Innovator Visa UK (Founder Visa) For Australians

Australian entrepreneurs looking to launch a new and innovative business in the UK may apply for an Innovator Founder Visa to enter the country and begin their professional endeavours. The business and the founder must both meet set criteria.

The Innovative Founder Visa application should be completed with specialist legal support throughout to ensure the best possible chance of success. Total Law’s team of lawyers can help – call us on +44 (0)333 305 9375  to talk through your British business plans.

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    UK Innovator Founder Visa: An Overview

    The Innovator Visa (also known as the Innovator Founder Visa) is a professional visa specifically designed for foreign entrepreneurs to set up and run a business that is classed as ‘innovative’ in the UK.

    This visa aims to attract overseas business talent to Great Britain, and so differentiates the businesses permitted under it to be unique; hence the ‘innovative’ title.

    Australian citizens with a business idea that has been verified as ‘innovative’ by a relevant endorsing body may apply for the visa and if granted, move to the UK to set up the company. The company must be entirely new and cannot join any existing entity.

    The Innovator Founder Visa lasts for a period of three years, with ‘check-ins’ held with the appropriate endorsing body for the business each year to ensure continued viability and eligibility.

    If eligible, an Innovator Founder Visa holder may bring their dependents and partner to the UK with them under this visa class.

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    Eligibility Requirements Of The UK Innovator Founder Visa

    Both the visa applicant and the business they intend to launch must meet various eligibility requirements. These are as follows:

    Visa applicant

    • Must be aged 18 or over
    • Must hold a valid Australian passport
    • Must be able to prove they have access to sufficient finances to support themselves while in the UK (as of March 2024, there is a minimum financial requirement of £1,270 in a bank account for at least 28 consecutive days before the Innovator Founder Visa application is filed)
    • Meet the English language requirement – for Australian citizens, this need not be proven as applicants are applying with nationality from an English-speaking country.

    The innovative business to be founded

    • Must be a new business idea and not part of or intended to a join another UK company
    • Must have at least £50,000 in business funding available from inception
    • Must be verified as ‘innovative’ by an approved endorsing body who agree it is different from anything else currently available on the market
    • Must be considered viable with good potential for growth
    • Must include a scalable business idea with evidence for planning to create jobs, grow into either national or international markets and make a significant contribution to the UK.

    Approved Endorsing Bodies for Innovative Businesses

    UK Innovator Founder Visas are only granted whereby the business to be launched has been endorsed by an approved endorsing body. As of March 2024, these entities are:

    • UK Endorsing Services
    • Innovator International
    • Envestors Limited
    • The Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP).

    Each holds its own specialism and eligibility criteria.

    It is the duty of the visa applicant to contact an endorsing body ahead of making any applications through the Innovator Visa route.

    The endorsing body must have agreed to and supplied a full written endorsement (an endorsement letter) of the business idea in order for it to be considered eligible for this visa type.

    Applicants will need to provide evidence of structured planning documents for the proposed business, the scalable business requirement, investment funds requirement, details of the business’ founding team and any relevant intellectual property protection pending or in place.

    There are several legacy endorsing bodies but it should be noted that unless their endorsement letter was provided when they were actively developing new companies for this visa class, this will no longer be considered valid.

    Endorsing bodies are also able to provide endorsements for businesses under the Scale-Up Visa scheme for Australian entrepreneurs.

    Application Fees

    UK Innovator Founder Visas incur several costs throughout the application process.

    The standard Innovator Visa fee is £1,036 for each person covered by it, including partners and children. To extend the visa beyond the initial three-year period or to switch from another visa type to an Innovator Founder Visa costs £1,292 per person.

    Applicants should note that while the application fee must be paid in order for the visa application to be processed, it is not the only cost likely to be faced. The lengthy process of having the business proposal endorsed by a relevant body and the associated administration tasks for the application are likely to present indirect costs.

    Visa application fees are non-refundable, even where an application results in a visa refusal. To maximise your chances of application success, it is recommended that specialist legal advice is sought. Contact Total Law for guidance on your Innovator Visa application today on +44 (0)333 305 9375.

