UK beats US to Startup Visa

The UK Home Office, yesterday, took the wraps off its own "Startup Visa," effective April 6, just days after US legislators floated the the idea.

The UK Home Office, yesterday, took the wraps off its own "Startup Visa," effective April 6, just days after US legislators floated the the idea.

Changes to UK immigration rules will allow entrepreneurs a fast track to permanent residency status:

  • Entrepreneurs who invest invest £5 million or more will be allowed to settle after three years
  • Entrepreneurs who invest invest £10 million or more will be allowed to settle after two years

More significantly, Parliament created a special class of visitor visa, "Exceptional Talent," that makes it easier for would-be entrepreneurs to enter the country in the first place and raise more funds once present in the UK, said the Home Office in a statement.

The standard investment threshold for an entrepreneur to qualify for a Tier 1 visa will remain at £200,000, but the government will allow high-potential businesses to come to the UK with £50,000 in funding from a reputable organisation. And entrepreneurs will be allowed to enter the UK with their business partners as long as they have access to joint funds.

The £50,000 threshold is roughly equivalent to the $100,000 threshold proposed Tuesday by U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-Mass) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) as US version of a Startup Visa. Significantly, the Kerry-Lugar Startup Visa bill lowered that threshold to $20,000 for current H-1B vis holders.

The UK's relaxed visa rules come ahead of next month's permanent immigration cap, which will reduce annual net migration from the hundreds of thousands to "tens of thousands", according to the Coalition. Immigration Minister Damian Green, in a statement yesterday, presented the changes for investors and entrepreneurs as a balancing measure.

Today I have sent out a clear message - the UK remains open for business and we want those who have the most to offer to come and settle here.

Entrepreneurs and investors can play a major part in our economic recovery, and I want to do everything I can to ensure that Britain remains an attractive destination for them.

'Last year we issued far too few visas to those who wish to set up a business or invest in the UK - I intend to change that.'

The Startup Visa could double the number of immigrant entreprenuers who start businesses in the UK, Alex Ruffel, a lawyer who specialises in immigration matters, told the Times of India. Last year immigrant entrepreneurs founded 275 businesses, he said.

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