The UK is open for Tech: Start-ups continue to grow despite Brexit

18 April 2019 12:03 PM | #Business Resources

The UK continues to focus on attracting the best tech talent to its shores. Since the introduction of the Tier 1 (Exceptional) Talent visa in December 2013, the UK has increased the yearly cap on these visas. Last month and broadened its offer through the introduction of the Start-up and Innovator Visa routes.

The Government has made it clear that it intends on making the UK, the top Tech destination of the world. The intention is to provide tech businesses with opportunities to grow and attract talent into the UK.  Recent date from Companies house shows that new tech start-ups grew by 14% in 2018. The data that was compiled by accountancy firm, RSM, suggests that despite the economic uncertainty, the tech sector continues to thrive in the UK.

According to the information released by Tech Nation last year, the UK brought in more venture capital funding last year compared to other European countries last year. London continued to be the global hub for fintech receiving double the amount of funding compared to its closest European rival, Berlin.

The Start-up and Innovator Visas

The March 2019 update to Immigration Rules further confirmed the focus on attracting tech-talent to the UK. Whilst the closure of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa was a major blow to potential investors in the UK, the introduction of the Start-up and Innovator visas moves the emphasis to tech businesses intending on migrating to the UK.

These new routes are not subject to a yearly cap as opposed to the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route. However, as with the Exceptional Talent route, they also require a two-stage application, which means that the applicant must first apply for an endorsement with an approved body.

Endorsing bodies

The Home Office states that they have given 25 allocations to each approved body, with an option of seeking further allocations, if a reasonable justification is provided. The approved bodies must all be organisations which have a proven track record of supporting UK entrepreneurs.

The approved bodies for Start-up Visa include Higher Education institutes as well as other organisations who fit the criteria above. This visa is aimed at early-stage high potential entrepreneurs who are starting a business in the UK. This visa, therefore, does not require any investment at the outset. However, as this is a one-off 2-year visa, the applicant must then move to the Innovator visa to extend their stay in the UK.

These approved bodies for the Innovator visa are overwhelmingly in the tech sector and are required to conduct their own assessment of ‘applications of endorsement’. However, they are expected to follow key principles set out in the Home Office guidance. They do, however, have broad discretion in granting an endorsement, and may even restrict these endorsements to those applicants who are a part of an internal scheme.

The Innovator visa requirement has a lower investment requirement of £50,000, compared to its £200,000 Tier 1 Entrepreneur predecessor. In some cases, if the applicants meet certain requirements, the £50,000 requirement can be waived. Successful applicants will normally be given a 3-year visa, which allows early settlement at that point (again if certain requirements are met) or further extension of 2 years to allow the business to further prosper.

The overwhelming focus for both these businesses is to attract applicants who have a business idea which has ‘Innovation’ but also is then ‘Viable’ and ‘Scalable’. This route aims to reward those who are successfully able to follow their plan through with lower investment requirements and early settlement.


These two visa routes are a welcome addition to the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route which is increasingly the preferred option for tech-related businesses over its US counterpart the O-1 visa. With the introduction of these two new categories, the push to attract talent continues.

Whilst these new routes are off to a slow start, with some approved bodies not accepting applications until later this year, it is expected that the list of approved bodies will increase, and this visa route will become the primary route for businesses to invest in the UK.