UK Innovate Visa: An Overview
The Innovator Founder Visa in the UK is a visa available for start-up entrepreneurs and experienced businesspeople who wish to establish a business in the UK. Those who apply need not have a specific level of funds to invest in the proposed business idea; however, the business does need to have a scalable and viable business idea that is supported by a comprehensive business plan with endorsement from an approved body.
Those who apply for the Innovator Founder Visa do need to have generated or significantly contributed to their business idea. Innovator Founders also must have a key role in the management and development of the business on a day-to-day basis.
This visa type is valid for 3 years and can lead to ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) in the UK directly at the end of the visa’s validity. Additionally, those who apply for this visa can also bring their partner and children, who are under the age of 18, as dependents, into the UK with them.
Applicants can also apply for a 3-year extension to the original visa, should they wish. Yet, the visa does allow applicants to apply for ILR in the UK after 3 years, which is a significantly shorter period than the otherwise required 5 years typically needed for ILR.
This visa was previously known as the Innovator Visa, which replaced the Tier 1 Visa in 2019. From April 2023, this visa does not require a minimum £50,000 investment. That being said, applicants are still required to demonstrate to the endorsing body that there is a sufficient and reliable source of funding available for the business idea.
Applicants need to prove that they are eligible for this visa to apply. Applicants must satisfy UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) of the following:
- The applicant is at least 18 years of age.
- The applicant has a letter of endorsement from an approved endorsing body in the UK, which confirms the following:
- The applicant is a fit and proper person to receive endorsement under this route.
- The endorsing body has no concerns regarding the sourcing of funds invested in the business.
- The endorsing body has found no reason to believe that the business or the applicant is a beneficiary of unexplained or illicit wealth.
- The applicant has a business plan and has generated or made a significant contribution to the ideas therein.
- The applicant will have a regular day-to-day role in the completion of the business plan.
- The applicant will have at least two contact points meeting with the endorsing body at regular intervals.
- The applicant is either an instrumental member of the founding team of the business or they are the sole founder.
- The applicant has a viable, innovative, and scalable business idea.
- The endorsement letter was not issued any longer than 3 months before the date of the visa application.
- The applicant is competent in the English language to at least a Level 2 CEFR.
- Should the applicant be outside the UK or have been inside the UK for less than a year, they must show they have at least £1270 to support themselves. An additional £285 is required for a dependent partner, £315 for a child, and £200 for each additional child after this.
- The application does not fit any of the general grounds of refusal.
- The applicant has provided a TB test certificate if this is required.
The requirements that need to be satisfied will be different depending on the individual’s specific circumstances.
Additional Requirements & Documentation
The applicant will also need to obtain an endorsement to qualify for this visa, which means that they will need to meet the criteria for endorsement as well as the criteria for the visa.
Business Plan Requirements
To be able to obtain an endorsement, applicants need to construct a comprehensive business plan for the business. This business plan will need to show that the business idea is as follows:
- An innovative idea
The applicant will need to provide a genuine and original business plan that lays out in detail and with clarity how they will meet the existing or new market needs. Alternatively, it must show how they will generate a competitive advantage.
- The idea is viable
The business plan needs to show the business has a real chance of becoming successful. This means the applicant will need to show that they have the experience, business skills, market knowledge, and relevant experience to make this business successful in the UK.
- The business must be scalable
The core of the business plan will need to provide proof that there is a genuine potential for growth in this business to expand into markets on a domestic and overseas scale. The business plan should also show a realistic potential for job creation.
The most important factor in applying for this visa is that the applicant needs to have the business endorsed by an endorsing body approved in the UK. Several organisations in the UK can provide endorsements for an Innovator Founder Visa; these include:
- UK Endorsement Services
- Envestors Limited
- The Global Entrepreneurs Programme
- Innovator International
When an endorsing body is considering whether to grant an endorsement, they will consider several factors, such as:
- The need for business in the UK
- Whether the business will bring anything to existing UK markets
- If the applicant has done sufficient market research
- If there are realistic and sustainable product goals
- Whether there is a long-term plan for the business venture
- If the business will gain sufficient traction in the UK market
- Whether there is potential for growth for the business in the UK
English Language Requirement
For a successful application, applicants need to show they meet the English language requirements. This can be shown via one of the following:
- The applicant can read, speak, write, and comprehend English at a B2 Level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and has evidence to prove this.
- The applicant has a degree that was taught in English.
- The applicant is from an exempt country. These countries include Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Barbados, Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, Malta, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, New Zealand, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States of America.
Support Funding Requirement
Applicants need to show that they have enough money to support themselves during their time in the UK. This will require the applicant to have £1,270 in their bank account 28 days before they apply to satisfy this requirement.
