Risk of foreign investors being deterred by new immigration rules

Chinese business person in London City

Photo: Shutterstock (posed by model)

According to immigration specialist Yash Dubal, who advises foreign businesses that wish to set up satellite offices in the UK, new visa rules coming into operation from 1 January 2021 could lead to considerable confusion.

Dubal, director at AY&J Solicitors. added that the government had also muddled its messaging by advertising the new immigration regime as being designed to attract the brightest and the best from across the globe. However, this was in contrast to last month’s warning from chancellor Rishi Sunak that the UK needed to be wary of overseas investment by IT and tech firms.

Sunak proposed that new state rules should be considered that would discourage “hostile states” from investing in technology in the country. China’s Huawei was thought to be an example of what Sunak meant by his phrase “hostile state actor”.

Dubal said the idea of the UK becoming a technology and research world-beater contradicted the tone and thrust of Sunak’s words.

Businesses wishing to set up offices in the UK, however, should not be perturbed by this suspicion of foreign tech, said Dubal, and there were favourable conditions for investors to the UK. He described the country as a “lucrative place for IT and tech firms to expand into”.

As an example of sources of confusion for potential investors with the UK’s nascent immigration system, Dubal pointed to the licence sponsor system, which has been significantly tweaked.

He said international IT and tech companies based outside the UK needed a UK trading entity to apply for a sponsorship licence enabling them to employ their own workers from overseas within the UK.

They must also have at least one senior person based in the UK who can act as the authorising officer in charge of the licence.

“The scenario can be confusing,” said Dubal. “Companies want to send someone to the UK to set up the UK operation but cannot apply for a sponsor licence to do so because they don’t have an office or personnel.”

He said the solution, however, was a lesser known visa called the Sole Representative Visa, which allowed a senior level employee of the overseas group to locate to the UK to set up operations.

Dubal concluded: “The Sole Representative Visa route allows firms to send an advance party who can then sort out the logistics. It is not a commonly known route, particularly now when the government seems to be focusing on raising awareness of the new skilled worker route, but for investors it is a perfect solution to a tricky problem.”

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