The Innovator visa route is aimed at experienced entrepreneurs seeking to set up or run a business in the UK. Under this route, applicants are required to demonstrate an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body. With some exceptions, applicants should have access to at least £50,000 to invest in their business. The initial visa granted is for 3 years, and can be extended for a further 3 years. Migrants would be eligible for permanent residence, Indefinite Leave to Remain, in 3 years, and for citizenship after 6 years after initial entry to the United Kingdom.
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.
You will need £50,000 available to invest in your business, unless you are switching from the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Start-up category, or extending your visa as an existing Innovator to pursue the same business venture. You will also need an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an approved endorsing body.
It is not a requirement to be the sole founder of your business and you may be a member of an innovator team. However, innovator team members are each required to satisfy an investment funds requirement and cannot share the same £50,000. Each member of the team must individually hold £50,000 or more.
Applicants must obtain an endorsement 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, an endorsement letter will be issued to the applicant in support of their application to the Home Office.
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.
The endorsing body must be satisfied that applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures. Applicants must remain in contact with their endorsing body with checkpoints at 6, 12 and 24 months after approval of application, to allow the endorsing body to ensure that the migrant is continuously working on their business venture.
The initial Innovator visa is granted for 3 years which can be extended numerous times for additional 3 years After migrants have been in the UK for 3 years, they can apply for permission to permanently settle in the UK – Indefinite Leave to Remain. Having lived in the UK with an Indefinite Leave to Remain for 12 months, migrants can apply for British Citizenship.
Eligibility Criteria (initial application):
- Applicant should be least 18 years old;
- The business or business idea must be assessed and approved by an endorsement body, an organisation which has been approved by the Home Office to endorse applicants in the relevant category;
- Applicants must have enough money to support themselves whilst they are in the UK without recourse to public funds. They need to have had at least £945 in cash funds in their bank account for 90 consecutive days before they apply for a visa. These must be in addition to the investment funds;
- Applicant must meet the English language requirement of at least CEFR Level B2 in reading, writing, speaking and listening. There are specific circumstances where an applicant will be exempt from this. This is not required if you are a national of a majority English-speaking country, or have an academic, English-taught qualification equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, masters or PhD as recognised by NARIC.
- The immigration rules regarding the investment funds criteria are complex and can be difficult to follow. The Home Office will refuse applications where enough evidence to prove the investment funds;
- Applicants can form a team with other Innovator applicants, but cannot share the same investment funds. Each Innovator applicant must have access to at least £50,000.
Conditions of your stay in the UK with Innovator visa:
- Set up a business or several businesses;
- Work for your business - this includes being employed as a director, or self-employed as a member of a business partnership;
- Bring your dependent family members with you to the UK;
- Apply to settle in the UK after 3 years;
- Extend your visa multiple times.
- Do any work outside your business, for example be employed by another business;
- Work as a doctor or dentist in training;
- Work as a professional sportsperson;
- Receive public funds.
Switching to Innovator visa:
- It is possible to switch to Innovator category if the applicant is already in the UK on specific types of business visa.
- The earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel and should receive a decision within 3 weeks of your application;
- Priority Service may be available at some visa application centres for entry clearance applications which should result in a decision within 10 – 15 days. However, as the processing time depends on the complexity of the case, personal circumstances of the applicant and the amount of applications under consideration at a certain time, it is not guaranteed that the application will be processed quicker with Priority Service;
- For applications submitted from within the UK by switching from a different visa category, processing time is set at approximately 8 – 12 weeks.