Three new UK immigration routes

On 22nd July 2021, the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy released a policy paper outlining its ambitions to establish UK as a “world-leader in science, research and innovation.”

What is it all about?

The UK government believes that growth and greater prosperity can be achieved by increasing public and private sector investment in research and development. Consequently, this new UK Innovation Strategy serves as a long-term initiative that intends to meet the goals of levelling up the UK economy and generating high-value new employment and trading opportunities, with the hope of evolving the UK to be a worldwide innovation centre by 2035. 

The strategy also identifies key immigration changes aimed at opening up UK borders to talented individuals, providing British firms with a competitive advantage to compensate for the loss of free mobility from the EU after Brexit, and attempting to make the UK to be one of the most accessible countries in the world for top innovative talent to gain entry, drive innovation, and settle permanently.

Which are the three New UK Immigration Routes?

The UK government lay the framework for measures it aims to implement in order to fulfil its pledge to luring the brightest and finest to the UK, with a special emphasis on the “highly talented and academically exceptional.” 

These improvements expand the alternatives available to both UK-based businesses and non-UK-based business individuals interested in working in the UK without needing to rely on a UK-based employer.

The revisions will indeed appeal to entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals, whose choices for relocating to the UK have been limited in previous years. These new visa routes, as well as other improvements to the immigration system, will assist to attract highly qualified workers and inbound investment to the UK.

The visa routes include:

  • High Potential Individual Route
  • A scale-up Route
  • A revitalised Innovator Route

1. High Potential Individual Route

The UK government has promised to develop a new High Potential visa in order to make it as simple as possible for individuals with high potential to access the UK. The High Potential visa will also allow qualified persons to stay in the UK permanently, subject to satisfying any specified conditions under this route.

Who is the High Potential Individual Route for?

The High Potential visa is intended for highly skilled and academically exceptional migrants who want to share their talents and contribute to the UK economy. This includes international inventors and entrepreneurs who seek to work or establish a firm in the UK.

The route is also intended to make it simpler for existing UK firms and organizations to acquire the expertise required to propel them to world-class status, be it in technology, digital technology, vaccine discoveries, or a variety of other industries and areas.

Eligibility requirements

Applicants who’ve already graduated from a leading global university will be eligible. The UK government will also look at the possibility of broadening inclusion under this approach to include additional high-potential qualities.

Furthermore, in order to guarantee that the UK gains from a spike in high-skilled migrants, there would be no job offer requirement, providing visa holders the freedom to work or swap occupations or companies. As an unsponsored employment path, this will make it easier for international individuals with immense potential to join the UK even if they do not have a job offer.

It is important to note that a statement of adjustments to the UK Immigration regulations will provide more eligibility requirements in due time.

2. Scale-up Route

The proposed new Scale-Up visa will allow brilliant individuals to come to the UK if they have a highly skilled job offer at the appropriate income level from a qualifying scale-up. 

A ‘scale-up’ is defined as a company with an average yearly revenue or employment growth rate of more than 20% over just a three-year period, including a minimum of 10 workers since it lauched.

Scale-ups will be eligible to apply through a streamlined verification procedure. Based on a comprehensive review, the UK government will consider whether scale-ups with a solid prospect of future expansion may qualify for the route.

The new Scale-Up route will enable qualified candidates to work, change employment, or employers in the United Kingdom. Individuals will be allowed to prolong their stay and live in the UK, just like the High Potential visa, if they fulfil certain standards.

3. A revitalised Innovator Route

The current Innovator route will be revitalised to allow bright foreign innovators and entrepreneurs to start up and manage a venture-backed or innovative technology-based firm in the UK. This route has been examined in order to provide a more favourable deal, as well as the following modifications scheduled to be implemented:

  • Simplifying and refining the company eligibility criteria – applicants will be required to demonstrate that their venture is creative and has a strong potential to expand and bring value to the UK. This implies that a lower bar than under current guidelines is needed. However, it requires a new initiative to be creative, sustainable, and scalable, with evidence of thorough planning and the possibility for job creation and development in both local and global markets.
  • Fast-track applications – for candidates with established business concepts, a faster-track, seamless endorsement procedure may be possible. Anyone who has been accepted into the Department for International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur Programme is immediately qualified.
  • Increasing flexibility – candidates will no longer be needed to have at least £50,000 in investment money to apply, provided that the endorsing authority is contented that there are enough finances to build the business. The applicant will no longer be restricted from working on projects that are not related to his or her principal company.


The policy paper outlines the UK government’s vision for an innovation-led economy, focusing on how it can assist businesses wishing to innovate by laying out numerous proposals based on four key pillars.

These pillars include supporting businesses that wish to innovate; ensuring R&D institutions fulfil the requirements of businesses and communities throughout the UK; and fostering innovation to address big issues confronting both the UK and the world by driving competence in important technologies.

These critical pillars also address the “people dynamic” of innovation, and how transforming the UK to be the most exciting environment for innovation talent would not only assist to foster domestic talent, but will also help to recruit and keep highly trained, internationally mobile individuals. 

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