Teni Shahiean – an Immigration Solicitor’s Thoughts on UK Business Immigration and Sponsorship of Overseas Workers banner


Teni Shahiean – an Immigration Solicitor’s Thoughts on UK Business Immigration and Sponsorship of Overseas Workers

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A few years ago, Teni Shahiean, senior partner and CEO at OTS Solicitors, was interviewed by the BBC as an authority on all things immigration. She appeared on panel discussions and the BBC Two Victoria Derbyshire programme as an immigration law expert to discuss the consequences of Brexit on UK immigration policy.

We caught up with Teni to discuss her thoughts on the changes to UK business immigration routes.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

To talk to Teni Shahiean about your business immigration law needs call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact her online.

Teni Shahiean was asked these questions:

  1. Can you share a brief introduction about your journey into immigration law, particularly your focus on business immigration?

I came to the UK as a migrant. With my brother, Oshin, I set up OTS Solicitors as a London-based solicitors firm, recognised by Legal 500, originally rooted in immigration and human rights law and has successfully expanded to include thriving litigation, family, and employment law departments.

We are both very proud of the fact that we have ‘made it’ in the UK as lawyers and as entrepreneurs who were willing to set up a new business and take risks. Understanding the migrant journey and the satisfaction of business enterprise led me unsurprisingly to focus on business and investment immigration.

  1. We know the Investor Visa has been scrapped. Right now, what are other investment migration routes available?

There are no specific investment immigration routes available that are not linked to setting up a business in the UK. In my view, that’s disappointing because the UK needs overseas investment. Not all investors want to play an active role in the development of a business so I am an advocate of reinstating the Investor Visa with safeguards to ensure the UK gets value out of investor funds placed in UK business opportunities. We are seeing clients now exploring alternative paths for citizenship in economically stable countries with top universities, like the USA and we have begun working closely with US attorneys for options such as the EB-5 and E-2 visas.

Although there is no Investor Visa, you can apply for the Innovator Founder Visa if you are looking to set up a company. There are other visa options so it is worth keeping an open mind and exploring your options with an expert.

  1. Are there any plans to relaunch any investment migration options soon?

If you had asked me that question last month you might have had a different answer. The politics of UK immigration has moved rapidly since the Office for National Statistics released a revised net migration figure for 2022 of 745,000 people and an estimated 2023 figure of 672,000 people. The overwhelming majority of those people arrived legally in the UK on work and business visas or as dependants. However, the UK government is committed to driving the numbers down.

In the current political climate, it would be naïve to think that the UK government will relaunch an investment migration option. Hopefully, I will be proved wrong.

  1. Do you see the Innovator Founder Visa as a viable route to move to the UK?

The Innovator Founder Visa presents a great opportunity to set up an innovative business in the UK and offers accelerated settlement after 3 years provided you meet the criteria for indefinite leave to remain. Business Immigration Lawyers just need to get the message out that if you are in the technology, digital, art or fintech sectors or you are an entrepreneur looking to relocate to the UK with a business or idea that meets the innovative, viable and scalable criteria then the Innovator Founder Visa is your best visa option.

  1. Some entrepreneurs are put off from applying for the Innovator Founder Visa as they require endorsement from an endorsing body. How does endorsement work and what are the tips to secure an endorsement?

Obtaining an endorsement from an endorsing body can be relatively easy if you put some work into choosing your preferred endorsing body and into the preparation of your business plan. Endorsing bodies are here to endorse so they offer lots of information for interested entrepreneurs, ranging from webinars to talks to help with writing your business plan or providing venture capital. For many digital and app-based businesses, the endorsement process is like the pitches they have led. That’s why I emphasise that the endorsement process should not deter Innovator Founder Visa applicants.

My tip for obtaining an endorsement is to work with the endorsing body or a specialist business consultant to ensure your business plan meets the specific criteria of your chosen endorsing body. At OTS Solicitors we work closely with endorsing bodies and consultants so they cover all the technical and financial information in your plan whilst we check the contents meet what needs to be covered under the immigration rules.

  1. You have extensive experience advising employers on immigration matters. What are the challenges faced by UK employers when hiring migrant workers and managing sponsor licences? How do you assist them in overcoming these challenges?

When I talk to UK employers their biggest bugbears are red tape and the administration associated with applying for a sponsor licence, recruiting overseas workers, and then keeping up with their sponsor licence reporting and recording duties. It is the same story whether I am talking to the HR director of a company with a few hundred care homes and employing carers on Health and Care Worker Visas or a harassed level one user working in a start-up tech company with one highly skilled employee sponsored on a Skilled Worker Visa.

It frustrates me that businesses face these challenges when recruiting and employing overseas staff when all UK business owners want to do is grow their business. That’s good for the UK economy and I believe we should make things as easy as possible for sponsoring employers.

Whilst I can't rewrite the immigration rules or sponsor licence guidance to make life easier for business owners and key personnel, we have put together a sponsor licence management service on a fixed monthly retainer. The idea behind it is that our business immigration experts become the level one user for your company. That helps take the load off your HR staff, reduces the need to employ admin staff if you are a start-up without a HR team and we make sure your reporting and recording duties are kept up to date. That helps ensure that you are at reduced risk of a Home Office compliance visit and less likely to encounter issues when you come to apply to renew your sponsor licence.

It makes good business sense to offer our sponsor licence management service as it saves you money in the long run and means we are on hand to help with any associated legal issues. To me, it is the model for the future, businesses and their lawyers working hand in hand, with OTS Solicitors remotely embedded in your organisation as your level one user.

  1. What changes do you anticipate to the UK business scene because of the changes to the salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Visa?

With the planned rise in the minimum salary threshold for the Skilled Worker Visa, I fear that some UK employers will need to make hard choices as it is a fallacy to say UK business owners want to employ workers from overseas. Invariably it is a case of them having to do so because they cannot find workers with the right skills from within the UK and can't wait for homegrown apprentices to develop their skills. If employers have to pay overseas workers more to get them to qualify for the Skilled Worker Visa then we risk sponsoring employers having to make tough choices about whether to retain their non-essential employees. The concern is these staff may be the very people that the UK government is keen to get into work and to keep working.

As a Sponsorship Licence lawyer, all I can do is help sponsoring employers navigate the choppy waters that lie ahead. Many businesses are starting their strategic reviews early and that’s something that I would encourage as whilst it is never great to have to reassess your staff requirements and how you operate it is best to plan ahead when you know there may be major changes to your staff overheads from Spring 2024.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers

To talk to Teni Shahiean about your business immigration law needs call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact her online.

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