Innovator Founder Visa

Start up visa

The Innovator Founder visa category is for individuals who have either held previous business experience or are start-up entrepreneurs and are looking to establish a business in the UK. Applicants of this category must have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea supporting by an endorsing body.

The applicant can be a sole founder of the business or part of an entrepreneurial team.

Once successful, an applicant will receive a visa which is valid for 3 years. Once the applicant has spent a continuous 3-year period on the innovator founder visa, the applicant may apply for an Indefinite Leave to Remain.


Requirements for an Innovator Founder Visa

The applicant must be at least 18 years old.


Eligibility to apply inside the UK

You are allowed to make an initial application in the UK for leave to remain as an innovator founder visa holder if you have not or last been granted permission:

  1. as a Visitor; or
  2. as a Short-term Student; or
  3. as a Parent of a Child Student; or
  4. as a Seasonal Worker; or
  5. as a domestic worker in a private household; or
  6. outside the Immigration Rules.


English Language Requirement

There are 3 ways in which you can show you meet the English language requirement. These include:

  1. being a national of a majority English speaking country; or
  2. passing an English language test level as listed in Appendix English Language and had taken the test at a Secure English Language Test centre – note that you must achieved the required scores in all relevant component in a single sitting; or
  3. holding a degree that was taught in English and is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree


In order to qualify for entry clearance or leave to remain under the innovator founder visa, you must show that you have enough money to support yourself (and any dependants). The maintenance requirement is detailed below:

  • You must have the adequate amount (see below) of personal savings in cash held for a consecutive 28 days before the date of application;
    • £1,270 for the main applicant
    • £285 for a dependent partner
    • £315 for a first child
    • £200 for each subsequent child

You would meet the requirements if you have been in the UK with permission for 12 months or more on the date of application.

Endorsement – New Business

You may apply for an Innovator founder visa under the “new business” criteria if:

The applicant’s business venture meets all of the requirements below:


1. Innovation

The applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

The applicant’s business plan must be realistic and achievable based on the applicant’s available resources.

2. Viability

The applicant has or be actively developing the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.

3. Scalability

There is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

The endorsing body must be reasonably satisfied that the applicant meets the above requirements and will be involved in the day to day management and development of their business and this must be stated in the endorsement letter.

Endorsement – Same Business

You may apply for an Innovator founder visa under the “same business” criteria if:

  • You are currently under the Innovator Founder or on the Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), category and are pursuing the same business you pursued when you applied for your current visa.

If you have or have last had permission as an Innovator Founder, you need to demonstrate that you have attended at least 2 Contact point meetings with your Endorsing Body at regular intervals during your period of permission or similar regular checkpoint assessments with your Legacy Endorsing Body; and confirm that you will have at least two Contact point meetings with the endorsing body at regular intervals during your period of permission.

You must show that the business is active, trading and sustainable and that you must have made significant progress against your business plan. You must ensure that your business is registered with Companies House and you must be listed as a director or member of that business.

You must also be involved in the day-to-day management and development of your business.


Applicants wishes to apply under this category must be endorsed in this category by an endorsing body or Legacy Endorsing Body  listed on the website.

The endorsement letter must not be issued more than 3 months before the date of application.


Settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain)

In order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain under the Innovator founder visa, you must have:

  • Sufficient knowledge of the English language and life in the United Kingdom; and
  • Spent a continuous 3 year period under the Innovator Founder visa category; and
  • Satisfied the endorsement criteria under the “new business” or “same business” category as explained above; and satisfied at least 2 of the requirements listed in the endorsement criteria under the “settlement” category.

Knowledge of the English language and life in the United Kingdom

The ways in which you can prove that you have sufficient knowledge of the English language is the same as explained above, under section titled “English Language Requirement”. To prove that you have sufficient knowledge of life in the United Kingdom, you must pass a “Life in the UK test” administered by a recognised body.

Continuous 3 year period

Applicants must have spent a continuous 3 year period in the UK as a holder of the Innovator founder visa to qualify for settlement. When this 3 year period is counter backwards from depends on when it is most beneficial to the applicant. It may be considered from:

  1. The date of application for indefinite leave to remain; or
  2. The date of decision; or
  3. Any date up to 28 days after the date of application

During this 3 year period, you can only be absent from the UK for maximum total of 180 days during any consecutive 12 month period. There are certain exceptions.

Endorsement Criteria – Settlement

Your business venture must have met at least 2 of the following requirements:

  • At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business.
  • The number of the business’s customers has at least doubled within the most recent 3 years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services.
  • The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK.
  • The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts.
  • The business is generating a minimum annual gross revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.
  • The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers.
  • The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for settled workers, which have an average salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any expenses).

If you are relying on the creation of jobs, you must also ensure the following is met:

  1. The jobs existed for at least 12 months and comply with all relevant UK legislation, including (but not limited to) the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and the Working Time Regulations 1998
  2. Each of the jobs involve an average of at least 30 hours of paid work per week, but two or more-part time jobs that add up to 30 hours per week may be combined to represent the equivalent of a single full-time job, as long as each of the jobs has existed for at least 12 months.
  3. A job will be considered one for a settled worker if the worker met the definition of settled worker in the rules in force at the time they started the job, and they remained employed for the whole claimed 12-month period, even if they ceased to be a settled worker at a later date.

Applicants cannot rely on the same criterion twice. For example, an investment of £100,000 will only have met one criterion; it will not be counted as an investment of £50,000 made twice.

If you are part of an entrepreneurial team, each applicant cannot share the same means of meeting the criteria. For example, if 2 applicants are relying on the creation of 10 jobs, a total of 20 jobs must have been created.


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