After 29th March 2019, venture capital firms and universities have officially become the new point of reference for assessing entrepreneurs prior to their route to the UK. Both innovator visa and start-up visa routes have replaced Tier 1 entrepreneur by revolutionising the “terms and conditions” of stay and introducing a different system designed to filtrate new entries to the UK.
The introduction of a preliminary endorsing step prior to the application to the Home Office could, in principle, be considered an efficient way to conduct the ex “genuine entrepreneur test”; nevertheless, practically, this new system seems having favoured only the venture capital firms and their annual revenues instead of guaranteeing a more meritocratic access to the UK for migrants willing to run a business over the three years period.
Most of the endorsing bodies are venture capital firms which require the applicant to show a “deeper pocket” than £50K, although the Home Office criteria stipulate a new decreased investment threshold (under the old rules, the minimum investment used to be £200K). If this is understandable from an investor point of view, it is difficult to accept that the Home Office is progressively relying on commercial partners and third parties to evaluate migrants’ genuineness. Whether from one hand, this is aimed to guarantee the business assessment is conducted by people with more expertise, on the other hand, it entails the risk to misinterpret the Home Office’s requirements by adapting them to private interests.
Moreover, it seems that some of the venture capital firms which are supposed to assess independently the innovation, scalability and viability of the business, are willing to do so subject to the receipt of a return which could potentially be at the initial stage (the payment of a registration fee in order to conduct the endorsement process), over the three year-period (request to register with a specific Business Program), or, finally, at the end of year 3 (demand for equity if the business passes the ILR stage).
This is not necessarily true for all the endorsing bodies listed by the Home Office, however, some of them adopted this policy.
Migrants are fairly concerned due to these difficulties, however, genuine entrepreneurs with a strong business plan should be able to get through the process by liaising with the endorsing bodies to a satisfactory point.