The Innovator visa route opened at the end of March 2019, replacing the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. UK business immigration guidance says that the new visa category has been specifically designed for “more experienced businesspeople looking to establish a business in the UK.” Less experienced entrepreneurs are directed towards the Start-up visa route as an alternative.
Here, amid increasing interest in the immigration route, we look at how the UK Innovator visa works and whether it could be right for you and your business.
Who can apply for an Innovator visa?
The Innovator visa is aimed at experienced business founders, innovators and entrepreneurs. The route is open to experienced businesspeople looking to set up or run a business in the UK, who can demonstrate that their business idea is
- NEW – you cannot join or invest in a business that is already trading
- INNOVATIVE – you must have an original business idea which “meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage”
- VIABLE AND SCALABLE – the business plan must clearly show potential for job creation and growth, and be “realistic and achievable” based on your skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness
A separate set of “same business” endorsement criteria exists for those who have previously applied and whose last grant of leave was in the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Start-up category and are pursuing the same business venture that was assessed in the endorsement which led to that grant of leave.
How do I get an innovator visa for the UK?
Business owners and entrepreneurs from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland can apply for an Innovator visa providing that they and their business idea meet the eligibility criteria. These are outlined in detail in parts W3 (general requirements) and W6 (specific requirements for innovators) of the Home Office’s Immigration Rules Appendix W: Immigration Rules for Workers.
Here is a quick summary of the main points.
- Your business or business idea needs to be endorsed by an approved body, having passed a credibility assessment
- You must have at least £50,000 in investment funds
- You must meet the English language requirement (level B2)
- You must be at least 18 years old
- You need to be able to prove that you have enough personal savings (at least £945 for a period of 90 days, plus £630 for each dependent) to support yourself while you’re in the UK
- You must devote all of your time to the business venture (you cannot work elsewhere)
- Overseas applicants have to provide a criminal records certificate
How do you get endorsed for the UK Innovator Visa?
If you want to make an Innovator visa application, your business idea will need to be endorsed by an approved body. Only organisations on the endorsing bodies list can issue an endorsement and it is recommended that you only approach ones that are suitable for your business idea. The UK Home Office provides a full list of approved endorsing bodies within their guidance.
As mentioned above, you must have at least £50,000 in investment funds if you want to set up a new business. However, you do not need funds if your business is already established and has been endorsed for an earlier visa. There are also the other eligibility requirements regarding savings on account, the health surcharge and fees depending on where you are applying from and your personal circumstances. Click here to find out more about the innovator visa criteria and requirements.
How long does it take to get an Innovator visa?
The earliest you can apply is three months before you travel. Although the UK Home Office states that applicants should get a decision on their visa within three weeks of applying, it is important to carefully factor the above timings into your plans and ensure that your business plan takes into account the timings for application, approval and your move.
Your endorsing body will review your business plans and will follow-up with you at 6, 12 and 24-month contact points following the grant of leave. The endorsing body is required to contact the Home Office should you not have made reasonable progress with the business.
Applying for a UK Innovator visa: expert advice
The experienced business immigration solicitors at Latitude Law can provide expert advice and assistance on all aspects of UK Innovator visa applications, including detailed guidance about the requirements. Our team can also prepare the entire application alongside a detailed representation document explaining how the relevant rules are met.
Speak to the team here at Latitude Law on 0161 234 6800 or contact us here.