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New Highly Skilled Immigration Routes Announced

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has today unveiled the contents of his Budget in the House of Commons.  The 2021 Budget includes new highly skilled immigration routes which, it is hoped, will enable the UK to attract and retain the most highly skilled, globally mobile talent, thereby driving innovation and supporting UK jobs and growth.

Budget 2021: New Immigration Routes Announced

Elite Visa

As part of its agenda to modernise the UK’s immigration system, the government has committed to introducing a new ‘Elite’ points-based visa by March 2022.  

The ‘Elite’ visa will include a ‘scale-up’ stream, enabling highly skilled migrants with a job offer from a recognised high-growth business to qualify for a fast-track visa, without the need for sponsorship or third party endorsement.  

Some readers will note a similarity here with the former Highly Skilled Migrant Programme.  

However, applicants will need a job offer and whilst the criteria for recognition as a UK ‘scale-up’ have yet to be announced, it is understood that the route is primarily being introduced to enable high growth financial technology and cyber firms to source talent from overseas.

Global Talent Visa

The government has also announced that it plans to reform the Global Talent visa route, including by allowing holders of international prizes and winners of scholarships and programmes for early promise to automatically qualify for the route.  

The Global Talent route opened to new applicants on 20 February 2020 and has already been subject to various amendments, most recently on 1 December 2020.

Innovator Visa

In what may be seen as a tacit acceptance that the route has not delivered as planned, the Innovator visa route is also to be reviewed, to make it easier for those with the skills and experience to found an innovative business to obtain endorsement and apply for an Innovator visa.  

There is no word on any changes to the Start-up visa route. 

Global Business Mobility Visa

The government has also indicated that it will launch a new ‘Global Business Mobility’ visa by Spring 2022.  This visa route will be for overseas businesses that wish to establish a presence in, or transfer staff to, the UK.  

With details scarce, it remains to be seen whether this new route will sit alongside, or simply rebrand, the existing Representative of an Overseas Business visa.

Other changes to the immigration system

In other planned developments, the government has announced that it will:

  • provide practical support to small firms that are using the visa system for the first time;
  • modernise the immigration sponsorship system to reduce the burden on businesses trying to recruit global talent;
  • establish a global outreach strategy by expanding the Global Entrepreneur Programme, marketing the UK’s visa offering and explore building an overseas talent network.

Further details of the new ‘Elite’ points-based visa are likely to be announced in July, whilst the reforms outlined in today’s budget will be introduced through changes to the immigration rules and secondary legislation over the next year.

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