UK work permit regulations 'damaging entrepreneurship'

22 Jan 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The government's changes to the UK work permit schemes pose a serious risk to the future of entrepreneurship in Britain, it has been suggested.

Matt Johnson, the American co-founder of Shoreditch-based start-up, Bare Conductive, has claimed that the company's success has been jeopardised by the changes made to the UK work permit and visa systems 18 months ago.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Johnson explained that he first arrived in the country on a UK student visa back in 2007. He applied for a postgraduate worker visa in October 2009, which lasted through till January 2012. Before this date, however, the coalition government changed its visa rules to limit the number of overseas students remaining in the UK after graduation, forcing Mr Johnson to take a different approach if he wanted to stay in the country.

Mr Johnson chose the new Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa route, which mean that he had to prove he had a minimum of £200,000 ready to invest in a business, which fortunately he had aready made through Bare Conductive.

“I consider myself lucky [to have had the funds],” he told the paper. “I, personally, have been contacted by US citizens interested in pursuing their masters at the RCA and Imperial [College] and, after rises in tuition [fees] coupled with the changes to visa policies, none of them has even applied, choosing to remain in the US instead.”

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency spoke to the FT to defend the changes to the UK visa routes: “Our reforms to economic migration have struck a balance, and they send a clear message. If you have skills we need, and a company is willing to give you a job, come to Britain.

“But we are also clear that abuse of the immigration rules is unacceptable and we will stamp it out wherever we find it.”