The UK ‘complex’ and ‘strict’ visa system is putting businessmen off coming to Britain for business, according to a new report by the immigration advisory start-up Migreat.
The report say s that the government’s immigration rules have forced many talented entrepreneurs to look elsewhere despite the coalition’s promise to make sure Britain was “open for business”.
Business secretary Vince Cable told HuffPostUK: “This is a timely report in light of the recent controversy over migrant entrepreneurs as UK job creators. It’s important that we get this route right to ensure that the next migrant business success stories, like Caffe Nero or Last.fm, don’t slip through the UK’s fingers. We must send a clear signal that we are open to business.”
Migreat’s findings are based on discussions with more than 60 entrepreneurs from around the world about their experiences with UK visas. Many said the policies currently in place were “complex and strict”.
Business visas posed a particular hindrance for “start ups”, Migreat found.
According to Home Office figures, one out of every two applications for entrepreneur visas were refused, with nearly three out of four entrepreneurs failing to extend their visa in the first three quarters of 2013.
Migreat also found the “administrative” issues were taking ever longer for visas to be issued: a problem faced by numerous other visa applicants, most notably, sports professionals.
On Tuesday, the Sri Lankan Cricket Board bemoaned the six weeks required to process visa applications for the Sri Lankan team ahead of its tour of the UK in May. The board was forced to reveal the full squad for the tour some two weeks ahead of the start of the Sri Lanka-England series – a vital boost for the home team – given the lengthy visa processing time.
The tour is expected to generate hundreds of thousands of pounds in revenue for the England and Wales Cricket Board as well as the Irish Cricket Union.
Among Migreat’s recommendations is a system to return passports faster to applicants.
“Great Britain would benefit from maintaining flexibility in the visas it offers to entrepreneurs if it wants to maintain its international competiveness in this area, and grow more start-ups,” said Migreat.
Migreat’s director of strategic partnerships, Josephine Goube, said: “The UK Government was a bold pioneer when it created a specific visa to ease the immigration of Entrepreneurs back in 2008.
“Unfortunately, in our research we found that in reality, the visa filters out exceptional international talents such as Seedcamp winners and entrepreneurs that raised more than £1m start-up capital.
“As such, the report is here to offer a space for foreign entrepreneurs to voice their concerns and help each other as well as to contribute to feed the discussion for policy makers on how to keep the UK attractive to global entrepreneurs.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK is open for business to the brightest and best migrants and remains an attractive destination for global talent.”