Is the UK still open for business? Entrepreneurs may question this with the recent immigration changes

Is the UK still open for business? Entrepreneurs may question this with the recent immigration changes

Is the UK still open for business?  Entrepreneurs may question this with the recent immigration changes

Innovator and Start Up visas - an update

In our April update we commented on the new Innovator and Start Up visa categories that replaced the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) routes from 29 March 2019.

Both of these new routes rely upon obtaining an endorsement from a select number of endorsing bodies.  The roll-out of the new categories has been a bit of a damp squib so far – anecdotally, we have heard that only a handful of applications have been submitted.

What other options are available for potential entrepreneurs?

Tier 1 (Investor) - for wealthy individuals who can invest a minimum of £2 million in prescribed UK investments, this route allows them full access to the UK labour market, including the ability to set up and run their own business here.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) -  this category is designed to allow those recognised as world leaders or emerging world leaders in particular fields, such as science, engineering, digital technology, architecture and film and television to work in the UK.  Individuals must first obtain an endorsement from the relevant endorsing body (such as Tech Nation for digital technology) in order to apply under this category.

Those granted leave under this route are free to work in the UK on an employed or self-employed basis.

Tier 2 (General) -  Once there is a UK business actively operating in the UK it may be able to apply for a Tier 2 sponsor licence which would enable it to sponsor non-European nationals under the Tier 2 sponsored work route.

This is more straightforward where the prospective employee will earn a guaranteed salary of £159,600 or more per year for the UK role. 

Where the guaranteed salary is less than £159,600 per year, the prospective employee cannot hold more than 10% of the shareholding in the UK company (or any connected group company).  Furthermore, the role would first need to be advertised for the company to try and recruit from the UK labour market before offering the role to the non-European individual.

Other categories?

Other visa categories linked to a person’s background or relationships should also be considered where relevant.  For example, a Commonwealth national with a grandparent who was born in the UK may be able to apply under the UK ancestry category.  Others may be in a relationship with a UK national, European national or an individual settled or living in the UK, which could give rise to other immigration options for them.


Above is only a very brief overview of some of the immigration routes available.   Immigration law changes on a bewildering frequent basis.  It could be that the new Innovator/Start up routes are updated down the line to become more entrepreneur-friendly.  At the moment, however, it’s a case of considering all the options available for those trying to come to the UK to work and set up their own business.

Contact our experts for further advice

View profile for Jackie PenlingtonJackieĀ Penlington

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