A new form of Visa, pushed by the UK Government as a flagship Post-Brexit policy, has only received four applicants in the first three months it has been implemented.
The visa it replaced to attract start ups, innovators and entrepreneurs to build businesses in the UK, creating wealth and jobs, had 1,900 applications in 2018.
The “Innovator Visa” was announced by the Home Office to replace the previous Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, that allowed entrepreneurs to enter the United Kingdom to start a business.
A home office spokesperson said: “The UK is a top destination for innovation and entrepreneurs, and the Start Up and Innovator visa routes enhance our visa offer.”
However, data released from the Home Office has revealed that only four “innovators” have applied for the scheme, and only two have been granted a Visa since the scheme was introduced in March 2019.
The number of applicants is far lower than the previous quarter’s applicants for the now defunct Entrepreneur visa scheme, which saw over 700 applications between January and March 2019.
The previous visa required applicants to have at least £50,000 in investments, and the ability to demonstrate that their proposed business can provide employment to at least two UK residents.
The new Innovator Visas, however, also require an endorsement from an officially registered investment organisation to demonstrate potential innovation in a business’s chosen sector.
24 endorsed institutions have the ability to offer 25 potential business owners the ability to apply for a Visa, but the latest statistics fall far short of the 600 potential places that could be offered under the scheme.
Business and investment immigration solicitor Vanessa Ganguin told The London Economic: “We are now left with no effective category for entrepreneurs and business people seeking to set up a new business in the UK since the government replaced the Tier 1 Entrepreneur with the Innovator category.
“At a time when Boris Johnson is insisting that Britain is open for business despite all the uncertainty of Brexit, the government has created totally unnecessary hurdles which have undoubtedly cost jobs in the UK.
“The Home Office was warned that the new system was flawed. You now need to be endorsed by one of their approved endorsing bodies, which tend to be business accelerators and incubators. It is very hard to be endorsed and many of bodies will demand a share of your business in return for endorsement, while at the same time the scheme requires prospective innovators to be well beyond the stage when they would need investment. – Whoever designed this scheme did not think it through.
“It is a shocking indictment that a scheme with hundreds of applications per quarter has been replaced with one with just four.”
The Home Office data was released on the same day it was revealed that the Government’s director general of visas and immigration, Mark Thomson, one of the central figures in last year’s Windrush Scandal resigned. Thomson’s departure is another blow to the government’s Brexit planning after Sir Jon Thompson quit as the head of HMRC, Karen Wheeler, in charge of Brexit border delivery at HMRC, retired, and Tom Shinner quit his Department for Exiting the European Union no-deal Brexit planning role.
The Innovator Visa scheme was set to start on the 29th of March, the day the UK was due to leave the European Union in a No-Deal state before the deadline was extended to the 31st of October.
The Innovator Visa was announced in the wake of a number of Immigration policies designed to make it harder for lower skilled migrants to enter the United Kingdom.
The Home office said: “We want an immigration system that attracts the brightest and best talent from around the world, which is based on what someone can contribute rather than where they come from.”
It was reported in May that many endorsing bodies were not given any prior notice that the new visa system had been implemented in March, despite the scheme being in development for over a year.
This lack of preparation for the release of the Innovator Visa also potentially led to a curtailing of new entrepreneurs entering the United Kingdom since March.
In response to the new data released, the Home Office said: “These are new routes and we expect the number of applications to grow in time.”
The Home Office added: “We are confident these new routes will be a success and we are partnering with some of the UK’s leading business development experts who will assess and approve applicant’s business ideas.”