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Innovator Founder Visa Endorsement Guidance

The Innovator Founder route was introduced on 13 April 2023. It replaces the previous Innovator visa and Start-Up visa routes. An initial Innovator Founder visa is valid for three years and can be extended. It allows applicants to bring dependent partners and children with them to the UK. 

In this post we look at the process of applying for endorsement as an Innovator Founder, including the criteria for endorsement as an Innovator Founder, the cost of endorsement and the next steps following endorsement.

Is There a List of Innovator Founder Visa Endorsing Bodies?

Yes, there is a list of Innovator Founder Visa endorsing bodies, but the number of endorsing bodies has decreased drastically from the previous Innovator route to just four. The four Innovator Founder visa endorsing bodies are:

If you have been endorsed by a legacy endorsing body, they may also be able to endorse your business. A list of these is available here.

Applicants may wish to note that there is no longer a requirement to invest £50,000 in the business. 

Under this route, visa holders are also able to undertake secondary work for employers, subject to the skill requirement at RQF Level 3. This is amongst other conditions of stay. 

This blog post details the Innovator Founder route itself in further detail. 

What Are the Costs of Endorsement as an Innovator Founder?

The Innovator Founder endorsement application itself costs £1,000, plus VAT if applicable. If endorsed, you must attend two meetings with the endorsing body which cost £500 each.

What Are Innovator Founder Visa Endorsing Bodies Looking For?

Each Innovator Founder endorsing body has its own unpublished selection criteria and is looking for slightly different things.  Although the official criteria for endorsement remain unpublished, based on our experience these are some general considerations that apply to all endorsing bodies:

  • Innovation The focus of the business plan should be on the innovative aspects of the business. It should be clear what the product/service is from the start. It should consider the uniqueness of the product/service compared in the commercial landscape in the UK. Consider what it is about the business that has not been done before or is being done better in the proposed business. The nature of the innovation will vary from sector to sector but in technology industries for example, this may include intellectual property ownership.
  • Research The business plan should present the case for the gap in the market which the business fills. Conducting market research, be it qualitative or quantitative, is very important. The business plan should establish competitors in the market and analyse their relative successes, potentially analysing these compared to the proposed business.
  • Evidence As much as possible, support your business plan with evidence. This is particularly important in areas such as research and development. 
  • The Individual You need to address why you as an individual are the suitable person to establish the business in the UK. Consider your work experience, qualifications and specialist fields. It may be necessary to set out your direct involvement with the business development, particularly if some aspects are outsourced. You can also consider additional people who may come to be involved in the business in the future.
  • Investment Although the Immigration Rules do not specify a requisite amount of funds needed to establish the business, you nevertheless need to demonstrate the financial viability of the business. This can include start-up funds and an explanation of the funds required to action points within the business plan, including salaries.
  • Growth The business plan should include a plan for growth which may include financial/sales projections, a hierarchy chart, plans for employing further workers and relevant strategies in place. It should be clear on its aims for expansion within the UK.

What Are the Next Steps Following Innovator Founder Endorsement?

Once you have been endorsed as an Innovator Founder, you will receive an endorsement letter.

You will need this letter to carry out the next step which is your immigration application for an Innovator Founder visa. The Immigration Rules contain strict requirements in terms of the evidence that must be provided in support of an Innovator Founder Visa application and endorsement by an endorsing body does not guarantee a successful visa application.  You read more about the requirements for a successful Innovator Founder visa application here.

The visa application fee is £1,036 for an applicant applying from outside the UK (plus an additional £1,036 per dependent) and £1,292 for an applicant applying to extend or switch their visa in the UK (plus an additional £1,292 per dependent).

The current processing times for the Innovator Founder visa application are 3 weeks from outside the UK or 8 weeks if you are outside the UK. These are subject to change and priority services may be available. 

Can I Obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain (Settle) as an Innovator Founder?

Yes, the Innovator Founder route is a three year route to obtaining indefinite leave to remain. However, it is worth noting that the threshold to settle is relatively high. 

The business must meet at least two of the following by the time the applicant applies for indefinite leave to remain:

  • at least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business; or
  • 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; or
  •  the business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK; or
  • the business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1million in the last full year covered by its accounts; or
  • 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; or
  • the business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for settled workers; or
  • the business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for settled workers, each of which has a mean salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any allowances).

Therefore, this can be challenging to meet and an applicant who obtains entry clearance as an Innovator Founder may choose to switch into another route when in the UK. For example, the Skilled Worker visa could be applicable. Time spent on the Innovator Founder route may not count towards a continuous period of time in the UK to settle so this is worth considering from the initial stages. 

Contact Our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance with an Innovator Founder endorsement application or visa application, contact our Immigration Barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.


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