February 5. 2023. 6:09

The Daily

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Golden visa replacement ‘dead on arrival’


But the much-derided Innovator visa will not attract global entrepreneurs to set up shop in UK without an massive overhaul. Only a few hundred investors have applied for the visa in the three years since it was launched. Although the Home Office now intends to reform the route ‘to provide an ambitious investment route which works more effectively in support of the UK’s economy’, I fear it is dead already dead on arrival.  

Many have questioned the effectiveness of this route which was introduced in March 2019 to much fanfare. It was designed to ‘enhance the UK’s offer to overseas entrepreneurial talent’ but it has only attracted around 500 applicants. The latest Home Office figures for the first three quarters of 2021 continue to show weak demand with just 79 applications in Q3. Final quarter figures due to be released later this month are expected to follow the disappointing pattern.

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I have serious doubts that demand will increase, even with reforms. My company, which advises businesses and individuals on UK visa law and deals with hundreds of international queries a year has seen such little interest in Innovator visas it stopped advising clients about the option. We recommend other, easier alternatives.

The reason lies in the complexity of the system and the subjective nature of the application criteria, which are so stringent only a very small number of interested parties qualify.

Currently, to successfully apply for an Innovator visa, applicants must have their business idea endorsed by an endorsing body, which can cost up to £15,000 a year. Applicants also need to invest £50,000 in their business idea, which must be ‘viable, scalable and innovative’. Many potential applicants have been caught out by the ‘innovative’ requirement which can be very challenging and subjective.

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Applicants are also reliant on the endorsing body for the lifetime of the visa, which is three years and even if their business is a success there are no assurances around permanent settlement. These issues put a lot of entrepreneurs off investing in the UK.

But applicants will still need to demonstrate that their business venture has a high potential to grow and add value to the UK and is innovative, however. They will also still have to relying on endorsement from an approved third party, although the government is investigating a fast-track endorsement process for applicants ‘whose business ideas are particularly advanced’.

The £50,000 investment criteria will be scrapped, ‘provided that the endorsing body is satisfied the applicant has sufficient funds to grow their business’.

Others have questioned the effectiveness of the Innovator Visa. Jaffer Kapasi OBE, from the East Midlands Chamber in Leicester described it as ‘a complete disaster’.

While the decision to close the Investor Visa may well close the door to a few oligarchs intent on parking their dirty money in the UK, those with clean money and good intentions will also find them and their investments shut out as victims of an overly costly and bureaucratic alternative. They’ll just take their money elsewhere.

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