My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before the House a statement of changes in Immigration Rules (HC 1919).
Entrepreneurs and investors play key roles in creating jobs and driving economic growth and innovation in the UK. The Government are committed to ensuring our immigration system continues to attract individuals from around the globe who will create innovative businesses in the UK and make substantial investments in our economy.
The changes we are introducing today include two new visa routes that enhance the UK’s offer to overseas entrepreneurial talent:
The start-up visa, announced by my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, in June 2018, will provide for those starting a new business for the first time in the UK.
The Innovator category will be for more experienced business people who have funds to invest in their business.
Both new categories will build on the endorsement model which has proved successful in our graduate entrepreneur and exceptional talent routes. Business experts, rather than the Home Office, will assess applicants’ business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability, to identify those that will bring the greatest benefits to the UK. These organisations will include business accelerators, seed competitions and Government agencies, as well as higher education providers.
These new routes will replace the existing tier 1 entrepreneur and graduate entrepreneur routes, which have attracted some high-quality businesses, but the tier 1 entrepreneur route also has a long tail of low quality projects which contribute little or nothing to the wider UK economy. We will keep the existing routes open for a transitional period to allow those who are already in them to extend their stay and settle if they meet the existing requirements.
The immigration rules for the new routes are designed to be clearer and easier to read. Endorsement will reduce the evidence which applicants need to submit to the Home Office and provide them with greater certainty. The rules for extensions and settlement are more flexible, recognising there are many ways in which a business may benefit the economy. Accelerated settlement continues to be available for the most successful innovators, and extensions of stay are provided for those whose businesses fail and who wish to try a new business idea.
Parliamentarians and anti-corruption campaigners have expressed concerns about whether the tier 1 Investor route is sufficiently robust against financial crime. There is also more that can be done to increase the benefits of applicants’ investments to the UK economy.
We are therefore introducing changes that require investors to provide evidence of the source of any investment funds they have obtained within the last two years—up from 90 days at present. We are requiring UK banks to confirm they have carried out the checks they are required to make before opening an investment account. We are excluding investment in government bonds and tightening the rules around investment in companies.
We also intend to require investors to undergo enhanced checks on their financial situations and business histories, carried out by a UK regulated auditor, before making a visa application. We are working with industry to develop this requirement, with a view to introducing it in a future immigration rules change.
Minor changes are being made to the Government stateless leave policy to simplify the route to settlement for those who are genuinely stateless by granting an initial 5 years’ limited leave rather than 30 months’. We are also taking steps to protect the integrity of this route and deter abusive applications by making clearer in the rules that someone must show they have tried to obtain a nationality or right of permanent residence in a country they could reasonably expect to be entitled to, before benefitting from stateless leave.
In May last year, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, committed to look again at what we could do to make it easier for family members of Afghan locally engaged staff, who worked for UK forces in Afghanistan, to come here. Minor changes will give effect to this commitment, so those who were part of a family before the local staff member relocated can benefit from the relocation scheme rather than having to apply under family migration rules.
Finally, appendix H of the immigration rules contains a list of countries of low immigration risk whose nationals benefit from a streamlined application process for students. 2018 saw the expansion of visa national countries included in appendix H for the first time, which benefitted tens of thousands of students.
Careful consideration is given to which countries could be added to appendix H, taking into account objective analysis of a range of factors including the volume of students from a country and their tier 4 immigration compliance risk. The latest annual review of appendix H has resulted in the inclusion of Brazil, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Oman, Peru and Tunisia; whilst Argentina, the Maldives, and Trinidad and Tobago are being removed from the list. This will result in approximately 4,500 additional students being able to benefit from appendix H.
The list of countries in appendix H will be kept under review and regularly updated to reflect the fact that countries’ risk profiles change over time.