How might the Start-up and Innovator visas potentially cause problems?
Following the release of the above visas in March 2019, there is still uncertainty about the logistics of the visas despite the requirements being listed in a lengthy Appendix W.
Since many of the endorsing bodies have not yet begun accepting endorsements, it is difficult to gauge how these visas will fare in practice. However, from what we already know about the nature of the visas, we can anticipate potential problems for when the visas start to be issued.
Problems with the Start-up and Innovator visas – endorsing bodies
Number of endorsements
A concern with these visas lies in the endorsement requirement. The Home Office has listed the approved endorsing bodies; yet, there are only 20. Though the government has stated the list is not determinedly exhaustive, a potential problem arises with such few endorsing bodies for applicants to choose from. For both types of visas, each body can only select a maximum of 25 applicants to endorse (though it is unsure if this number will be increased) this being a rather minimal number of endorsements. It must be added that some endorsing bodies have requested that they will accommodate fewer than 25 endorsements causing another potential problem for applicants.
Individualised endorsement requirements
Furthermore, each endorsing body has the freedom to choose its own criteria to enforce; for example, The Royal Society of Edinburgh can only provide endorsements to those who have been awarded an RSE Enterprise Fellowship. It seems there is also an acceptance for endorsing bodies to select applicants whom they already know or have had previous dealings with which adds another potential barrier for applicants. Other endorsers only have narrow application windows held annually and if these are missed, you cannot then apply.
These requirements can further delay the applicants hoping to secure an endorsement as they may have to face further obstacles before applying for an endorsement.
For Start-up visas, applicants have a list of UK universities to choose from which is added to the already existing list of endorsers. If looking at a university endorsement for the Start-up Visa, it seems that most universities only offer endorsements to their graduates, some even specifying a time-limit for those graduates; for example, Newcastle University only accepts applicants who have graduated within three years. Therefore, it may be a more viable option, if you hope to receive an endorsement from a UK university which only considers their own graduates, to apply for a degree there otherwise it will not possible to receive an endorsement from that particular establishment.
Type of sector
Many endorsers also have specific requirements on the type of business that is being proposed. There are some endorsers who are open about what the proposed business can be but others which only want certain types of businesses to be included. Some, such as ‘Tech Nation’, only accept proposals surrounding the Tech sector. Others, such as ‘Deep Science Venture’, accept proposals in pharma, agriculture or food. Others have a strong focus on location, such as ‘Ignite’, so it may be necessary for an applicant to solely focus their business in that particular region and it may mean moving to that specific area.
Issues further arise when equity in the business is required in order to gain an endorsement (usually this is if you are accepted into an incubator or accelerated programme). This is not so much an issue for start-ups however, it can be for innovators who may already have all the required investment funds and so to give up a proportion of business may not be viable for them yet necessary to fulfill the requirement of gaining an endorsement.
It is important, therefore, for applicants to read carefully before applying to endorsers to understand exactly what a particular endorsing body is looking for. This will help applicants determine which endorser is best suited to them and their business.
Problems with the Start-up and Innovator visas – unclear on how the visas can apply in practice
As these two visas are very new with applications opening in March 2019, it is still unclear on how the process will work practically. There are still uncertainties on specifically how the endorsing bodies will ease the process of building a business and how they will generally work in practice.
Hopefully, as time progresses, these uncertainties will become clearer but for now, the visas’ practicality remains vague and ambiguous.
How NA Law can help you if you are thinking of applying for a Start-up or Innovator visa
Regardless of the nature of the rules, which can be difficult to understand, NA Law can go through your situation extensively and decide which endorsing body would be the most fitting for your sector and liaise with them until an endorsement is secured. We will guide you through the entire endorsement process, including ensuring your endorsement letter meets the requirements.
These services will be in addition to already representing you to ensure your immigration history meets the requirements of the respective visa.