The UK is launching a new visa pathway for international entrepreneurs wishing to move to the UK to start a business.
It will replace the two existing startup and innovator visa routes designed for overseas entrepreneurs from 13 April. It will also repeal the $50,000 requirement for founders to be prepared to invest in a startup.
This plan differs from the Global Talent Visa, the UK’s flagship program for international tech talent, which is currently being revamped after its manager, Tech Nation, was shut down.
But it’s unclear whether policy makers will remove the most controversial part of the startup and innovator visa scheme: the endorsement system. Some founders have been forced to pay hefty fees to apply for visas or donate equity in their startups.
Update, March 24: The Department of Home Affairs has announced that all applicants to the newly reformed Innovator Visa Program must pay a flat fee of 2,000 to secure a guarantee. The list of approved approval bodies has also been reduced from more than 60 to just three.
Equity for Visa
Under the current system, the only way for founders to apply for startup and innovator visas is to seek support from one of the UK’s 50 privately accredited bodies or dozens of universities. Most endorsers are startup incubators, accelerators and community builders such as Techstars, Entrepreneurs First and Innovator International.
One health tech founder, who doesn’t want to be named here, told Sifted that some grantees are asking for 30,000 people to join the program and receive letters, while others are asking for equity.
Some establishments take a stake in participating in the program, others say they will send you this endorsement if you pay $15,000 and $30,000.
Simon Thompson, Australian co-founder of integer startup Nitrate Ventures, who received a start-up visa in 2021 and is currently staying on an innovator visa, said some of them have asked for quite large stakes. 10% may not sound like a big deal, but no one wants to invest in a dilute founder by the time they become a revenue-generating company, or a revenue-generating company at such an early stage.
This accreditation body is meant to determine which startups are innovative or influential enough to receive a visa, but a health tech founder tells Sifted that if the companies asking for cash in exchange for participating in the program are indifferent to what her startups actually did. said that there are many
I asked if they would like to see my pitch deck. They’re like, ‘No,’ she says.
To be honest, guarantee agencies are commercial enterprises. Clearly, their business ventures need to be successful, says Pat Saini, head of immigration at Penningtons Manches Cooper, a law firm. When they come across a good business idea, they potentially want to take a stake in the business. And again, it leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. It’s like giving up equity to get a visa, or giving up money to get a visa.
Other immigration lawyers say the endorsement process is a scam.
In 2022, the UK Home Office approved 299 innovator visas and 377 startup visas. The new rules, set to go into effect on April 13th, will effectively merge the two existing routes into one plan called the Innovator Founder route.
Founders are no longer required to invest (or have already invested) at least $50,000 in their business (as is currently the case for innovators visas) and can work outside the UK while developing their startup.
However, it is still unclear what will happen to the approval authority system.
“We are introducing a reformed approval body arrangement to support the operation of the route, which will provide a simpler and easier-to-use system for applicants,” an Interior Ministry spokesperson said in a statement, without providing further details or timelines. that,” he said. It is essential that the UK continue to attract entrepreneurial talent from abroad to stimulate the development of new innovative businesses in the UK.
Zosia Wanat is a senior reporter at Sifted. She covers CEE regions and policies. Follow her on her Twitter and LinkedIn.
Tim Smith is a senior reporter at Sifted. He creates Startup Europe The Sifted Podcast, covering deep tech and all things taboo. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn
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