The Chancellor’s Budget proposes ambitious immigration reforms to boost economy

4th March 2021

In the days before the Budget announcement, several media sources had mentioned that the Chancellor would be proposing immigration reform in an attempt to attract highly skilled global talent to help drive the UK’s economy post Covid-19 and Brexit. Eagerly watching the Chancellor during his buoyant speech, Rishi Sunak yesterday announced the proposed changes to the UK immigration system to boost “international competitiveness”.

The finer detail of what we can expect to come in the future can be found in the “Budget 2021: Protecting the jobs and livelihoods of the British people:”

The government is modernising the immigration system to help the UK attract and retain the most highly skilled, globally mobile talent – particularly in academia, science, research and technology – from around the world. This will drive innovation, and support UK jobs and growth. To do this, the government will:

  • introduce, by March 2022, an elite points-based visa. Within this visa there will be a ’scaleup’ stream, enabling those with a job offer from a recognised UK scale-up to qualify for a fast-track visa.
  • reform the Global Talent visa, including to allow holders of international prizes and winners of scholarships and programmes for early promise to automatically qualify.
  • review the Innovator visa to make it easier for those with the skills and experience to found an innovative business to obtain a visa.
  • launch the new Global Business Mobility visa by spring 2022 for overseas businesses to establish a presence or transfer staff to the UK.
  • provide practical support to small firms that are using the visa system for the first time
  • modernise the immigration sponsorship system to make it easier to use. The government will publish a delivery roadmap in the summer.
  • establish a global outreach strategy by expanding the Global Entrepreneur Programme, marketing the UK’s visa offering and explore building an overseas talent network.


Our thoughts

With the new points-based system in its infancy, yesterday’s announcement certainly does appear to be a real boost for the UK’s tech, fintech, science, research and scale-up/start-up sectors. The introduction of an “elite points-based visa” appears to suggest the UK may look to introduce a separate category for those individuals deemed to be highly skilled. The UK previously had similar visas such as Tier 1 General and prior to that, the Highly Skilled Migration Programme – both of which were very successful categories in attracting highly skilled talent to the UK. During 2020, when the Government were drip-feeding announcements on the new points-based system, Priti Patel had indicated that there would potentially be a “broader unsponsored route within the Points-Based System to run alongside the employer-led system” and it appears that Rishi Sunak has gone one step further with this specific category.

The new “scale-up” visa would appear to be a specific visa category for eligible UK start-ups to obtain a fast-track visa for a candidate whom they have offered a job too. It would be appear that the Government’s intention with this specific visa would be to cut red tape regarding the sponsorship process or “third party endorsement” and look to compensate for the loss of free movement.


The review of the Innovator visa is certainly a welcomed move – a visa category which has seen a considerably low take up compared to it’s predecessor, Tier 1 Entrepreneur, highlights just how few overseas business people are setting up in the UK. If the UK really wants to appeal to entrepreneurs to establish their businesses in the UK, the process to obtain an endorsement needs to become less cumbersome – and more endorsing bodies need to be willing to provide endorsements to a broad range of entrepreneurs! It is therefore a positive move from the Government to recognise this category needs a thorough review if they want to boost economic activity in the UK. Closely linked to this review is the expansion of the Global Entrepreneur Programme – this is a Government department that focuses on helping high-growth overseas companies relocate to the UK. For some time many have argued this body doesn’t go far enough in attracting the overseas talent network we need in the UK and therefore hopefully an expansion of this department will allow more overseas businesses to get the support they need to relocate to the UK.

The launch of the Global Business Mobility by spring 2022 is aimed at overseas businesses who wish to establish a presence in the UK or transfer their overseas staff. We currently have a similar visa called the Representative of an Overseas Business visa and we therefore wait to see whether this new visa replaces the Sole Rep visa, much like how the Global Talent visa replaced the Exceptional Talent visa.

Overall, the proposed immigration reforms announced in the budget appear to be a positive step if the UK wants to attract global talent to the UK and help build the economy after the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. We eagerly await the finer policy details on the proposed changes and reforms that were announced yesterday.

If you have questions about this, you are welcome to join our interactive webinar, taking place on 25th March which will be hosted by Sundeep Rathod and Daniel Cotton.