The current application fee for the Innovator Founder Visa in the UK is £1,036 if applying from outside of the UK. Those who apply from within the UK and switch visa categories will have to pay £1,292.
There is also a £1,000 fee for the endorsement body and business sustainability funds, which are required.
The stages of an application for an Innovator Founder Visa UK are as follows:
- Prepare the business plan and ensure all factors that will be considered by the endorsing body are covered.
- Apply for the endorsement from an appropriate, approved UK endorsing body.
- Once you have received the endorsement, the applicant can now complete the online application form found on the Home Office website. The form required for this visa is dependent on whether the applicant is applying from outside the UK or if they are switching from a different visa from within the UK.
- Once the applicant has submitted their application form, they will need to prove their identity. This can be done in one of two ways. The applicant will be informed of which method they should use to prove their identity when they apply. This could be either:
- Visiting a visa application centre and having your fingerprints and photograph taken to acquire a BRP (biometric residence permit). There will be a fee that needs to be paid for the costs of having your biometrics scanned and processed; this is £19.20.
- Use the “UK Immigration: ID Check” mobile application to scan your relevant identity document.
- Pay the relevant application fee of £1,191 (if you are located outside of the UK) or £1,486 (if you are located inside of the UK). Be aware that these fees are also true for dependent family members, so applicants should ensure they have enough fees to cover all necessary fees for their family.
- Pay the fee for the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge for the duration of the visa. At the time of writing, this fee is £624 per person per year. Be sure to include this when calculating the total cost of applying.
Once the application is submitted and BRP information is taken, the applicant must await a decision on their application.
Application Processing Time
Once the applicant has made their application online, provided the relevant documentation, and proven their identity, they will typically get a decision on their visa within 3 weeks.
The applicant will be informed if their application will take longer to process, however. This can happen for several reasons, including:
- If the applicant is applying alongside a family member who will need an appointment but the primary applicant does not.
- If any of the applicant’s supporting documents need verification.
- If the applicant must attend an interview.
- Due to any personal circumstances, such as a previous criminal conviction.
Those who apply via a visa application centre can discover whether they will be able to pay to acquire a faster decision on their application. Being able to pay for a faster decision on an application is dependent on where the applicant is applying from.
Bringing Dependents With You
Your partner and children can apply to join or stay with you as dependents. If their application is successful, their visa will likely end on the same date as the primary applicants.
A dependent can be any of the following:
- The applicant’s husband, wife, unmarried, or civil partner.
- The applicant’s child under 18, including those born in the UK during the applicant’s stay.
- The applicant’s child, who is over 18.
The applicant’s partner must be able to prove the following:
- You are in a marriage or civil partnership that is recognised in the UK.
- The couple have been living together in a relationship for 2 years minimum.
The applicant child must fit the following criteria to be eligible:
- The child must live with the applicant unless they are living away from home in full-time education
- The child must not be married or in a civil partnership.
There are other business-based immigration routes into the UK, including the following four options:
- The UK Tier 1 Investor Visa
- the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Extension
- The UK Start-Up Visa
- The UK Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa
Each of these visas has specific criteria for eligibility and serves a different purpose. For example, the sole representative of an overseas business visa is for businesses that intend on sending a senior employee to the UK to establish a commercial presence for the company on UK soil.
On the other hand, the Start-Up Visa is a route for those who are new entrepreneurs and intend on establishing a business in the UK for the first time.
How Can Total Law Help?
An innovator visa is a fantastic immigration route for those who wish to invest in their business ideas in the UK. Those who apply for an Innovator Founder Visa in the UK will need to meet certain criteria for eligibility set by the Home Office.
This is why it is advisable to contact a skilled immigration lawyer to help you set up your business plan to receive endorsements and manage your application to be successful. Here at Total Law, we can help with your application. Contact us today at +44 (0)333 305 9375 or message us online, to get started.
Comprehensive immigration advice tailored to your circumstances and goals.
Designed to make your visa application as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Fast Track Package
Premium application service that ensures your visa application is submitted to meet your deadline.
Ensure you have the greatest chance of a successful appeal. We will represent you in any case.
The Advice Package
During this untimed Advice Session with our professional immigration lawyers in London, you will receive our comprehensive advice, completely tailored to your needs and your situation.
The Application Package
With our Application Package, your dedicated immigration lawyer will advise you on your application process and eligibility. Your caseworker will then complete and submit your forms to the Home Office on your behalf.
The Fast Track Package
Our Fast-Track Application Package is a premium service for those who need to submit their application in time with their deadlines. Your case will become a top priority for our lawyers and you will benefit from our highest-quality services.
The Appeal Package
By choosing our Appeal Package, you can rely on our lawyers’ legal knowledge and experience to ensure you have the highest chance of a successful appeal. We will also fully represent you in any hearings/tribunals.