Britain must be open to entrepreneurial migrants

The Government must back job-creating migrant entrepreneurs to help make a success of Brexit, a report on migrants being launched in Parliament will suggest.

The study, conducted by the Institute of Directors and mi-HUB, found that there were particular challenges for entrepreneurs from overseas, including their qualifications not being recognised, not being able to transfer their credit history to the UK, difficulty in accessing finance and lack of support networks.

The authors claim that addressing these issues would help migrant-led businesses to create even more jobs and boost the UK economy.

The report, Migrant Entrepreneurship in the UK: The benefits to Britain, built on interviews and surveys undertaken by mi-HUB and the IoD, will be launched at an event today hosted by Neil Coyle MP.

The report was authored by Rafael dos Santos, a Brazilian-born entrepreneur who has created London’s first co-working space specifically for migrant entrepreneurs, and Andy Silvester, Head of Campaigns at the IoD.

The research found that:

• The majority of those interviewed – foreign entrepreneurs now leading companies – either employ native born workers or are planning to do so in the near future.

• The majority came to study or to work in established firms. The report argues that any post-Brexit policies designed to restrict or complicate visas would have a damaging long-term effect on the UK economy.

• Despite the success of many migrant entrepreneurs, presented in a series of case studies in the report, there remain significant challenges around networks, contacts, and knowledge of Government support, with many migrants to the UK unaware of official schemes and advice often used by native-born entrepreneurs.

80 migrant entrepreneurs were asked specifically about the issues they faced:

• 44% believe that a lack of contacts and networks holds them back.

• 38% suggest there is a lack of knowledge of Government and non-Government schemes designed to help start-up businesses, and 33% believe accessing finance is more difficult.

• In particular, difficulties transferring credit histories from abroad, particularly outside the European Union, often means entrepreneurs struggle to access finance or obtain credit cards to fund early stage business.

• While more than half of the IoD 99, a group of business founders predominantly born in the UK, have used government grants or loans in the past five years, less than one in ten migrant entrepreneurs have benefitted from those schemes.

In advance of the report, Rafael dos Santos, co-author of the report and founder of the migrant-friendly co-working space mi-HUB, said, “This report demonstrates clearly the value of migrant entrepreneurship to the UK economy. Anybody who spends time in the start-up ecosystem immediately realises that allowing the brightest and best to build their businesses in Britain has been a huge benefit to the UK. There is much that Government can do, from working with community groups to simplifying the visa process, to ensure that migrant entrepreneurs continue to thrive.”
Simon Walker, Director General of the IoD, said “For all the talk of migrants ‘taking our jobs,’ it’s more likely that they will be creating them. As we move towards our departure from the European Union and rewrite our immigration policy, ensuring that we are still open to those who want to grow their businesses in the UK will be absolutely crucial.”

Lord Young of Graffham, former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and author of the Coalition Government’s report into start-up enterprise, writes in the report’s foreword, “The vast majority of those who arrive on our shores come here looking for the opportunity to better themselves, to enable their family to enjoy a decent life and many can do that best by setting up their own business. I commend this report for demonstrating how much we should welcome those immigrants, how much we should assist them in their endeavours to work for themselves and, ultimately, how much their efforts will benefit the whole economy.”

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