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UK government promises new “high potential” visa with no job offer required


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“High potential individuals” will in future be able to come to the UK to work without a job offer, the government has announced.

The move, building on previous promises to provide an unsponsored work route under the Points Based Immigration System for business visas, comes as part of the UK Innovation Strategy published yesterday.

The document says:

the UK government will introduce a new High Potential Individual route to make it as simple as possible for internationally mobile individuals who demonstrate high potential to come to the UK. Eligibility will be open to applicants who have graduated from a top global university. The UK government will explore the scope to expand eligibility to other characteristics of high potential. There will be no job offer requirement, giving individuals the flexibility to work, switch jobs or employers and make contributions to the UK economy. The route will also allow eligible individuals to extend their visa and settle in the UK, subject to meeting specific requirements.

Full terms and conditions will doubtless appear in a statement of changes to the Immigration Rules in due course. One immediately wonders about what qualifies as a “top global university”: will that be a closed list of institutions, or will there be criteria against which individual applications can be assessed more flexibly?

And what other requirements will there be? Some of the Twitter discussion of this proposed route seems to assume that anyone with any degree from any decent university anywhere in the world will be waved through the door. It seems unlikely that being a graduate will be the only significant criterion. Bear in mind also that this is a Department for Business prospectus; the Home Office description of this embryonic route (admittedly a year ago now) was that it would be for “a smaller number of the most highly skilled workers”, and that there would be a cap on the number of visas doled out.

There are also more details on the proposed “scale-up” visa. This will be for migrants “with a high skilled job offer from a qualifying scale-up at the required salary level”. We learn for the first time what exactly a scale-up is: a business that can

demonstrate an annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a three-year period greater than 20%, and a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the three-year period.

The stategy also promises to fix the Innovator route for entrepreneurs, which has been on the rocks practically since day one. “We have”, the document purrs, “reviewed the Innovator route to build a competitive offer”. This includes a “fast-track, lighter touch endorsement process” than at present.

It looks as though some of the existing Innovator criteria will be scrapped altogether. “Applicants will no longer be required to have at least £50,000 in investment funds”, for starters. And when it comes to the more subjective criteria, applicants will only need to show that their business “has a high potential to grow and add value to the UK and is innovative”. That seems like a lower bar to clear than under the existing rules, which among other things talk about growth into international markets (rather than just the UK).

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.