes set to be introduced aim to make the UK’s visa offering more attractive to top talent from overseas, whilst making it easier for businesses to access the talent they need more quickly.

Delivering his Budget speech before Parliament yesterday, Sunak said: “A third of our science Nobel Laureates have been immigrants. Half of our fastest growing companies have a foreign-born founder. So, an economy built on innovation must be open and attractive to the best and brightest minds.

Thanks to our brilliant Home Secretary, today’s Budget confirms the eligibility criteria for our new Scale-Up Visa, making it quicker and easier for fast-growing businesses to bring in highly skilled individuals.

And the Trade Secretary’s new Global Talent Network, launching initially in the Bay Area, Boston and Bangalore will identify, attract and relocate the best global talent in key science and tech sectors. All part of our plan to make our visa system for international talent the most competitive in the world.”

Below, we set out the key immigration policies from the 2021 Autumn Budget at a glance.

Scale-up visa

The Budget identifies the necessity for innovative businesses to have access to the talent and skills they need. 49% of the UK’s fastest-growing businesses have at least one foreign-born co-founder and approximately 40% of staff in UK fintechs are from overseas.

As such, the report confirms the introduction of new Scale-up, High Potential Individual, and Global Business Mobility visas to attract highly skilled people and support inward investment.

Previously announced in the government’s Innovation Strategy published in July, the 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. The new route will help the UK’s fasted growing businesses to access overseas talent.

Launching in spring 2022, the Scale-up visa will be open to applicants who pass the language proficiency requirement and have a high-skilled job offer from an eligible business with a salary of at least £33,000.

Global Talent Network

Alongside immigration system reforms, the government will launch a Global Talent Network to proactively find and bring highly skilled people to the UK in key science and technology sectors.

This network will work with businesses and research institutions to identify UK skills needs and source talent in overseas campuses, innovation hubs and research institutions to bring to the UK. A concierge service will also be available to support people moving to the UK.

The Global Talent Network will launch in 2022 in the Bay Area and Boston in the US, and Bengaluru in India. The government will also maintain the expanded Department for International Trade (DIT) Global Entrepreneur Programme. This will allow the programme to continue to expand its global footprint to bring an extra 100 innovative, highly skilled entrepreneurs to the UK each year.

Support for hard-hit sectors

The number of HGV drivers in the UK has fallen by 39,000 between June 2019 and June 2021, causing industry bodies to call on the government to address the shortage through immigration reforms.

As previously announced, the Budget report recaps the government’s offer of 5,000 short-term temporary visas for food and fuel haulage drivers to work in the UK.

However, despite business leaders in many other sectors such as hospitality and care warning of labour shortages post-Brexit, the Budget does not acknowledge any plans to introduce similar measures for other sectors.

Workers who do not qualify for temporary work visas under the Seasonal Worker Scheme must continue to use the Skilled Worker route to enter the UK, if they meet the requirements.

Keep up to date with immigration news

Smith Stone Walters will continue to monitor and report on the UK’s immigration reforms as they happen. To be the first in the know, sign up to our free immigration news service and receive a weekly round-up of the latest update straight to your inbox.

To discuss a specific query relating to immigration, please call 0208 461 6660 or email

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