The UK Innovation Strategy - Leading the future by creating it strategy paper published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in July 2021 included further detail about some new visa routes (and changes to existing ones) which are likely to be introduced from 2022. These visa routes are designed to attract and retain global talent to the UK. The paper acknowledges that some innovative UK businesses are "struggling to access the skills they need to grow" and the changes are designed to address that.

The key changes for inward investors and employers to be aware of are:

Expansion of the global talent visa

    The Global Talent visa route is the route currently available to certain applicants who are leaders, or potential leaders in their field across specific sectors such as academia or research, arts and culture, or digital technology. 

    In May 2021 the visa route was expanded to allow certain prize winners to qualify for this visa. In the strategy paper, the UK Government has announced that it is looking to further broaden the list of eligible prize winners who can qualify under this route.

    This route is a useful flexible visa route for those who are eligible.  The employer does not need to have a sponsor licence. The individual can take up employment or self-employment. They can also change jobs. This route can also normally lead to settlement in the UK.

    New 'high potential' individual visa route

      The UK Government intends to create a new high potential visa route to make it as simple as possible for internationally mobile individuals who demonstrate high potential to come to the UK. 

      The route will be open to applicants who have graduated from a top global university. The Government also plans to look at ways of extending the eligibility criteria to other characteristics of high potential.

      A key advantage of this route is that there will be no requirement for sponsorship or for the applicant to have a job offer when they apply. This will also allow applicants the flexibility to take on work, change job and to move between employers whilst in the UK. The route could lead to settlement in the UK.

      The fact that the employer does not need to act as sponsor may be appealing for some businesses who do not want to pay the costs associated with sponsorship (or to carry out the compliance obligations that go with it).

      New 'scale-up' route

        The scale-up route will be a new visa route aimed at allowing qualifying 'scale-up' businesses to recruit and bring talented individuals to the UK. Requirements will include that the individual has a high skilled job offer from a qualifying scale-up business. Minimum salary requirements will apply to the job.

        Applications can be made through the fast-track verification process providing that the business can demonstrate:

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

        The UK Government will review whether scale-ups that can demonstrate an expectation of strong growth could also qualify under this route. This route will allow successful applicants to take up work, change job or employer during their stay and the route can potentially allow the applicant to settle in the UK.

        Changes to the innovator route

          The Innovator route which is for those seeking to develop a business venture in the UK is also likely to be significantly reformed by:

          • simplifying and streamlining the business eligibility criteria;
          • Fast-tracking applications for applicants whose businesses are particularly advanced. The Innovator route will be automatically available to applicants who have been accepted on to the Department for International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur Programme, and;
          • removing the requirement to have a minimum of £50,000 in investment funds where the endorsing body is satisfied that the business has sufficient funds to grow the business.

          New global business mobility visa

          A new global business mobility visa will also be introduced to give businesses from overseas enhanced flexibility. The route is expected to allow overseas businesses to transfer workers to the UK for the purposes of starting and growing their businesses and to allow these businesses to establish a presence in the UK.

          Further detail about all of these visa reforms will be available in due course and we will publish further updates.

          More information 

          For more information about how Brodies can help you with immigration matters, please contact a member of the Employment and Immigration team.

          Workbox by Brodies users can also find information on key immigration topics such as applying for sponsor licences, the different visa routes available under the UK points-based immigration system and right to work checks within our Immigration section. To find out more about Workbox, our online HR and employment law site, and how your business could benefit click here.


            Gregor Craig-Murphy

            Senior Solicitor