UK INNOVATOR VISA
The UK Innovator visa category is for non-EEA nationals who are experienced businesspersons seeking to establish a business in the UK. In most cases you will need to have access to at least £50,000 to invest in your business (or have already invested £50,000 in your business), but certain exceptions apply. You will also need to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is approved and supported by an endorsing body.
Innovator visas are valid for 3 years and can lead directly to indefinite leave to remain in the UK at the end of this period. UK Innovator visa applicants can bring their partner and any children under the age of 18 to the UK.
Who is the UK Innovator visa suitable for?
The UK Innovator visa category is suitable for experienced businesspersons who are looking to set up a new business in the UK which is innovative, viable and scalable. Applicants are expected to present a new business idea. Generally, the business will not already exist. However, where it does, the new business should not yet have fully started trading.
Applicants can work on their own as a sole founder, or together as part of an entrepreneurial team. Joint venture arrangements may also be acceptable.
The business idea may relate to any sector, provided the business idea is sufficiently innovative, viable and scalable. For example, the restriction on companies mainly engaged in property development under the previous Tier 1 Entrepreneur category does not apply. Applicants can develop other businesses as well as their main business idea.
If you wish to join an already trading business then the Tier 2 General Skilled Worker visa may be more appropriate. If you wish to invest in an already trading business then you may wish to consider the Tier 1 Investor visa route. If you are a senior employee of an overseas business looking to establish a commercial presence in the UK then you may like to consider the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa.
Requirements for a UK Innovator visa
In order to qualify for a UK Innovator visa you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:
You are at least 18 years old;
You have at least £50,000 available to invest in your UK business or have already invested £50,000 in your UK business (this requirement is waived if switching from the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Start-up category to pursue the same business venture or extending as an existing Innovator to pursue the same business venture and, in both cases, you have shown significant achievements judged against your business plan);
If applying to set up a new business venture, you have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that has positively assessed your business idea for innovation, viability and scalability and is satisfied that you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business venture;
If applying to continue the same business venture as in your initial application, you have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that is satisfied that you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement, you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures;
Your endorsement letter was issued not more than 3 months before the date of your Innovator visa application;
You genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in your application;
You are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B2 (equivalent to IELTS 5.5 in reading, writing, listening and speaking);
You have at least £945 available to support yourself (and £630 for each dependant) without relying on public funds.
The exact requirements that you will need to satisfy may vary depending on the circumstances of your case. We recommend speaking to an immigration lawyer for expert advice.
Investment funds requirement for a UK Innovator visa
You will usually need to have at least £50,000 available to invest in your UK business or have already invested £50,000 in your UK business. You may rely on money of your own or funding provided by your endorsing body.
The requirement to have a ‘viable’ and ‘scalable’ business idea means that, in practice, you may need to have more than £50,000 available to invest. Some endorsing bodies require an additional level of funding as a condition of endorsement.
The investment funds requirement for an Innovator visa is waived for applicants switching from either the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Start-up category to pursue the same business venture or extending as an existing Innovator to pursue the same business venture. In both cases, applicants need to have demonstrated significant achievements judged against their business plan.
Endorsement criteria for a UK Innovator visa
In order for your business proposal to be endorsed, an approved endorsing body will need to be satisfied that your business idea meets all of the following criteria:
Innovation: You have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage;
Viability: You have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business;
Scalability: Your business plan shows evidence of structured planning and potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.
The endorsing body will also need to be satisfied that you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures.
If you are applying to continue the same business venture as in your initial application, you will need to demonstrate significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement. You will need to demonstrate that you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures.
List of approved UK Innovator visa endorsing bodies
We have published an up-to-date list of endorsing bodies for Innovator visa applications. This list is based on information provided by the Home Office, which is updated periodically. Our list of endorsing bodies contains the names of all currently approved Innovator visa endorsing bodies, as well as links to their websites and, where available, details of their application process and endorsement criteria.
Some endorsing bodies accept open applications (often with sector and/or geographic limitations), whilst some only issue endorsements to business founders that they are already working with through their existing programmes.
Switching into the UK Innovator visa category
Applications for UK Innovator visas can be made from outside the UK, but it is also possible to switch into the Innovator visa category from within the UK if you were last granted leave to remain as a Start-up, Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, Tier 1 Entrepreneur, Tier 2 General or Tier 2 ICT Skilled Worker or Visitor (if you came to the UK to get funding and have a letter of support from an endorsing body).
Joining an existing business as a UK Innovator visa holder
The UK Innovator visa category is for people seeking to establish a new business in the UK for the first time. Applicants are expected to present a new business idea.
Generally, the business that forms the basis of the new business idea will not already exist in the UK. However, where it does, the business should not yet have fully started trading.
If you are looking to join an existing trading business then the Innovator visa category is not an appropriate immigration route. However, a new business that is to trade as part of a joint venture arrangement may be acceptable. If you wish to apply for an Innovator visa on the basis of a joint venture arrangement then we recommend that you speak to an immigration lawyer.
