The Innovator Founder visa replaces the original Innovator and Start-Up visas and creates a new single route for established businesspersons and entrepreneurs. The new route allows to set up a new business in the UK and then qualify for settlement in the UK after three years.
These are the UK Visas and Immigration requirements that you need to satisfy to apply for the Innovator Founder visa:
- You need to obtain an endorsement letter from an approved Business Endorsing Body.
The endorsement letter needs to confirm that you are a fit and proper person to receive the endorsement for the new business and that there are no concerns regarding the source of funds to run the business.
Your endorsement letter must be issued not more than 3 months before the date of your initial visa application.
- You must show a business plan for a business idea that is innovative, viable and scalable.
Innovative – new and unique business idea
Viable – show demand for the product on the market and market awareness
Scalable – show real potential for growth and to employ more people
- You need to prove your knowledge of English to at least level CEFR Level B2 (equivalent to IELTS 5.5 in reading, writing, listening and speaking).
- If applying from outside the UK or have been in the UK for less than 12 months, you need to have at least £1,270 to support yourself.
- You also need to be at least 18 years old and have to provide a TB certificate if required.
The new Innovator Founder visa does not require you to prove that you have at least £50,000 available to set up the business (as opposed to the former Innovator visa). Under the new route, there is no specific amount you need to show when applying for the visa.
This creates a more flexible approach for the initial visa applicants. However, it is important to note, that in practice you will need to show access to a certain level of investment funds to run the business.
There must be no concerns over the source of funds invested in the business.
The aforementioned means that the main financial requirement is to show £1,270 if you apply from outside the UK. You have to show that these funds were available to you 28 days prior to the visa application.
Approved Business Endorsing Bodies for the Innovator Founder visa route
Under the new route there are currently four endorsing bodies:
- UK Endorsing Service
- Innovator International
- Envestors Limited
- The Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP)
There is a separate list of “Legacy Endorsing Bodies” – authorised endorsing bodies under the former Innovator visa. They may still support existing applicants who applied under the Innovator visa route until they obtain a settlement in the UK.
Switching from Innovator or Start-Up visas
There is a “same business endorsement criteria” and if you are applying for endorsement for an already endorsed business, you may do this with the same endorsing body from “Legacy Endorsing Bodies”.
This means that if you have permission to stay as an Innovator or Start–up visa holder, you are eligible for endorsement as an Innovator Founder with the “legacy endorsing body”. However, you need to show that you are running the same business.
To get a new endorsement, you need to satisfy certain criteria, one of which is to attend two contact point meetings with your existing endorsing body.
Contact point meetings with endorsing bodies
It is important to attend contact point meetings under the Innovator Founder permission to stay. They help to monitor if the business operates in compliance with the immigration rules.
Under the Innovator Founder route, applicants must attend at least two contact point meetings with the endorsing body – on the 12 and 24 month of the three-year route.
Additional business and employment as Innovator founder
Under the Innovator Founder category, you are allowed to set up a business or several businesses. You can work for your business, including being a director or being self-employed as a member of the business partnership.
You are allowed to do work outside your business as long as it is “skilled work”. These are jobs in the Skilled Worker eligible occupation list or a job that requires at least level 3 qualification.
Under the Innovator Founder visa route, you are allowed to bring your partner and children as your dependants as long as they are eligible.
Settlement under the Innovator Founder visa route
You may wish to apply to settle permanently in the UK if you lived under the Innovator Founder permission to stay for three years.
To obtain permanent residence, you need to meet certain criteria one of which is to prove you’ve successfully grown your business.
Application fees and additional costs
The current application fee for the Innovator Founder visa is £1,191 per person if you apply outside the UK.
It costs £1,486 per person if you apply to extend or switch your visa in the UK.
As a part of your application, you also have to pay the healthcare surcharge which is currently £624 per each year of your stay.
There are additional costs such as an initial endorsement application totalling £1,000+VAT (if applicable). If endorsed, you would be required to pay for your review meetings with the endorsing body. The fees for these meetings are set by the Home Office at £500 per checkpoint review, totalling £1,000+VAT.
If you wish to discuss the Innovator Founder visa application process in more detail, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org