What are the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme and innovators scheme?

Highly Skilled Migrants Programme and Innovators Scheme    

A number of schemes were created to attract talent to the U.K. in addition to wealth and investment. The immigration rules are not solely geared to wooing business people with assets or those who can create jobs for the UK job market. These schemes are very much a twenty first century initiative: five examples have been created since 2000 including the innovators scheme, the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme; the Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland scheme; the International Graduate scheme and the Science and Engineering scheme. The UK can now be seen to be competing with Australia and Canada in attracting skilled migrants and not just the wealthy.

What is the innovators scheme?

This scheme aims to attract people with promising business ideas, particularly in the fields of e-commerce, science and technology. The rules concerning capital and investment are much more relaxed than in the usual immigration rules for entry for business. This is so that new and creative ideas can flourish. The Home Office explains that it wanted to attract those who would bring ‘exceptional economic benefit’ to this country.

However, there are some conditions for such an innovatory business. Whilst it is necessary for there to be enough money available to finance the business for a period of six months after the arrival of the applicant(s) in the UK, this money does not have to be in the applicant’s own name. Indeed, it can belong to a third party investor but the applicant must own at least 5% of the shares in the company which additionally must be registered in the U.K.

The remaining rules under the innovators scheme are identical to the usual rules for entry for business. The applicant must be able to support themselves and any dependents without working outside the particular business stated in the innovators scheme application. The business proposal must also be one that intends to create two full time positions available to the UK job market.

If this initial set of criteria are met, this does not guarantee success. There is a points based system in this further stage in which the application is rated on a number of points intended to discourage any inexperienced applicants. These include scores for work and business experience; evidence of entrepreneurial ability; educational qualifications (mainly in science and technology); a sound business plan; job creation potential; the merits of the business idea; research and development budget and personal references.

What is the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme?

The aim of the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme was to attract ‘high human capital individuals, who have the qualifications and skills required by UK businesses to complete in the global marketplace.’ The Highly Skilled Migrants Programme, and the innovators scheme, can both lead to settlement in the UK In this Programme, there is no requirement, as there is with a work permit, to have a specific job to come to: qualification is purely on the basis of meeting certain criteria. Migrants under this scheme, if successful, are given an initial period of 12 months’ leave which can be extended by three more years. This extension will only happen if there is evidence to show that the Highly Skilled Migrant is lawfully economically active or has taken all reasonable steps to gain employment/ self employment.

The Work Permits (UK) department, not entry clearance officers, assess migrants to see whether they are fit for the programme and then there is a second stage of a points based system. This points system has been through various trials and amendments. The points are awarded for work experience, educational qualifications, past earnings and youth. Initially points were awarded for exceptional achievement in the field but this was replaced in November 2006 along with points for having a skilled partner. The new provisions included a new English test and points for experience within the UK Moreover, these additions applied to the extension after 12 months together with the Highly Skilled Migrant showing that they have taken all reasonable steps to becoming lawfully economically active.

What must Highly Skilled Migrants be aware of when they are in the UK?

When the changes were made (with little warning and limited transitional arrangements), there was a rare report on these new immigration rules by the Parliamentary Joint Human Rights Committee. Highly Skilled Migrants looking for an extension might not get enough points for UK experience because employers offering highly paid jobs may be discouraged by their short-term initial visa and lack of experience in this country. So Highly Skilled Migrants would be forced to take lower paid work, perhaps not in their specific field, which would damage their prospects of renewing their visa under this programme in the process.

The government, though, found that such changes were legitimate because they sought to avoid a situation in which highly skilled migrants were taking up low-skilled work. This was not the aim of the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme and the new additions to the points system took into account the economic interests and well-being of the country.

The Parliamentary Joint Human Rights Committee brought up the argument that the right of these Highly Skilled Migrants to respect for private and family life under Article 8 was being breached by an immediate change which affected these people retrospectively. This would make the changes not in accordance with the law. The Committee pointed out that such people must have intended to settle permanently in the UK and may have arrangements in their finances or relationships that could be highly disrupted with such changes. The government’s response was that Highly Skilled Migrants were notified that their leave would be assessed before any extension was granted and that the Home Office has the power to change policy at any time, without notice.