Applying for a UK Innovator visa

The Innovator visa route replaced the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa and in March 2019. The new route requires a lower investment, but the individual will have to secure endorsement from an approved organisation before an application can be made to the Home Office.

Who is eligible for an Innovator visa?

The Innovator route is aimed at entrepreneurs that can demonstrate a credible business idea and their credibility in business. The route will be open to those who have already secured endorsement from an approved governing body.

The credibility of your business idea will be assessed during the initial application process by both the Home Office and your endorsing body. This will involve assessment of documentary evidence, including your business plan, and could include an interview.

You may be eligible to switch to an Innovator visa if you are currently in the UK and do not have leave in one of the following categories:

  • as a Visitor; or
  • as a Short-term Student; or
  • as a Parent of a Child Student; or
  • as a Seasonal Worker; or
  • as a domestic worker in a private household; or
  • outside the Immigration Rules.

What are the eligibility requirements?

The criteria for the Innovator category differ significantly from the previous Entrepreneur rules. Key criteria include:

  • You must receive endorsement from an approved body prior to applying for an Innovator visa. The endorsing body will review the applicant’s business plan for innovation, viability, and scalability. The rules require that the endorsing body contacts the individual at 6, 12 and 24 months from the grant of your leave – the endorsing body is required to contact the Home Office should the individual not make reasonable progress with the business, or if contact is missed;
  • You must invest at least £50,000 from a legitimate source. This has been reduced from £200,000 in the Entrepreneur category. If the applicant is switching from a Start-up visa, the investment requirement is waived;
  • You must satisfy the English language requirement to Level B2, so higher than the B1 requirement in the Entrepreneur category.

Unlike the Entrepreneur route, there are no maximum time limits set for an applicant’s stay in the UK, but applicants will be required to confirm endorsement if they apply for an extension, and must meet strict additional criteria when seeking settlement in the UK.

What are the endorsement criteria?

Prior to applying for the Innovator visa, you will need to gain endorsement from a relevant body; these are likely to include Chambers of Commerce and other business organisations.

Applicants will be expected to create a thorough business plan when applying for endorsement, alongside any other relevant supporting documentation to prove you satisfy the Innovator route requirements:

  • Innovation – You will demonstrate innovation with a business plan that meets new or existing market needs, or creates a competitive advantage
  • Viability – Show you have, or are actively developing the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to run a business successfully
  • Scalability – Provide evidence of structured planning and growth opportunities into national markets. You will also need to demonstrate the potential for job creation as a result of the endorsement

How we can help

The expert solicitors at Latitude Law can provide expert advice on all aspects of UK Innovator visa applications. We can provide detailed guidance about the requirements, or prepare the entire application alongside a detailed representation document explaining how the relevant rules are met. Our experts can also provide assistance in applications to switch to the Innovator route from another category, extend your leave or apply for settlement.

Why choose Latitude Law?

Latitude Law has extensive knowledge in all aspects of immigration, human rights, and nationality law. Our experienced solicitors have assisted clients with some of the most complex issues that can arise from visa applications, extensions and switching into other categories.

We have the largest immigration team in the North West and work tirelessly to ensure all of the necessary steps are completed to the highest standard. We are recognised as a Tier 1 immigration law firm by the Legal 500.

Innovator route Q&As

Can I switch into the Innovator category?

You may be eligible to switch to an Innovator visa if you are currently in the UK in one of the following categories:

Is there a job creation requirement?

There is a job creation requirement for the Innovator category; this is measured at settlement stage and can be either:

  • 10 full-time jobs, or
  • 5 full-time jobs each paying at least £25,000 per annum

Note there are alternative ways to measure business success, including:

  • Increased customer base
  • Significant R&D
  • Gross revenues exceeding £500,000 with £100,000 from exports

Do I need to work full-time in my business?

You must work full-time developing the business in the UK and your endorsing body must be reasonably satisfied that you will spend your entire working time in the UK focussing on the business progression. You can also form a team in the UK, but each member of the team must have access to at least £50,000 to be eligible.

When can an Innovator apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain?

You can apply for settlement / indefinite leave to remain after 3 years’ continuous residence in the Innovator category. You will also need to pass a Life in the UK test at the point of applying for residence.

Our experts

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All content on this page was reviewed by Latitude Law and is accurate as of 15/07/2021