UK Government announces new measures to attract entrepreneurs and investors

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Foreign entrepreneurs and investors are being given an extra incentive to come to the UK under new visa rules announced by the UK Border Agency, which will reward those who contribute to economic growth.

The UK government also announced that it will remove 8 occupations from the points-based system's shortage occupation list and raise the bar for Tier 2 jobs to graduate level halving the number of jobs available to migrants under the points based system.

The Home Office said:

‘If an occupation is on the shortage occupation list, this means that there are not enough resident workers in the UK to do the available jobs in that occupation. When the 8 occupations are removed from the list, the number of jobs available to migrants under the list will be reduced from 500,000 to around 230,000.

‘The government is also removing 71 professions from the list of 192 approved jobs under Tier 2 of the points-based system, as they have been deemed to be below graduate level. Under new rules introduced in April, anyone wishing to enter the UK under Tier 2 must be coming here to do a job that is deemed to be at or above graduate level.'

The confirmation follows the government's decision to accept all of the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) recommendations following the publication of reports looking at graduate-level jobs and the shortage occupation list for Tier 2.

The MAC estimates that, of the 8,400 certificates of sponsorship issued in 2010 to workers on the shortage occupation list, 65 per cent would not have qualified under the new criteria.

Under changes to the Immigration Rules, which were laid in Parliament today, people who come to the UK under Tier 1 (Investor) of the points-based system will be able to settle here faster the more they invest.

Migrants who invest £5 million will be allowed to settle in the UK after 3 years, and those investing £10 million or more will be allowed to settle after just 2 years. This compares with the current minimum 5-year requirement.

The right to accelerated settlement will apply to those investors who are already in the UK and have invested large sums, as well as new arrivals.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrants will also be able to settle in the UK more quickly if they create 10 jobs or turn over £5 million in a 3-year period.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said:
‘Today I have sent out a clear message - the UK remains open for business and we want those who have the most to offer to come and settle here.

‘Entrepreneurs and investors can play a major part in our economic recovery, and I want to do everything I can to ensure that Britain remains an attractive destination for them.

‘Last year we issued far too few visas to those who wish to set up a business or invest in the UK - I intend to change that.'

The standard investment threshold for an entrepreneur to qualify for a Tier 1 visa will remain at £200,000, but the government will allow high-potential businesses to come to the UK with £50,000 in funding from a reputable organisation. And entrepreneurs will be allowed to enter the UK with their business partners as long as they have access to joint funds.

Major investors will also enjoy more flexibility: they will be allowed to spend up to 180 days per year, rather than 90, outside the UK without affecting their right to settle here. This addresses a major concern cited by investors, as they need to be constantly mobile.

Prospective entrepreneurs
Additionally, a new type of visitor visa will be created for prospective entrepreneurs. They will be allowed to enter the UK so that they can secure funding and make arrangements for starting their business before they transfer to a full Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa while they are here.

Tier 1 (Exceptional talent)

The government has also published a statement of intent outlining how the new Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) route will operate from April 2011.

This innovative new route for exceptionally talented migrants will be limited to 1,000 visas per year. It is for those who have already been recognised or have the potential to be recognised as leaders in the fields of science, arts and humanities.

Migrants seeking entry under Tier 1 (Exceptional talent) will not need to be sponsored by an employer but will need to be endorsed by an accredited competent body. These competent bodies will be announced in the near future. It will be for each competent body to select those who will qualify for endorsement.

Under Tier 1 (Exceptional talent), migrants will initially be granted permission to stay in the UK for 3 years and 4 months. They will then be able to extend their stay for a further 2 years, and to settle here after 5 years' residence in the UK.

Damian Green added:
‘Our new exceptional talent route will ensure that we continue to allow the brightest and the best who can make a valued contribution into the UK.

‘This comes at a time of major reform to the immigration system to bring net migration back down to the tens of thousands.'

The changes will come into effect on 6 April 2011.

A written ministerial statement of policy contains more information about the changes to Tier 1. You can find this statement, and an assessment of the likely impact of the new limits being applied to Tiers 1 and 2 of the points-based system, under ‘Policy and law' on the UK Border Agency website.

The government said it is commitment to supporting a private-sector-led economic recovery. For growth to be strong and sustainable, the economy must be rebalanced to support private-sector jobs, exports and investment

Micha-Rose Emmett, Associate of Henley & Partners Ltd, said:
‘We applaud the Home Office on the introduction of these new rules for the investor and entrepreneur categories. This is evidence that the UK is becoming again a key player in investor immigration worldwide.

‘With these changes, high net worth individuals will be more likely to chose the UK as their preferred country to reside as the physical presence requirements have been sensibly relaxed. The investment opportunity becomes more interesting for investors, and this is a very encouraging prospect for the future of the country.

‘International wealthy individuals and families need effective, interesting solutions that can be implemented swiftly, and this new policy give these people those possibilities, which in turn will attract significant capital to the UK.'

Full details of all the changes that come into effect on 6 April are set out in a statement of changes to the Immigration Rules (HC 863). You can find this under ‘Policy and law' on the UK Border Agency website. Source: UK Border Agency.

The government has made a number of recent statements announcing changes to Tier 2 of the points based system including the removal of 8 occupations from the shortage list and cutting 71 shortage occupations from Tier 2 visas as part of a points-based shake up.

The Conservative led coalition is committed to reducing immigration from the ‘hundreds to tens of thousands' whilst taking into account the need to stimulate growth in the economy.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) summarised the numerous changes to immigration Rules this week including:

- A new Prospective Entrepreneur category, for those coming to the UK to seek funding or to create a team for a new business idea;

- A new category in Tier 1 of the Points-Based System for exceptionally talented economic migrants;

- Closure of the Tier 1 (General) category in-country, other than for extension applications from migrants who are already in the UK in this category, or one of the categories (now closed) which preceded it before the introduction of the Points-Based System

- Rule changes to the Tier 1 categories for Entrepreneurs and Investors, including provisions for accelerated settlement;

- Rule changes to the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) category, including differing requirements for transfers depending on whether they are to be for more or less than 12 months;

- Changes to the Tier 2 (General) category, including an annual limit relating to applications from overseas, and revised minimum skill, salary and English language thresholds;

- A new criminality threshold to settlement applications, requiring applicants to be clear of unspent convictions;

- Settlement applications made by skilled and highly skilled migrants the income criteria that applied when they last extended their permission to stay, and to require such applicants to pass the ‘Life in the UK' test prior to gaining settlement, except those applying under transitional arrangements;

- Bring various existing Points-Based System requirements within the Immigration Rules, further to the judgment in Pankina & others v SSHD [2010] EWCA Civ 719;

- Reduce the re-entry ban for those who voluntarily leave the UK promptly and at public expense;

- Create an entry route for the post-flight family members of refugees and those granted humanitarian protection;

- Exempt diplomatic and special passport holders from Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman from the visa requirement for visitors. Source: JCWI

Charles Kelly / Immigration Matters

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