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Budget 2021: Three New UK Immigration Routes

The Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021, presented to the House Commons on 27 October 2021, focuses on highly-skilled migration to boost ‘innovation, jobs and competitiveness’ and to attract and retain inward investment. It references three visa routes to be launched in Spring 2022:

  1. Scale-up;
  2. High Potential Individual; and
  3. Global Business Mobility.

These three routes were referenced in the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s UK Innovation Strategy in July 2021.

Scale-up Route

The Scale-up route will allow individuals with a highly skilled job offer from a qualifying scale-up, to come to the UK and apply through a fast-track verification process. The Spring Budget 2021, initially stated that this route would be introduced in March 2022 under an ‘elite’ points based system. A ‘Scale-up’ must demonstrate at least a 20% annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a three year period, and have a minimum of 10 employees at the start of this period. The Autumn Budget stipulates that there will be a higher salary threshold of £33,000, which is higher than the £25,600 which ordinarily applies to Skilled Workers. Additionally, applicants will need to pass an English language proficiency requirement. It remains entirely unclear whether the fast-track will eliminate the need for ‘Scale-ups’ to go through the sponsor licence process. As with Skilled Worker migrants, Scale-up migrants will be able to work, switch jobs, switch employers, extend, and settle in the UK if they meet the relevant requirements.

High Potential Individual Route

The High Potential Individual route will allow ‘internationally mobile individuals’ who have graduated from a ‘top global university’ to come to the UK. There is yet to be a list published of these universities, or any indication as to whether it will be limited to graduation in particular subject areas such as STEM subjects. Apparently, other characteristics of ‘high potential’ may also be added. Unlike the Skilled Worker or Scale-up routes, High Potential Individuals will not require a job offer and UK employers will not need a sponsor licence to employ these individuals. Nevertheless, they will be a route to settlement.

Global Business Mobility Route

The Global Business Mobility route appears to amend the Intra Company Route, to consolidate it with the Representative of an Overseas Business route and some of the permitted activities of business visitors. This will accommodate expansion of overseas companies with no UK presence to send multiple workers to the UK; secondment of workers abroad to a UK business with whom they have a high value contract or investment; and to send employees, graduate trainees, and overseas employees to the UK entity of an overseas company. This new hybrid route will likely entail the use of the sponsor management system, which remains in dire need of reform to improve user experience and reduce delay.

The devil will be in the detail of these three routes, for which we await anxious publication of the Statement of Changes. 

Global Talent Network

Additionally, the Global Talent Network will be launched in 2022 in the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, and Bangalore. The network will work with businesses and research institutions to find and bring talented people to the UK to work in science and technology. This will run alongside DIT’s Global Entrepreneur Programme (which is an endorsing body for the Innovator route) to ‘bring an extra 100 innovative, highly skilled entrepreneurs to the UK each year’. All of this is done with the aim mentioned in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Financial Statement of making this country a science and technology ‘superpower’, with the Autumn Budget indicating these are to also encourage a ‘green industrial revolution’, inwards investment and economic growth.

Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers

In passing, the budget notes the shortage of Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers, which had fallen by 39,000 in the two-year period preceding June 2021. In terms of immigration, it notes that the government will issue ‘up to 5,000 short-term temporary visas for food and fuel haulage drivers to work in the UK’. This is 300 more than the figure listed on the Government’s website (published 7 October 2021) of 4,700 HGV food drivers who must apply by 1 December 2021, with temporary visas expiring on 28 February 2022, but matches the announcement on 28 September 2021 that ‘5,000 HGV drivers will be able to come to the UK for 3 months in the run-up to Christmas, providing short-term relief for the haulage industry’. In the face of shortages, no provision is made for increasing the number of drivers, or the length of these visas.

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