In addition to the measures referred to in the Budget which are aimed at addressing the immediate challenges of COVID-19 and putting the UK’s public finances on a sustainable footing in the medium term, the Government stated in the Budget that it recognised the importance of creating the conditions for an investment-led recovery driven by private sector growth. In view of this, in the Budget, the Government has made a number of immigration policy decisions which it regards as modernising the UK’s immigration system to help the UK attract and retain the most highly skilled, globally mobile talent – particularly in academia, science, research and technology – from around the world. The Government hopes that this will drive innovation, and support UK jobs and growth. This is particularly important, of course, in the light of Brexit.
- New Elite Points Based Visa. The Government will introduce, by March 2022, a new elite points-based visa. Within this visa there will be a ’scale-up’ stream, enabling those with a job offer from a recognised UK scale-up to qualify for a fast-track visa. The term scale-up is defined by Tech Nation as a distinct phase of company growth. It’s a company that has achieved a lot, had some impressive success and is ready to take it to the next level (i.e. a high growth company), as compared with a start-up culture which is still a world of innovation, ideas and exciting tech talent. We must await the detail of this new visa, but it may be that the Government will introduce an unsponsored work route, as recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee. You may remember that last year the Government in its publication, ‘UK’s Points-Based Immigration System — Further Details’ stated that it will create a broader unsponsored route within the Points-Based System to run alongside the employer-led system, which would allow a smaller number (the route would be capped) of the most highly skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer, but that this would not open on January 2021. Instead the Government would explore proposals for this additional route with stakeholders over the course of 2021. It may be that, within a new unsponsored route, a special scale-up visa aimed specifically at financial technology companies will exist. The Government will, of course, be keen to avoid what it perceived as the issues which arose under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) which closed in 2008 (initially to be replaced by Tier 1 (General) which itself subsequently closed in 2010), notably that the scheme was abused and some of those with HSMP visas were not, in fact, doing highly skilled work.
- Global Talent Visa. The Government will reform the Global Talent visa, including to allow holders of international prizes and winners of scholarships and programmes for early promise to automatically qualify. Of course, we do not know the details of the relevant prizes or scholarships. However, any reforms which expand on this route should be welcomed, though one might expect eligibility to remain relatively rare and that the prizes and scholarships will need to be quite prestigious.
- Innovator Visa. The Government will review the Innovator visa to make it easier for those with the skills and experience to found an innovative business to obtain a visa. Hopefully, this may address the difficulties migrants face under this route with the endorsement process, particularly for overseas investment.
- New Global Business Mobility Visa. The Government will launch the new Global Business Mobility visa by spring 2022 for overseas businesses to establish a presence or transfer staff to the UK. Further clarity on this will be required but query whether this may be a re-working of the representative of an overseas business route and/or the intra-company transfer route.
- Practical Support. The Government will provide practical support to small firms that are using the visa system for the first time.
- Modernisation of Sponsorship System. The Government will modernise the immigration sponsorship system to make it easier to use. The Government will publish a delivery roadmap in the summer.
- Global Entrepreneur Programme. The Government will establish a global outreach strategy by expanding the Global Entrepreneur Programme, marketing the UK’s visa offering and explore building an overseas talent network. By way of a reminder, the Global Entrepreneur Programme (GEP) offers free mentoring and business support to non-UK based founders to help them set up and scale their business from a UK global headquarters. Further detail on the existing scheme can be found here:
Clearly the above will take some time to implement and so UK employers should keep a watchful eye on changes to the UK’s Immigration Rules over the next year or so.