The Innovator visa route is aimed at experienced entrepreneurs seeking to set up or run a business in the UK. The initial Innovator visa grants entry for 3 years which can be extended for another 3 years with no maximum time limit in the category. After applicants have been in the UK for a continuous period of 3 years, they can apply for permission to permanently settle in the UK.
On 29th March 2019, the Innovator visa opened as a replacement for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category. This new category aims to encourage the development of and investments in viable, innovative and scalable businesses in the United Kingdom in order to drive economic growth.
The initial visa granted is for 3 years and can be extended for a further 3 years, with no maximum time in this category.
Applicants can apply to extend their visa if both of the following apply:
- They meet the eligibility requirements
- They’re still running a business in the UK or want to set up a new one
Applicants must have £50,000 in investment funds if they want to set up a new business. They do not need funds if their business is already established and has been endorsed for an earlier visa.
Applicants need to have their business or business idea assessed by a Home Office approved endorsing body when they extend their visa.
Applicants should include any dependents who are on their current visa on their application to extend - including children who have turned 18 during their stay.
For a New Business:
Applicants must obtain an endorsement letter from an approved endorsement body.
For a new business, the endorsing body will decide if the business plan and required documentation meets the endorsement criteria of innovation, viability and scalability and is genuine and credible. If so, the information will be provided to the Home Office in the endorsement letter. The Home Office guidance sets out what should be included in this letter for it to meet the requirements.
Innovation - The applicant must have a genuine, original business plan that is in line with new or existing market needs and/or has a competitive advantage.
Viability - The applicant is actively developing or already has the required skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to run their business successfully.
Scalability - There needs to be evidence of structured planning and of job creation prospects as well as potential to grow into national markets.
Applicants need to:
- Still be running a business in the UK or want to set up a new one.
- Have an already established business and be endorsed for an earlier visa.
- Have access to £50,000 in investment funds if they want to set up a new business, and their business or business idea should be assessed by an approved body.
- Have enough money to support themselves without recourse to public funds.
- Apply before their visa expires.
- Include any dependents who are on their current visa on their application to extend - including children who have turned 18 during their stay.
- Set up a business or several businesses.
- Work for their business - this includes being employed as a director, or self-employed as a member of a business partnership.
- Bring their dependent family members with them to the UK.
- Apply to settle in the UK after they’ve been there for 5 years.
- Extend their visa multiple times.
- Do any work outside their business, for example work where they’re employed by another business.
- Work as a doctor or dentist in training.
- Work as a professional sportsperson, for example a sports coach.
- Have access to public funds.
There are also other conditions which may apply, depending on your country of nationality.