What is the Innovator Visa?
The Innovator Visa is for individuals who wish to invest at least £500,000 into a UK business. The individual may be an entrepreneur, established businessperson, investor, or high-net-worth individual.
The Innovator Visa replaces the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa. It has been designed for individuals from outside the UK or Ireland who wish to come to the United Kingdom in order to set up a new business.
As part of the new UK’s points-based immigration system, to be eligible for the Innovator Visa, applicants must demonstrate that they have obtained the relevant number of points.
All applicants must demonstrate a B2 level of English based on the CEFR language scale, which will give the applicant 10 points.
Further, evidence of meeting the minimum financial requirements will confer another 10 points on the applicant.
- Submission of a business plan: 10 points
- Evidence that the venture is innovative, viable and scalable: 20 points
- Evidence of £50,000 available to invest: 20 points
- Proof that the applicant’s previous permission was within the Innovator, Start-up or Tier 1 route and they own a business that has been assessed by a Home Office-approved endorsing body: 10 points
- Demonstrating the business is active, trading, sustainable, and has met business plan targets: 20 points
- Evidence the applicant is significantly involved in daily operations and business development: 20 points
The allocation of the final 50 points will depend on whether the applicant is starting a new business or continuing with the same business.
Who can apply for the Innovator Visa?
You may be eligible to apply if the following situations apply to you:
- You wish to establish and run an innovative business in the UK that is demonstrably unique
- Your business or business idea has received endorsements from a relevant endorsing body
- You meet the other visa eligibility requirements
Further, you should be able to demonstrate that your business idea is entirely new and is not part of an existing business. You must also provide evidence that your business is viable, scalable, and sustainable.
There is a high level of English language ability required in order to be eligible for this visa (B2 on the CEFR scale).
If you are granted an Innovator Visa, you must abide by the conditions and restrictions of your stay. These conditions include:
- You can set up one business or a number of businesses
- You can work for the business as a director or become a self-employed member of a business partnership
- You may bring a partner and dependent children if they meet eligibility requirements
- You may travel abroad and return to the UK
- You may apply for UK settlement if you meet eligibility requirements (indefinite leave to remain)
However, you may not do any of the following on the Innovator visa:
- You cannot work outside your business or be employed by another organisation
- You cannot work in professional sports
- You cannot apply for public funds or a state pension
The full conditions of your stay will be outlined clearly if your application is granted.
As part of the Innovator Visa application, you must provide evidence that you meet the criteria by submitting relevant documents with your application.
You will be required to provide:
- Endorsement letter from an approved endorsing body confirming that they have assessed your business idea
- Valid passport or travel document to prove your identity and nationality
- Bank statements with evidence of savings of at least £1,270
- Evidence of meeting the English language requirement
- Proof that you legally own the required investment funds of £50,000
- Clear tuberculosis test results (where relevant)
If any documents are in a language other than English or Welsh, you must submit a certified translation.
You will need a blank page in your passport (front and back) in order for the visa to be added to your document.
A requirement of the Innovator Visa is showing that a relevant endorsing body has approved your business plan.
You can find a list of the endorsing bodies on the Gov.uk website. Only organisations on this list are eligible to endorse a business plan and issue this endorsement to the applicant as part of the application process.
On this page, you will find the following information on each organisation body:
- Sectors that a body endorses
- Where the organisation is based
- Where the organisation endorses businesses
- When the organisation can issue endorsements (intake level)
- Whether the organisation places restrictions on applications
What are the English language requirements?
Proving that you have the required level of English language abilities (B2 level) is a key part of the application process for the Innovator Visa.
You can provide evidence of your abilities through submission of one of the following:
- Passing a secure English language test (SELT) from an approved provider
- Holding a GCSE or equivalent qualification gained from studying at a UK school
- Holding a relevant degree level qualification taught through English
- Being a national of a relevant country recognised as a majority English-speaking country
- Evidence that you have already submitted evidence of meeting the requirement (e.g., in a previous visa application)
What are the financial requirements?
The Innovator Visa requires evidence of holding significant finances and is therefore one of the less popular immigration routes into the UK.
