Tier 1 Investor reform and Tier 1 Entrepreneur replacement?

Late last year the Home Office abruptly announced that the Tier 1 Investor visa route was going to be suspended then, equally abruptly, that it was not going to be suspended after all. The very vague given reason for this extraordinary volte face was apparently an objection from another Government department.

As we explained at the time, the Home Office apparently intends to re-structure the Tier 1 Investor visa such that applicants have to prove the provenance of their funds to a higher standard, and they will only be able to invest in British companies, not in British Government bonds.

The Home Office say that these changes are still going to be made, in Spring this year. But not only this: the Home Office say that it is also planning to replace the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route with a new “Innovator” route. This is dramatic news indeed – assuming of course that it is true (after the Tier 1 Investor experience this is probably an appropriate caveat).

We do not have full details at the moment but, according to Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes in remarks she made in Parliament, this new route will be for “more experienced business people” (more experienced, presumably, than those who have been granted Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas hitherto). And, furthermore, it will have an “emphasis on endorsement by a business sponsor, who will assess applicants’ business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability”

Ignoring for the moment the interesting use of the word “scalability”, this looks very similar to the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa – which, it seems, may be replaced by the new “start-up” visa (also recently announced by the Home Secretary last year), which will also require endorsement.

And, of course, the new Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa sounds quite different from the current one, which does not require endorsement from anybody (although, as we know, it does meet some very strict assessment from UK Visas & Immigration).

If this is really what it is going to be like it is going to introduce a new and very significant hurdle into entrepreneur visa applications. It may also ring bells for some ancient immigration lawyers, who will remember an Innovator visa from some years back, before the points-based system was invented, and from whose perspective it may rather look as though things are going in circles.

Anyway, we will have to see what happens and it will no doubt be interesting to see what the similarities and differences are between this new Innovator visa and the new start-up visa which will, apparently, both be in force.

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