This route does not accept any endorsement applications from 13 April 2023 and is replaced by Innovator Founder visa.
The Innovator visa category is designed for individuals who have had prior business experience 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.
If you are applying for an Innovator visa for the first time, you must ensure that you have at least £50,000 funds available OR already invested into your business.
Once successful, an applicant will receive a visa which is valid for no more than 3 years. Once the 3 years are over, an applicant may apply for an Indefinite Leave to Remain.
* Immigration Update 14 May 2020 – see our article here
Some of the main changes that will apply from 4th June 2020 includes:
- Emphasis on the viability criteria whereby the Business Plan submitted must be realistic to the resources available to the applicant;
- Applicant can apply for an Innovator visa if the business is already trading provided that they were one of the founders of the business;
- Innovator visa applicants can change their business venture provided that the Endorsing body is satisfied that the new venture meets all of the eligibility criteria. This means that visa applicants won’t have to apply for a new endorsement.
- Further emphasis is being made that the Home Office caseworker will be able to ask questions and raise concerns if they don’t think that the endorsement has been issued appropriately
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 visa holder if you are currently in the UK with permission to stay as:
- a Start-up migrant;
- a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) migrant; a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrant;
- a Tier 2 migrant;
- a Tier 4 General student (with restrictions);
- a visitor who has been undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur as set out in Appendix V
For all applications,
- The Applicant must genuinely intend to undertake, and is capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK as stated in their application
- You must not intend to work in the UK in breach of your conditions
- Any money that you are claiming to be available is genuinely available as described, and that you intend to use it for the purpose described in your application
- The decision maker may request additional information from yourself, or your endorsing body, and they can also decide to carry out an interview.
English Language Requirement
There are 4 ways in which you can show you meet the English language requirement. These include:
- being a national of a majority English speaking country; or
- passing an English language test level from a provider listed in Appendix O 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
- holding a degree that was taught in English and is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or
- If you have previously been granted an entry clearance or leave to remain in any of the following categories:
- Start Up
- Tier 1 (General)
- Tier 1 (Post-Study Work)
- Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) under the rules in place before 13 December 2012 Tier 2 (Minister of Religion)
- Tier 4 (General), supported by a CAS assigned on or after 21 April 2011
In order to qualify for entry clearance or leave to remain under the Innovator 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 may satisfy the maintenance requirement if the endorsing body produces a letter confirming that you have been awarded at least £1,270 in addition to the £50,000 investment funds. If the main applicant and their partner or children are applying at the same time, there must be enough maintenance funds in total of the required amount
Applicants wishes to apply under this category must be endorsed in this category by an endorsing body listed on the gov.uk website.
The endorsement letter must not be issued more than 3 months before the date of application.
Endorsement – New Business
You may apply for an Innovator visa under the “new business” criteria if:
- You are applying for an Innovator visa for the first time; or
- You wish to extend your current Innovator visa and are pursuing a different business than that which you pursued for your initial application; or
- You are currently under the Tier 1 (Graduate) Migrant or Start-Up category and are pursuing the same business you pursued when you applied for your current visa.
If you fall within the “new business” category, the endorsement letter must confirm both parts of the following:
- The applicant’s business venture meets all of the requirements below:
The applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.
The applicant has the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.
There is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.
- The endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend the majority of their working time in the UK on developing business
You must have at least £50,000 funds available to invest in the business. This may include funds which have already been invested into the business. Please note that if you are applying as part of an entrepreneurial team, each member seeking to apply for an Innovator visa must have at least £50,000 funds individually.
If your endorsement letter does not confirm that there at least £50,000 funds that are available or have already been invested into the business, there are several ways to show that you have these funds, including:
- Bank statements covering a consecutive 3 months before the date of application, showing that the funds are held in the UK in an institution regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority; or
- A bank letter, dating no earlier than 1 month before the date of application, confirming that the funds are held in regulated financial institutions and, where applicable, are transferrable to the UK; or
- Business accounts demonstrating that the funds have already been invested into the applicant’s business; or
- Business bank statements demonstrating that the funds have already been invested into the applicant’s
Endorsement – Same Business
You may apply for an Innovator visa under the “same business” criteria if:
- You are currently under the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), Start-up or Innovator category and are pursuing the same business you pursued when you applied for your current visa.
- If you fall within the “new business” category, you only need to obtain an endorsement letter that has not been 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 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 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 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 counted backwards from:
- The date of application for indefinite leave to remain; or
- The date of decision; or
- 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 plan assessed in the applicant’s previous endorsement.
- 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 resident 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:
- The jobs existed for at least 12 months and comply with all relevant UK legislation, including (but not limited to) the National Minimum Wage Regulations in effect at the time and the Working Time Regulations
- Each of the jobs involve an average of at least 30 hours of paid work per 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. However, a single full-time job of more than 30 hours of work per week does not count as more than one full-time job.
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.
Who are the Endorsing Bodies
The organisation must be one of the following
- An approved UK higher education institution which has established a process for identifying, nurturing and developing entrepreneurs among its undergraduate and postgraduate population; or
- An approved organisation which has a proven track record of supporting UK entrepreneurs, including resident workers
Sincere Immigration has successfully assist clients in obtaining an endorsement and the visa for this application. Get in touch.