Innovator Visa category is for more experienced business people seeking to establish a business in the UK. Applicants will have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body. With some exceptions, applicants will have funding to invest in their business. This category may lead to settlement after 3 years in the UK.
Applicant is applying as ‘Same business’ or ‘new business’
The Immigration Rules distinguish between applicants who are applying under the ‘new business’ criteria and those applying under the ‘same business’ criteria. Applicants who are coming to the UK for the first time will need to apply under the ‘new business’ requirement.
If the applicant is making an application to extend their leave to remain in the UK (under Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa or Start-up Visa) and they are in order to pursue the same business that was assessed as part of that previous application, they can choose to make an application under the ‘new business’ or the ‘same business’ criteria.
The key distinction is that the ‘new business’ criteria requires an investment and a different type of endorsement, which we refer to below.
Business Proposal ‘new business’
In order to be granted a visa under the ‘new business’, the applicant’s business must meet the following requirements:
The applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.
The applicant has the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.
There is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.
Investment Funds required in ‘new business’
There are two options, first is when the endorsing body is providing the investment funds, applicants who are applying under the ‘new business’ criteria must demonstrate that they have access to at least £50,000 for investment in the business. They can also demonstrate that they have already invested the funds in the business. Second, applicant is arranging funds from their personal income or savings.
If two individuals are applying for Innovator visas to join the same business, they cannot share the investment funds. The applicant must provide specified evidence to demonstrate that they meet this requirement.
Endorsement of the Business Idea
Applicants must obtain an endorsement letter from an approved endorsement body to submit with their application.
For a ‘new business’, the endorsing body will review the applicant’s business proposal and decide if it meets the above requirements of innovation, viability and scalability. If so, it will provide specified information to the Home Office in the endorsement letter about the applicant and their business. The letter must be dated within three months of the date of the immigration application.
If the endorsing body is:
the endorsement letter must confirm this. Otherwise the applicant must provide evidence that they have the investment funds with their application.
For a ‘same business’, the endorsing body will need to confirm that:
Endorsing bodies are listed here.
Credibility of Innovator Visa
The applicant must be able to persuade the Home Office that they:
The applicant may be invited to a credibility interview.
Mandatory Requirements of Innovator Visa
1. Applicants must be at least 18 years old.
2. Applicants must be able to speak English to Level B2 CEFR. To demonstrate this they must:
3. Unless the endorsing body is certifying maintenance, the applicant must have held at least £945 for a consecutive period of at least 90 days in a manner specified by the rules. Where dependants are applying, the applicant must also demonstrate that the maintenance requirement for them is met.
Innovator Visa – Making an application from inside the UK
If an applicant already has valid leave to remain in any of the following categories, they can apply from inside the UK:
Innovator – Settlement Route
Successful applicants will be granted leave to remain for three years initially and, providing they meet the extension requirements, they can then apply to extend their stay.
Innovators can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘ILR’) after five years in the category (proving they meet the requirements for ILR, including that they have spent no more than 180 days during any consecutive 12-month period outside the UK unless an exception applies).
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