The UK’s entrepreneur visa scheme is to be tightened following a rapid rise in applications after the closure of the student visa scheme, which previously allowed overseas graduates to remain in Britain for post-study work.
Ministers are concerned that many of the new applications to the entrepreneur scheme, which requires people to show they have £500,000 to invest in business projects in the UK are false. There are fears that some applicants have paid fees to criminal gangs in return for a loan of the necessary capital until their entrepreneur visa has been approved.
It follows a sharp increase in the number of people applying for UK visas under the entrepreneur route, from 118 in 2009 to just shy of 10,000 in 2013. Around 3,000 of the applications were approved, The Daily Telegraph reported.
An investigation sparked by the higher numbers revealed that some of the successful applicants were working for employers, in some cases in low-skill posts, rather than investing in UK businesses when they arrived in Britain. The scheme’s regulations state that applicants are only allowed to work for their own business in the UK.
New applicants will now be required to show more evidence about their planned UK business before they are approved. There will also be further restrictions on people who try to move from another type of UK visa application to the entrepreneur route, the Home Office said.
Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, added: “We will not hesitate to take firm action to protect our immigration system further – particularly when there is evidence of criminals targeting what they think are weaknesses in the rules.”