Applying for a UK Innovator visa as part of a team
You do not need to be the sole founder of your business and you may be a member of an innovator team. However, each applicant must receive their own individual endorsement from an approved endorsing body.
Innovator team members that are required to satisfy the investment funds requirement for a new business endorsement also cannot share the same £50,000 but must instead have at least £50,000 investment funds each.
UK Innovator visa application fee
The current Home Office application fee for a UK Innovator visa is £1,021 if applying from outside the UK or £1,277 if applying to switch into the category from within the UK.
UK Innovator visa validity period
Your initial UK Innovator visa will be valid for 3 years. It is possible to extend an Innovator visa for periods of 3 years at a time, subjecting to being re-endorsed each time. There is no maximum time limit in the Innovator category.
You will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) as an Innovator after spending 3 years in the Innovator visa category.
To see how our immigration experts can support your Innovator visa application, see ‘Stages to obtaining an Innovator visa’ below.
UK Innovator visa conditions of stay
As a UK Innovator visa holder you will need to abide by various conditions of stay.
You can develop other businesses as well as your main business idea. However, you will not be permitted to take any employment other than working for the business or businesses that you have established. Any arrangement which amounts to disguised employment with another employer would breach the conditions of your stay.
UK Innovator visa checkpoints
You will need to stay in contact with your endorsing body with checkpoints at 6, 12 and 24 months after your application is successful.
The endorsing body will need to be satisfied that you are continuing to work on your business venture and have demonstrated reasonable progress in relation to either your original or a new business idea that is innovative, scalable and viable. Your endorsement may be withdrawn and your leave curtailed if this is not the case.
Innovator Visa Guidance: Investment Funds & Endorsement
A Guide to the Innovator visa
Indefinite Leave to Remain as an Innovator
Indefinite Leave to Remain as a UK Innovator
In order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain as an Innovator you will need to satisfy UK Visas & Immigration that:
You have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that is satisfied that you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement, you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures;
You satisfy at least two of the following:
At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering your business plan;
The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers, which have an average salary of at least £25,000 a year;
The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers with no average salary requirement;
The number of customers has at least doubled within the most recent 3 years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services;
The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK;
The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts;
The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.
You have spent not more than 180 days outside the UK in any rolling 12 month period during the 3 years prior to the date of application;
You have sufficient knowledge of the English language and Life in the UK.
Stages to obtaining a UK Innovator visa
Our UK Innovator visa application preparation and submission service is divided into 8 discrete stages:
Stage 1 – Complete our Innovator visa enquiry form
To receive a free initial assessment of your suitability for an Innovator visa, complete our Innovator Visa Enquiry Form. An expert will review your responses. We aim to respond within 24 hours.
Stage 2 – Eligibility Assessment
All endorsing bodies require that applicants have checked that they are eligible as an individual for an Innovator visa before they are contacted for endorsement. If Stage 1 is completed successfully, we will have an initial consultation meeting where we will check that you are able to satisfy the general eligibility requirements of the Immigration Rules for an Innovator visa.
Stage 3 – Concept Assessment
All endorsing bodies require applicants to demonstrate that they have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea. We will have an initial consultation meeting where we will listen to your concept and advise as to whether it is appropriate to take forward to an endorsing body. This stage can be run concurrently with Stage 1.
Stage 4 – Introduction to Endorsing Bodies
Having successfully completed stages 1 and 2, we will formally introduce you and your business plan to up to 3 Home Office approved endorsing bodies. As a trusted introducer, we can ensure direct contact with investment panel members as well as transparent, timely decision-making.
Stage 5 – Concept and Business Plan Approval
The endorsing body will have an initial consultation where you can pitch your concept and business plan. If the endorsing body feels that it is appropriate to take the proposal forward then they will spend time with you to fully understand your model, the cashflows, and other requirements they deem necessary to make sure your concept has the best prospect of being endorsed.
Stage 6 – Full KYC and Due diligence
The endorsing body will need to know everything about you and the source of your funds. This process will normally run concurrently with Stage 4.
Stage 7 – Visa Application
Having successfully passed stages 4 and 5 and secured an endorsement, we will prepare your Innovator visa application and submit it to the Home Office. The Immigration Rules contain strict requirements in terms of the evidence that must be provided in support of an Innovator visa application. We will ensure that your Innovator visa application is professionally presented, technically correct and approved first time.
Stage 8 – Approval & Mentoring
Once your Innovator visa application has been approved by the Home Office, you will be able to enter the UK to start deploying your investment funds and developing your business concept. We will continue to support you until ILR is achieved after 3 years. Via our trusted partners, we can also provide full wealth, tax management and education consultancy services for UK schools and universities, if these services are desired.
WE CAN ALSO ASSIST WITH
Applications for Innovator visa endorsement by approved UK endorsing bodies
Drafting an Innovator visa compliant business plan
Credibility assessment interview preparation for Innovator visa applicants
Applications for extension of stay as an Innovator
Applications for indefinite leave to remain as an Innovator
Fresh applications, Administrative reviews and Judicial reviews for Innovator visa applicants