Business and Finance

Changes in the immigration rules provide a warm welcome to potential investors and entrepreneurs

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The government in March laid a new Statement of Changes in the Immigration Rules (HC 863) before Parliament.

The changes are extensive and implement the government’s intentions which have been announced in various policy documents and public statements by the Immigration Minister Damian Green since November of 2010.

Broadly speaking – the changes are designed to encourage migration to the United Kingdom by the world’s most affluent and entrepreneurial people; and to discourage or to prevent migration by those who the government regards as inadequately contributing to the UK’s economy.

Incentives for affluent and entrepreneurial migrants

The most dramatic change is what the UKBA has on its own site described as “rolling out the red carpet” for foreign entrepreneurs and investors. By adjustments to the existing Immigration Rules for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrants and for Tier 1 (Investor) Migrants people who qualify for leave to enter or remain in these categories will be able to obtain settlement in the UK much more quickly than before.

Furthermore, Entrepreneurs will now be able to enter as Visitors under the new “Prospective Entrepreneur” Immigration Rules. Currently people wishing to establish a business in the UK had to show that they possessed or had access to £200,000 to obtain leave to enter as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur).

From April 6 2011 the Prospective Entrepreneur route will instead enable applicants who wish to come to the UK to seek funding or to create a team for a new business idea to be granted visit visas provided that they can show that they personally have access to £50,000 to qualify for entry clearance as a Prospective Entrepreneur, and that either a venture capitalist, a UK entrepreneurial seed funding competition or a government department is committed to providing a further £50,000 for the applicant’s proposed business.

Unlike the other myriad Visitor Immigration Rules from which no switching is permitted – people entering as Prospective Entrepreneurs will be able to apply to switch from that route into leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrant.

Gleaming at the end of the red carpet lies the prospect of settlement (indefinite leave to remain in the UK). Currently, all employment or business based immigration routes enable migrants to obtain settlement only after five years' continuous lawful residence in the UK.

Following the changes successful Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrants who create ten full time jobs or have a turn over of £5,000,000 will be able to apply for settlement after three years.

Tier 1 (Investor) Migrants fare even better. Those who have invested £10,000,000 will be able to apply for settlement after the investment has been in place for two years. An investment of £5,000,000 will get you settlement after three years.

In the past potential entrepreneurs and investors have been put off coming to the UK by the possibility that they might not succeed in their ultimate application for settlement because they had exceeded the proscribed amount of absences from the UK during the qualifying period of residence. To remedy this HC 863 enables both Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrants and Tier 1 (Investor) Migrants to be absent from the United Kingdom for up to 180 days in any 12 months, without jeopardising their applications for settlement.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)
As well as Prospective Entrepreneurs HC 863 also creates the fifth subcategory of Tier 1 – the Tier 1 “Exceptional Talent” route, for  people who have “won international recognition in scientific and cultural fields, or who show exceptional promise”. As is familiar – a separate Designated Competent Body will be entrusted by the United Kingdom Border Agency to endorse applicants. That endorsement will get applicants the requisite points.

In common with Tier 1 (General) as it currently exists applicants for entry clearance or for leave to remain as Tier 1 Exceptional Talent won’t need to be sponsored by any employer – and successful applicants will have free access to the UK labour market.

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