As well as the funds required to invest in the business, there is also a strict maintenance requirement. Below are the financial maintenance levels required by visa applicants:
- The main applicant must show evidence of £1,270 in savings
- Additional £285 for a dependent partner
- Additional £315 for a dependent child
- Additional £200 for each dependent child after the first
You will be required to show that your savings have been in your account for a consecutive period of 90 days prior to your application.
In terms of the investment funds required to receive this visa, you must show that you have £50,000 readily available to invest in a business.
Can you settle in the UK with the Innovator Visa?
It is possible to use time spent in the UK on the Innovator Visa as part of your application for permanent settlement. There is an extensive amount of information that is required to show that you are eligible for settlement.
It is a requirement that you demonstrate evidence of being present in the UK for a minimum of three years prior to your application.
You must have been normally resident in the UK for at least 180 days in any consecutive 12-month period to apply for indefinite leave to remain. If you hold this for one year, you may be eligible to apply for British citizenship.
Unlike other routes to British settlement, you will need to provide evidence of how your business has performed. Part of this is providing proof of an endorsement letter from a relevant endorsing body.
The following must be confirmed in the letter:
- Details of the endorsing body and endorsement
- Details of the applicant
- Details of the applicant’s business meeting business objectives
- Evidence of registration with Companies House
- Confirmation that the business is actively trading and is sustainable and scalable
- Proof that the applicant holds a key operational and development role
- Evidence that the business meets at least two settlement success criteria (listed below)
Business success criteria
There are a number of criteria that can be used to demonstrate the success of the business idea. It is a requirement that two of the following should be attested to by the endorsing body. These include:
- Evidence of at least £50,000 being invested into the business and spent in the advancement of the business plan
- The business has doubled its customers in the last three years and has a higher number of customers than the mean for a comparable UK service or business
- The business has undertaken research and development activities and/or applied for intellectual property protection in the UK
- The business has generated a minimum annual revenue of £1 million in the last year
- The business generates a minimum of £500,000 in the last year
- The business created the equivalent of 10 full-time jobs for settled workers
- The business created the equivalent of 5 full-time jobs for settled workers (with each salary averaging £25,000 per year)
Fees, waiting time, and switching
The fees that you pay for the Innovator Visa application will depend on your personal circumstances and where you are applying from.
If you are applying for yourself, you will pay £1,021 if applying from outside the UK. If you are applying to extend or switch your visa while in the UK, you will pay £1,277.
If you are applying on behalf of your dependent partner and/or children, their applications will be £1,021 per person if applying outside the UK, and £1,277 if extending or switching the visa inside the UK.
There is also a requirement to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge as part of your application.
For the majority of applicants, you should expect to receive a decision on your application within three weeks from the date of the submission of your biometric information.
However, this time may be reduced if you are applying from inside the UK. The earliest you can apply is three months in advance of your intended travel date.
Innovator Visa: Switching your visa
If you are already in the UK, you may be eligible to switch your current visa to the Innovator visa if you can show that you meet the eligibility criteria.
The following categories of applicants are not eligible to apply for this visa:
- Visitor visa holders
- Short-term student visa holders
- Parent of a child student visa holders
- Seasonal worker visa holders
- Domestic worker in a private household visa holder
- If you are on immigration bail
- If you are in the UK with permission to stay outside the immigration rules (e.g., on compassionate leave)
You can stay in the UK for up to three years after switching to the visa. If you meet the eligibility requirements after this time, you may be eligible to apply for settlement in the UK.
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The Innovator Visa is a route that allows eligible applicants to come to the UK to invest in a business idea. To be eligible, applicants must show that they have £50,000 in funding to invest into the business to meet targets established in a formal business plan.
Further, the business idea must be innovative, viable, and scalable, and the applicant must be officially endorsed by a recognised endorsing body.
You can apply to an endorsing body for an official endorsement on your business plan. A full list of endorsing bodies can be found at the Gov.uk website.
To receive an endorsement, it is essential to show how your business plan meetings the following requirements:
- Committed applicant
If you meet the eligibility requirements, you may be able to use the visa as a route towards citizenship.
Some visa holders will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK after being resident in the UK for three years. If granted, the applicant must hold indefinite leave to remain for one year in order to be eligible to make an application for British citizenship.