September 22

The Innovator Visa


OTB Legal

The Innovator Visa route is designed for experienced business people who wish to start or expand their business in the United Kingdom. It was launched at the end of March 2019, replacing the old Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa. Aimed at experienced entrepreneurs, seeking to rapidly scale up their business. Less experienced entrepreneurs requiring investment, are being encouraged to apply for the start-up visa.

The business idea must be innovative, viable and scalable. It must generally be a new idea and can relate to any sector. Applicants may be the sole founder of the business, or may work as part of an entrepreneurial team.

Innovator visas are valid for up to 3 years and can lead to indefinite leave to remain in the UK in some cases. Successful visa applicants can bring dependents with them. Providing that the applicants can demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to establish and maintain themselves within the UK.

The route is open to both, in country applicants and out of country applicants. In limited circumstances can be switched into from alternative routes.

The Initial Checks

At the date of the decision, the applicant must 18 years old to apply for this route.

The applicant must also ensure that they have:

  • Paid the relevant fee for this type of application.
  • Provided their biometrics.
  • Paid the Immigration Health Charge (IHC) for the relevant period.
  • Have provided a passport or other document that establishes their identity and nationality.
  • Have been issued with an endorsement letter(see below) from an endorsing body for the Innovator route, dated no more than 3 months before the date of the application.
  • The endorsement must not have been withdrawn by the endorsing body.
 If the application is being made within the UK, the applicant must not be granted permission via certain routes (see page 12 of the Home Office guidance)

Endorsement Letter from an Approved Endorsement Body

Additionally, all applicants must be endorsed in this category by an official endorsement body.

Prior to the application being made, the business or business idea will have to be assessed and approved by an endorsement body. The endorsement body will then provide an endorsement letter, If it concludes that the business (or business idea) is innovative, viable and scalable. They must also be reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on developing the business venture.

Points Scoring Requirement

In order to succeed, the applicant is required to score 70 points as either a ‘new business’ or a ‘same business’. With both requiring points scored for the financial requirement (10 points), and the English language requirement (10 points).

In order to qualify for this route under a ‘new business’; the applicant must have a business plan (10 points). The business venture must be innovative, viable and scalable (20 points). And they must have £50,000 available funds to invest, or have been invested into the business already (20 points).

Under the ‘same business’ route; the applicant’s previous permission must have been in the innovator, Start-up or Tier 1 route. They must be pursuing a business assessed by a Home Office approved endorsing body. Either for the previous endorsement or at a contact point meeting (10 points). The business must also be active, trading and sustainable. Demonstrating significant achievements against the business plan (20 points). With the applicant being active in day-to-day management and development of the business (20 points).

New Business Requirements

For the first requirement of new businesses, applicants must have generated or made a significant contribution to business plan ideas. They must also have an active role in the day-to-day implementation of this. As well as being either a sole founder or an instrumental member of the founding team.

The next requirement requires the business venture to be innovative, viable and scalable.

  • Innovative: The applicant will need to prove that they have a genuine and original business plan which meets a new or existing market need, and will be beneficial to the British economy.
  • Viability: The applicant needs to prove they have the necessary skills, knowledge and market awareness to successfully run their proposed business.
  • Scalability: The applicant will need to show that there is potential for job creation and growth in their business.

The final requirement relates to the funds required to start the business. You will usually need £50,000 either invested into the business or available to invest into the business. But the ‘viable’ and ‘scalable’ requirement could lead to the requirement of more funds, with some endorsing bodies requiring additional funds as a condition of endorsement.

Same Business Requirements

Providing that the applicant meets the eligibility requirements and is already based in the UK, the applicant can switch over to the visa if they are on one of the following visas:

  • Start-up visa.
  • Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa.
  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa.
  • Any Tier 2 visa.
  • Visitor visa (if the applicant has used this visa to get a supporting letter from an endorsement body).

If you apply for the Innovator Visa before your current visa (from the above list) expires, you will be able to stay in the UK under section 3C leave.

The applicant would then need to provide proof that the business is active and has been trading prior to the application. While also showing that the business is achieving the goals set out in the business plan, with the active day-to-day management of the applicant.

Requirements for All Applicants

You will need to show your knowledge of the English language before you apply. This can be achieved by securing a pass in an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B2 in reading, writing, speaking and listening. Or by having an academic qualification that was taught in English. It must be recognised by UK NARIC as being the equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree or PhD.

This is not required if you have proved this in a prior successful application, or if you are applying from one of the exempt countries (listed here).

Another requirement is the applicant must be able to prove that they have sufficient personal savings to be self-supporting. They will have to show they had at least £1,270 in their bank account for 90 consecutive days, before applying without dependents. It is an additional £285 for a dependent's partner, £315 for a first child and £200 for each subsequent child.*

*Please be aware that you cannot rely on the same funds as you are using to demonstrate available investment funds.

Alternative Routes

There are alternative routes to the Innovator Visa. If you are a senior employee of a business which is overseas and wish to establish a commercial presence within the UK, then the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa would be more appropriate.

Those looking to invest in UK companies may like to consider the Tier 1 Investor visa.

And the Skilled Worker visa is appropriate for those looking to join an already established business as an employee.

For more information, please contact our Business Immigration Team; a link to book a free initial consultation will be provided down below.

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