Calling entrepreneurs

Posted on 15 February 2017. Source: City AM

Calling entrepreneurs

It's the lull before the storm.

On 31 March, parts of the UK’s visa system will be overhauled. When Article 50 is triggered, European nationals will be treated differently to how they are now, but Theresa May is holding her cards close to her chest – a little too close for many European nationals, business owners and immigration experts.

It’s not all doom and gloom – or at least it doesn’t have to be. For the first time in over a decade, Brexit presents an opportunity to rewrite the UK’s visa system. We could reform parts of the system that aren’t working. For example, alongside the London Chamber of Commerce and the mayor’s office, we’ve been making the case for a London visa.

But whatever the changes, the aim should be the simplification of the currently hard to navigate system, where startups and scaleups face a confusing plethora of choices. For company founders, it’s a little like trying to navigate around London’s tube network blindfolded.

A company usually needs to get a Tier 2 sponsor licence to employ a non-EEA migrant. They are required to advertise for the role in the UK and the migrant must meet the labour market test and the minimal salary requirements. Entrepreneurs tend to come knocking when they identify one person that they need.

The three-stage process is laborious for a small firm. First, they must apply for the sponsor licence, which is easy enough, but a third of companies are then audited to ensure they have the systems in place to monitor a migrant. Business owners tend to shy away from a knock on the door from the Home Office. The business then must apply for a certificate of sponsorship and finally the migrant applies for a visa. The process can take months and there are Home Office and legal costs. Just explaining the process scares off 90 per cent of applications. It’s only when a business starts to scale that the benefits outweigh the costs.

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