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Innovator Visa - Top 15 FAQ’s Answered

The Innovator visa is for experienced businesspersons seeking to establish a new business in the UK.  In this post we answer the top 15 most frequently asked questions about the Innovator visa route.

1. Do I need to apply for a Start-up visa before applying for an Innovator visa? 

If you are an experienced businessperson with at least £50,000 available to invest in your UK business then you may qualify for an Innovator visa directly, without first needing to apply for a Start-up visa. 

2. Should I apply in the Innovator or Start-up category? 

The right category will depend on your current circumstances and long term goals in the UK. The Innovator route has a quicker route to settlement, but will require initial funding of at least £50,000. The Start-up route has a lower threshold for entry, but allows more flexibility as individuals in this category are permitted to take other employment while their business gets up and running. 

3. Is there an investment funds requirement for an Innovator visa? 

You will generally need to have at least £50,000 available to invest in your UK business or have already invested £50,000 in your UK business. You may rely on money of your own or funding provided by your endorsing body. The requirement to have a ‘viable’ and ‘scalable’ business idea means that, in practice, you may need to have more than £50,000 available to invest. Some endorsing bodies require an additional level of funding as a condition of endorsement. 

This requirement is waived if switching from the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Start-up category to pursue the same business venture or extending as an existing Innovator to pursue the same business venture and, in both cases, you have shown significant achievements judged against your business plan. 

4. Where can I find out more about more Innovator visa endorsing bodies? 

The Home Office has published a list of endorsing bodies for Innovator visa applications. This list of endorsing bodies contains the names of all currently approved Innovator visa endorsing bodies, as well as links to their websites and, where available, details of their application process and endorsement criteria. Our barristers can advise you on the most appropriate endorsing bodies for your application.

5. Which endorsing body should I apply to? 

The right endorsing body for your application will depend on your individual requirements, such as the field in which your business will operate, the timing of your application, where you plan to base your business, and what support, if any, your business requires. 

6. How can Richmond Chambers help with securing Innovator visa endorsement? 

Our barristers can advise you on the most appropriate endorsing bodies for your application. Richmond Chambers is also a trusted introducer to several endorsing bodies, ensuring eligible clients direct contact with investment panel members as well as transparent and timely decision-making. 

7. Can I switch into the Innovator visa category? 

Applications for Innovator visas can be made from outside the UK, but it is also possible to switch into the Innovator visa category from within the UK provided you do not have, or were not last granted, permission as a Visitor, Short-term Student, Parent of a Child Student, Seasonal Worker, Domestic Worker in a Private Household or outside the Immigration Rules.

8. Can Innovator visa applicants join an existing business? 

The Innovator visa category is suitable for experienced businesspersons who are looking to set up a new business in the UK which is innovative, viable and scalable. Applicants are expected to present a new business idea. Generally, the business that forms the basis of the new business idea will not already exist in the UK. However, where it does, the business should not yet have fully started trading. 

9. Can I apply for an Innovator visa as part of a team? 

Innovator visa applicants can work on their own as a sole founder, or together as part of an innovator team. However, each applicant must receive their own individual endorsement from an approved endorsing body. 

Innovator team members that are required to satisfy the investment funds requirement for a new business endorsement also cannot share the same £50,000 but must instead have at least £50,000 investment funds each. 

10. Are there any restrictions on the type of business I can set up? 

Your business idea may relate to any sector, provided the business idea is sufficiently innovative, viable and scalable. Applicants can also develop other businesses as well as their main business idea. 

11. What is the role of the endorsing body once I have my Innovator visa? 

You will need to stay in contact with your endorsing body with checkpoints at 6, 12 and 24 months after your application is successful. The endorsing body will need to be satisfied that you are continuing to work on your business venture and have demonstrated reasonable progress in relation to either your original or a new business idea that is innovative, scalable and viable. Your endorsement may be withdrawn and your leave curtailed if this is not the case. 

12. How long is an Innovator visa valid for? 

Your initial Innovator visa will be valid for 3 years. 

13. Will I be able to extend my Innovator visa and apply for ILR? 

It is possible to extend an Innovator visa for periods of 3 years at a time, subject to being re-endorsed each time. There is no maximum time limit in the Innovator category. You will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) as an Innovator after spending 3 years in the Innovator visa category. 

14. Does the Innovator visa have a residence requirement? 

In order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain you will need to have spent not more than 180 days outside the UK in any rolling 12 month period during the 3 years prior to the date of application. 

15. Will I be able to undertake other work? 

As an Innovator you will be able to develop other businesses as well as your main business idea. However, you will not be permitted to take any employment other than working for the business or businesses that you have established. Any arrangement which amounts to disguised employment with another employer would breach the conditions of your stay.

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance regarding an application for a UK Innovator Visa, contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.


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