UNITED KINGDOM

The United Kingdom, made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is an island nation in northwestern Europe. England birthplace of Shakespeare and The Beatles is home to the capital, London, a globally influential centre of finance and culture. England is also site of Neolithic Stonehenge, Baths Roman spa and centuries-old universities at Oxford and Cambridge.

Capital
London
Population
66.04 million (2017)
Currency
Pound Sterling
GDP
USD 2.622 Trillion (2017)
Start up Visa Innovator Visa

INNOVATOR VISA

The Innovator visa category is for individuals 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. Innovator visa applicants can bring their partner and any children under the age of 18 to the UK.

Who is the Innovator visa suitable for?

The 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 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 an Innovator visa

In order to qualify for an 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);
  • If you are outside the UK or have been in the UK for less than 12 months then you have at least £1270 to support yourself, plus £285 for a dependent partner, £315 for a first child and £200 for each additional child.

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 an 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.

Switching into the Innovator visa category

Applications for 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 provided you do not have, or were not last granted, permission as a Visitor, Short-term Student, Parent of a Child Student, Seasonal Worker, Domestic Worker in a Private Household or outside the Immigration Rules.

Joining an existing business as an Innovator visa holder

The 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 an 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.

Innovator visa application fee

The current Home Office application fee for an 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.

Innovator visa validity period

Your initial 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.

Indefinite Leave to Remain as an 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.

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