There have been just four applications for the government’s new visa for overseas entrepreneurs in its first three months of operation.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK is a top destination for innovation and entrepreneurs, and the Start Up and Innovator visa routes enhance our visa offer.”

Falling short

Four ‘innovators’ have applied for the scheme. Two applications have been granted.

The scheme was introduced to replace the Entrepreneur Visa scheme which required applicants to have at least £50,000 in investments, and the ability to demonstrate that their proposed business can provide employment to at least two UK residents. The new Innovator route launched earlier this year, is intended to attract individuals who would create innovative businesses in the UK and invest substantially into the economy.

According to the latest Home Office figures, only four people applied for an Innovator Visa between April and June 2019. The number of applicants is far lower than the previous quarter’s applicants for the now defunct Entrepreneur visa, which saw over 700 applications between January and March 2019.

Endorsement Bodies

The low figures will raise questions about the design of the Innovator route. The scheme also requires applicants to be obtain endorsement from officially appointed bodies across the UK, like Invest NI. 24 endorsed institutions have the ability to offer 25 potential business owners the ability to apply for a Visa, but the latest statistics fall far short of the 600 potential places that could be offered under the scheme. Furthermore, many of these bodies are not considering applications at the minute or are reserving places for businesses applying to their existing accelerator programmes rather than endorsing independent applicants.

Concerns

Many immigration practitioners had raised concerns about the scheme from the outset. For example, the number of endorsing bodies are limited and there is a requirement to participate in a business accelerator programme to secure endorsement. Other points for an applicant to consider is the requirement to give up equity in their start-up.

While the Home Office intended to reduce the number of visas under the Start-Up and Innovator routes compared to the models they replaced, such low numbers hardly make the effort to redesign the routes worthwhile. The Start-Up scheme is fairing slightly better with 23 applications granted in the first quarter of operation.

We will be monitoring any updates and changes to the innovator route and the progress (if any) made with regional endorsing bodies. For more information contact us enquiries@granitelegalservices.co.uk

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