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The High Potential Individual Visa – an Innovative New UK Immigration Strategy

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On the 22 July  2021 the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy published a policy paper, ‘ UK Innovation Strategy: Leading the future by creating it’. The paper sets out the UK strategy ‘for an innovation-led economy’.

The Innovation Strategy sets out the government vision for the UK to become the ‘go to’ global hub for innovation by 2035. In his foreword to the 116-page policy paper, Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, describes the three pillars of the innovation strategy to achieve the goal of levelling up the UK economy and creating high-value new jobs and trading opportunities to ‘build back better’ by focussing on infrastructure, skills, and innovation as the foundation of recovery and growth across the UK economy.

In creating this vision, pillar two is the use of people to generate innovation through immigration with the introduction of a ‘High Potential Individual Visa’ and ‘Scale-Up Visa routes and the revitalisation of the Innovator Visa route, all designed to attract to the UK and retain globally mobile and innovative individuals wanting to share their talent in the UK.

Business immigration solicitors have seized on the talk of a new High Potential Individual Visa and what it will mean for entrepreneurs wanting to work or set up business in the UK and for established UK companies looking to recruit the innovators they need to make them world leading; whether that is in tech, digital, vaccine breakthroughs or in other industries and sectors.

In this blog Oshin Shahiean looks at the new High Potential Individual Visa.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors

City of London based OTS Solicitors are specialists in business immigration law. If your business needs advice on business immigration solutions call 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

The High Potential Individual Visa

For a while the government  has been promising and teasing a new business immigration route for the skilled so the ‘brightest and best’ don’t need a job offer before being able to enter the UK for work or business purposes.

If you are a ‘High potential individual’ you will be able to come to the UK to work without a job offer. This is an unsponsored route under the UK points-based immigration system so UK employers won't need a sponsor licence to employ a High Potential Individual who is in the UK or planning to come to the UK to work. Business immigration solicitors warn that this does not mean that businesses won't need a sponsor licence as most overseas recruits will fall in the category of skilled migrant workers fitting the eligibility criteria for the sponsored skilled worker visa rather than the more elite High Potential Individual Visa.

Who is a High Potential Individual?

The first question UK business owners and business immigration solicitors are asking is ‘who will be classed as a ‘High Potential Individual?’

All the policy paper says is that the High Potential Individual Visa will be open to those who ‘have graduated from a top global university.’

What is a top global university?

Next question is ‘what is a top global university?’ That isn’t defined so business immigration solicitors are already speculating whether a government  approved list of worldwide elite universities will be drawn up or if the list will be more nuanced so an applicant will only meet the High Potential Individual Visa eligibility criteria if they are a top global university graduate in a STEM subject.

There is also speculation as to whether, when the government  releases more information about the new High Potential Individual Visa route, the eligibility criteria will be restricted to ‘top’ universities given the UK’s stated primary goal is to recruit the most innovative. Some people are late developers, having graduated from a mediocre university or college, but their lab or technical work has marked them out as the best and most innovative.

You would hope that someone who isn’t from a top university would still be able to gain entry to the UK either through a more discretionary High Potential Individual Visa eligibility criteria or through a UK employer spotting their talent and sponsoring them on a skilled worker visa.

Immigration solicitors await a statement of changes to the immigration rules to discover more details about the High Potential Individual Visa and how it will help both individuals looking to work and settle in the UK and UK companies.

The Scale-Up Visa

Not content with releasing information on the High Potential Individual Visa, the policy paper also provides some information on the Scale-Up Visa.

The Scale-Up Visa is for skilled migrant workers who have a job offer from a Scale-Up. A Scale-Up is defined as a business that demonstrates an average revenue or employment growth rate over a three-year period greater than twenty percent and a minimum of ten employees at the start of the three-year period.

In addition, the Scale-Up Visa applicant will need to be paid a minimum salary threshold applicable to the Scale-Up Visa. Presumably the minimum salary threshold will be a higher figure than that for the  worker visa.

The Innovator Visa  

The policy paper seems to acknowledge that the Innovator Visa hasn’t tempted entrepreneurs to the UK to set up innovative businesses. The policy paper promises an easier endorsement process to encourage applications as well as the abandonment of the policy that Innovator Visa applicants need a minimum of £50,000 to invest in their business. In addition, the hurdle of proving business potential will be simplified so all an Innovator Visa applicant needs to establish is that their business has high growth potential and is innovative.

Business immigration solicitors will welcome the proposed changes as the current Innovator Visa eligibility criteria make it appear, to many potential candidates, that you are only welcome to apply if your business is so innovative that it has the potential to create the likes of a new disposable plastic or a cure for the world’s looming energy crisis.

Global Business Mobility Visa

The new Global Mobility Visa is referred to in the policy paper as a new route to make it easier to transfer employees to the UK branch of an international company. We will have to wait and see whether the Global Mobility Visa is simply a new name for the intra company transfer visa and/or the  sole representative visa or a truly innovative change to business immigration rules.

A summary of the policy paper

The paper promises that the government will ’tackle excess bureaucracy, giving innovators back control and creating the lowest-friction, most innovator-friendly research, development and innovation system. ……the world’s brightest, most motivated, and most entrepreneurial minds should look to the UK as the ‘place to be’, allowing us to become the leading global hub for top talent’.

All this is designed to stop the UK losing the global competition to attracting overseas top talent. The intention is that by winning overseas talent they will then be able to cross pollinate home grown research expertise and nurture young research and development talent within a ‘truly innovator-friendly agile regulatory system’.

That all sounds like exciting stuff. It is a question of watch this space for more information to be contained in the statement of changes to immigration rules. In the meantime, someone will no doubt point out that currently UK businesses are crying out for industry specific visas or a lower skilled visa to address the recruitment crisis arising from Brexit and the end of free movement for EU nationals. After all, as well as top innovative brains  the UK needs construction workers to build the labs and research facilities to innovate from.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors

City of London based OTS Solicitors are specialists in business immigration law. If your business needs advice on business immigration solutions call 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

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