The department, led by new home secretary Sajid Javid, has pledged to make it “faster and easier” for entrepreneurs to come to Britain and start a business.
Initially announced at a London Tech Week event on Tuesday 12 June, the startup visa was devised in collaboration with the Migration Advisory Committee and leading figures in Britain’s own tech sector.
It will replace the existing visa route offered exclusively to graduates, and is designed to encourage more entrepreneurs from around the world to set up a new business in the UK as the country prepares to leave the European Union.
Applicants are required to have an endorsement from a university or an approved business sponsor, such as an accelerator, in order to qualify for the visa path. The Home Office has confirmed a Spring 2019 launch for the programme.
Commenting on the new visa route, Javid said: “The UK can be proud that we are a leading nation when it comes to tech and innovation, but we want to do more to attract businesses to the UK and our migration system plays a key part in that.
“That’s why I am pleased to announce a new visa for people wanting to start a business in the UK. This will help to ensure we continue to attract the best global talent and maintain the UK’s position as a world-leading destination for innovation and entrepreneurs.”
Javid explained that the initiative would build on other reforms to the visa system, which saw the Home Office double the number of number of visas available on the Exceptional Talent route to 2,000 per year.
“[The new visa] shows the government’s commitment to making the UK a dynamic, open, globally-trading nation,” Javid added.
No more organised criminality?
After former home secretary Theresa May closed the post-study visa route for international students in 2012, which allowed graduates to stay and work in the UK after studying, the Home Office witnessed a huge rise in applications for the entrepreneur visa from former students.
Applications for the entrepreneur visa subsequently soared from 118 in 2009 to almost 10,000 in 2013, but the Home Office claimed many applicants were using the visa as a route to low-skilled work.
It was believed criminal gangs were lending money to foreign graduates in order to demonstrate to the authorities they had the necessary £50,000 in business funding required to qualify for the visa.
The Home Office subsequently tightened the rules and required visa applicants to demonstrate their funding came from an approved source and were for the explicit purpose of starting or expanding a business.