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The government is to relax Britain's immigration rules for dotcom entrepreneurs.

Barbara Roche, Immigration Minister, today announced a scheme to vet foreign candidates on their CV and business ideas rather than their bank balance and family ties with the UK.

The "Investors" scheme will be piloted from September 4 and will target "younger innovative entrepreneurs" in the areas of science, technology and e-commerce.

No personal funds need be invested - unlike the current immigration legislation which requires entrepreneurs to have £250,000 cash or a third party willing to plough up to £1 million into British business.

"It is important that our immigration policy encourages people with innovative business proposals and valuable skills to bring these to the UK. Many such people, whose presence here would result in significant economic benefit to the nation, are not catered for under the existing rules," said Roche.

Applicants will have to submit a business plan, a CV and supporting documents, with Roche stating the selection process would be "rigorous but flexible".

Alan Johnson, DTI Competitiveness Minister, added: "We want to attract talented entrepreneurs in e-business and other new technology fields to set up business here. They will create jobs and exploit knowledge in a way that is vital to our national competitiveness."

"We are committed to ensuring that by 2002 the UK will be the best place in the world to conduct e-commerce," he added.

Johnson's comments come at a delicate time in British Internet history. In the midst of ISPs' threats to re-locate overseas if the government's proposed email snooping plans become law, will Britain be the foreign dotcom entrepreneur's first choice? The House of Commons gets its final debate on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Bill tomorrow evening. ®

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