    Our immigration team can help maximise your chances of successfully obtaining a UK innovator visa. Contact Us

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      How To Apply For The UK Innovator Visa From Australia

      An Innovator Founder Visa can be applied for no earlier than three months ahead of the applicant’s intended travel to the UK. The process is as follows:

      Approach Innovative Business Endorsing Body

      An approved endorsing body must give their full written endorsement for the business proposal in an endorsement letter ahead of any visa application being made.

      These bodies endorse applicants for their business planning and acumen, ensuring that Innovator Founders are competent and able to run the company once in the UK. They will also analyse and audit the business plan, partake in some Companies House research and market awareness to ensure the proposed business really is ‘innovative’, and confirm the proposal is innovative, viable and scalable. Investment funds must have been secured ahead of an endorsement being provided.

      Collect other required documents

      Once the endorsement letter is in place for the business, the applicant must collate all other supporting documents for all parties to be named on the application form.

      Complete online visa application 

      The initial Innovator Founder Visa application form is filed online through the GOV.UK website. Any dependents and/or a partner may be named on this form and full business details must be provided.

      Pay visa fee

      The visa fee must be paid online for each party named on the Innovator Founder Visa application form. These funds clearing initiate the visa processing period.

      Attend UKVCAS biometric information appointment

      Once the application fee has been paid for the Innovator Funder Visa, the applicant must book a biometric information appointment at a local UKVCAS (UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services) service centre. The applicant must attend this appointment and supply their fingerprints, have their photo taken and provide their Australian passport. In most cases, the passport will be retained for the processing period of the Innovator Founder Visa.

      Wait for decision

      UKVCAS will contact the applicant with their decision to either grant or refuse the visa. This is always done in writing but may be accompanied by a phone call, or, in some cases, requests for further information. If the Innovator Founder Visa has been declined, information on the reasons why will be detailed alongside any relevant appeal procedure.

      Need to appeal a visa refusal? Call Total Law on +44 (0)333 305 9375 for expert support and guidance through the process.

      Collect passport

      The Innovator Founder Visa applicant will collect their passport from the UKVCAS service point once a decision has been made. Offices usually have set hours for passport collections, so check ahead of visiting.

      Travel to the UK

      If the visa has been granted, the Innovator Founder Visa Holder is free to travel to the UK as soon as it is valid.

      UK Innovator Founder Visa: Application Processing Time

      The exact amount of time it takes to process an Innovator Founder Visa is dependent on an applicant’s individual circumstances, but on average it takes three weeks from the provision of biometric information at a UKVCAS service centre.

      It may be possible to pay for expedited processing services. Contact Total Law for more information – call us today on +44 (0)333 305 9375.

      Speak to our legal team today. They can help with any matter. Contact Us

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        How Total Law Can Help

        Applying for an Innovator Founder Visa is a costly and complex process and can be difficult to navigate without the correct support. Total Law work with entrepreneurs from all across Australia and further afield to help them formulate innovative business plans and apply successfully to enter the UK and launch them.

        Our team of specialist immigration lawyers help from business conception to visa completion, and can offer support and guidance through the annual ‘check-in’ appointments with endorsement bodies, too. Call our UK office today on +44 (0)333 305 9375  for more information on how we can help and to discuss your innovative business idea.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  In Australia, UKVCAS service centres are run by a third-party business called VFS Global. There are six mainland offices (Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney) and one in Tasmania (Hobart). Each has its own opening hours and these should be checked ahead of any appointment being booked. All deal with Innovator Founder Visa applications.

                  An approved endorsing body will confirm whether or not a proposed business meets its criteria to be ‘innovative’. This means that they must be considered unique and not similar to any other company currently operating in the UK. The Innovator Founder Visa scheme only facilitates entry to the UK for entrepreneurs of businesses meeting this definition.

                  Those who have been granted an Innovator Founder Visa must meet with the endorsing body who accredited their business after 12 and 24 months of arriving in the UK. At these appointments, they will work through the business’ current standing and ensures it still meets the necessary visa requirements. If these are no longer met, the Innovator Founder Visa may be terminated early or the visa holder may choose to switch it to a different visa type.

                  The £50,000 business funding requirement for an Innovator Founder Visa sits separate to that for the financial requirement for the entrepreneur to support themselves while in the UK and there must be no cross-over of these funds.