All change on Visas

Written by Alison Price

The June announcement of a new “start-up” visa was a surprise to EEUK members; many of which are still working to improve the internal administrative experience for supporting international graduates to stay in the UK to work on their business under the current “Tier 1” visas.  Although the Home Office recently doubled the number of Tier 1 ‘exceptional talent’ visas to 2,000, this still makes Tier 1 activity relatively unusual for most EEUK member staff and something that members have already come together to discuss the requirements of and how to improve the student experience.

The new ‘startup visa’ will launch in Spring 2019 (replacing Tier 1) and making the visa process “faster and smoother” for all entrepreneurs coming to the UK by using the migration system to encourage businesses to set up in the UK. With a much broader brief than graduate entrepreneurs, this new visa clearly has larger aspirations with an ambition to attract foreign business founders with a “genuine and credible business idea” to remain in the UK.  But the impact for the university sector is not yet fully described.

Many, such as the Russell Group, are seeking for the Home Office to build on the current graduate entrepreneur route by reducing the administrative burden for those wanting to stay for 24 months.  Therefore the initial response from EEUK Board is cautiously optimistic, hinting at the role of universities as start-up hubs within their cities and regions.

“EEUK broadly welcomes the Home Secretary’s announcement of new start up visas. Universities play a vital role as anchors in their communities stimulating new enterprises, driving the creation of new jobs and regional economic growth. Many EEUK members also operate incubators and could support growth from international entrepreneurs building on their global reach and influence. EEUK members are pivotal to developing entrepreneurial mindsets, innovative thinking and generating a pipeline of new start-ups”.

However, initial indications suggest that there is an expectation that any applicant will need to be endorsed by a university or approved business sponsor in order to gain the new visa. With few businesses ready to engage with extensive paperwork, the role of EEUK members may be extended to support applicants outside their student body.  This could create initial administrative problems for members seeking to develop new institutional systems in response to these changes.

EEUK members welcome the opportunity to engage on the development of this process and will come together as information is provided to support the integration of this approach into their professional practice.

Alison Price

Head of Policy, Enterprise Educators UK