Number of entrepreneur visas more than doubles in a year

In the year to June 2012 more than 460 people were issued with "entrepreneur visas", according to figures obtained by Pinsent Masons. The previous year that number stood at just 199.

The latest figure is a huge uplift from when entrepreneur visas were introduced in 2008. In their first year a measly 11 were issued, and in their second just 52.

So who gets them? Applicants need to have £200,000 to invest in a business that they must start within six months of arriving here, and at least £3,100 in savings, plus English language skills. The cash requirement is lowered to £50,000 if it's coming from an FSA-registered VC firm.

People who have employed 10 people or generated at least £5m income after their first three years here can then apply for indefinite leave to stay in this country.

The rise in entrepreneur visas, then, is encouraging news for the state of the UK business scene on two fronts: it encourages job and wealth creation, and it's a positive indicator that the UK is still an attractive place to start up.

"Many of these entrepreneurs will have been attracted to some of the UK's fastest-growing business sectors, such as the UK's rapidly expanding IT start-up sector, which is centred around 'Silicon Roundabout' in London," said immigration law expert Simon Horsfield of Pinsent Masons. "Entrepreneur visas are not about people 'buying' a fast track to UK citizenship."

He added: "These entrepreneurs can be hugely beneficial to the economy - they'll bring fresh ideas, create new jobs and provide a boost just when the economy needs it."

Of course, the extra 462 entrepreneurs who've arrived in the last year aren't going to be quite enough to lift the other 63 million of us out of the state of economic  contraction we found ourselves in earlier this year, but the rise in these visas is, we can only hope, a good sign that the UK still has bags of entrepreneurial promise.

What do you make of the entrepreneur visas? Leave your comments below to let us know.

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