Bishop & Sewell

The UK Innovation Strategy – Leading the future by creating it paper published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy includes further detail about some new visa routes (and changes to existing ones) which are likely to be introduced from 2022, writes Mariam Khaliq, Partner and Head of our Immigration team.

As Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in his Autumn Budget these visa routes hope  to attract and retain global talent to the UK.

The government 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 plans include a new Scale-up Visa, launching in spring 2022, that will help the UK’s fastest-growing businesses to access overseas talent.

Scale-Up route

Hoping to ‘modernise’ immigration, the policy hopes to attract talent in academia, science, research and technology from around the world.

There will also be a Global Talent visa reform, allowing holders of international prizes and winners of scholarships and programmes for early promise to automatically qualify for a visa.

The Scale-Up visa will support UK scale-ups by allowing talented individuals with a high-skilled job offer from a ‘qualifying scale-up’ business at the required salary level to enter the UK.

The scale-up visa will be open to applicants who pass the language proficiency requirement and have a high-skilled job offer from an eligible business with a salary of at least £33,000. This will then entitle them to a fast-track visa.

Qualifying scale-ups are businesses that demonstrate an annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a three-year period greater than 20% and a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the three-year period.

Applicants will be able to apply for fast-track immigration processes and have greater flexibility to work in the UK, move between different employers, and be eligible to apply for Settled Status in the UK. The Scale-up visa doesn’t seem to require the applicant to be sponsored by the UK employer or for the employer to hold a Sponsor Licence so appears much more flexible than the current Skilled Worker visa category.

High Potential Individual route

This new route will enable ‘high-potential individuals’ to enter the UK without a job offer, unlike many other immigration routes into the UK. Eligibility includes applicants who have graduated from a top global university.

There is currently no published ranking determining these universities, however, this is expected to follow and may become even more specific to only include top global university graduates in a STEM subject.

This should enable eligible foreign nationals the flexibility to work and switch jobs or employers and contribute to the UK economy. This route will also enable eligible individuals to extend their visas and settle in the UK, subject to meeting specific requirements.

Although this is an unsponsored route under the UK points-based immigration system, businesses may still require a sponsor licence as most overseas recruits will fall in the category of skilled migrant workers fitting the eligibility criteria for the sponsored skilled worker visa as opposed to the elite High Potential Individual Visa.

Revitalised Innovator route

Once the above routes are in place, the UK government plans to make this route more accessible and desirable for eligible applicants by no longer requiring them to have at least £50,000 in investment funds or to prove growth in international markets under this route.

Applicants will only be required to show that their business has a high potential to grow and add value to the UK and that it is innovative. In recent years, the government has introduced several UK visa categories in an attempt to attract the ‘brightest and best minds’ from around the world, including the UK Innovator Visa and the UK Start-Up Visa, both of which have not had the impact hoped for due their stringent requirements which entrepreneurs struggle to meet.

The proposed reforms under the UK Innovation Strategy are all in addition to the existing skills visa schemes, including visas under the Global Talent or Skilled Worker routes.

As HR Manager magazine concludes, “It is recommended that businesses keep up-to-date with these changes and understand the number of employees who might be impacted. Employers should now be looking to take advantage of these reforms to recruit the brightest and best talent from abroad for their business, ideally running alongside sponsored work routes that currently apply to all EEA and non-EEA workers coming to the UK.

“Employers should seek advice from business immigration solicitors where uncertain.”

Further information about the range of UK visas currently available can be accessed here: Work in the UK.

Our Immigration lawyers have the knowledge and experience to guide you through these challenging times and have been ranked in the Legal 500 for their expertise.

If you are in need of advice or assistance on any of the issues mentioned in this article please contact Mariam or another member of our expert Immigration Team on 020 7631 4141 or email

The above is correct as at 08 November 2021. The information above may be subject to change as this is a constantly evolving situation.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.

Category: Blog | Date: 8th Nov 2021

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