UK: New Innovation Strategy Introduces Key Immigration Reforms to Attract Top Global Talent

August 17, 2021

Last month, the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy published a report titled ‘UK Innovation Strategy: Leading the future by creating it’. The report identifies four “key pillars” central to the UK government’s vision of a UK that better harnesses innovation to “enhance productivity across the economy, and in turn bring jobs, growth and prosperity to all parts of the UK”.

One of these four pillars – Pillar 2 – focuses on people and, in a bid to ensure that the UK is perceived by overseas innovators to be the most exciting place in which to innovate, it introduces two new visa categories, High Potential Individual and Scale-up. Aligned with the UK government’s Global Entrepreneur Programme (GEP), these new routes are thought to be implemented later this year and closely follow the introduction of the new Graduate route, permitting UK graduates to stay in the UK for at least two years after successfully completing a course in the UK.

High Potential Individual

With internationally mobile individuals of demonstrable high potential being the target for the proposed route, graduates of top global universities (and, in time, possibly applicants boasting other favourable characteristics) without job offers may be able to apply for this visa, affording them greater flexibility of how they work and a route to settlement in the UK.


UK “scale-up” companies may apply through a fast-track verification process to use this route to sponsor talented individuals with an offer of a highly skilled job at the required salary level. In order to qualify, scale-ups must be capable of demonstrating an annual average revenue or employment growth rate over a three-year period greater than 20%, and a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the three-year period.  It is possible that the scope of this route may be extended to include scale-ups with demonstrable expectation of strong growth in the future years. Individuals sponsored under this route may also switch roles and employers. The Scale-up category also offers a route to settlement in the UK, subject to specific requirements.

And that’s Not Just ‘It’

The above changes will be backed by a “revitalized” Innovator route that:

  • simplifies and streamlines the business eligibility criteria
  • fast-tracks applications through a ‘lighter touch’ endorsement process
  • builds in flexibility by allowing applicants without £50,000 investment funds to demonstrate the endorsing body is satisfied sufficient funds are in place, while removing restrictions on applicants working outside their primary business

Likewise, the new Global Business Mobility visa route will attempt to help overseas businesses and innovative companies more easily transfer workers to the UK in order to assist in their establishment and expansion.

Our Advice

Individuals who may be affected are encouraged to contact a Newland Chase immigration specialist for case-specific advice.

For general advice and information on immigration and business travel to the UK, please contact us.