The Home Office has said that it expects to grant fewer visas to overseas entrepreneurs under the new innovator and start-up routes than under the schemes they replace.
An official from the Economic Migration Policy Team admits that the department is “not seeking to replicate” the number of visas granted under the old Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) schemes, saying that comparable countries only give out a number “in the low hundreds (or less)”.
The revelation comes in a letter to the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association. ILPA had written to the Home Office on 28 March with a number of queries about the new routes.
In response, the Home Office said:
We are not seeking to replicate similar numbers of entry clearance grants to those seen in the previous categories. Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) contained a long tail of poor quality businesses which were not innovative and added little economic benefit to the UK. A key purpose of the reforms is to focus the new categories on higher quality applications and businesses. Other countries which operate similar immigration routes typically grant numbers of visas in the low hundreds (or less) each year.
That said, we have no target number of applications and there is no limit on numbers in either of the new categories. Success will be determined by quality, not quantity.
Last year saw 1,200 visas granted under the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route, and 300 to graduate entrepreneurs. This does not include dependants.
The restrictive design of the innovator route, explained with force by Nichola on this blog yesterday, makes more sense in light of the explicit desire to bear down on numbers. But it is at odds with the government’s rhetoric about “Global Britain” being “open for business” etc.
The news will also come as a blow to some of the larger immigration firms, which can charge north of £15,000 to handle an entrepreneur visa application.
Meanwhile, one of the 24 organisations listed on the Home Office website as an endorsing body for the new visas has pulled out just days after the scheme launched.
In response to an enquiry by Andrew Krisman of Qore Legal, endorsing body SETsquared Southampton said
I imagine you got the SETsquared contact from the Home Office site. I’m not quite sure how we came to be listed there but I’m taking steps to be removed from the list. We don’t have the capacity to deal with this.
It is not clear whether or not this also applies to the other three branches of SETsquared that are listed as endorsing bodies, but either way the omens are not good.