Personal Immigration

INNOVATOR VISA

INNOVATOR VISA

The Innovator visa category is for non-EEA nationals who are experienced businesspersons seeking to establish a business in the UK.  In most cases you will need to have access to at least £50,000 to invest in your business (or have already invested £50,000 in your business), but certain exceptions apply.  You will also need to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is approved and supported by an endorsing body.

Innovator visas are valid for 3 years and can lead directly to indefinite leave to remain in the UK at the end of this period.  Innovator visa applicants can bring their partner and any children under the age of 18 to the UK.

Who is the Innovator visa suitable for?

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 will not already exist.  However, where it does, the new business should not yet have fully started trading.

Applicants can work on their own as a sole founder, or together as part of an entrepreneurial team.  Joint venture arrangements may also be acceptable.

The business idea may relate to any sector, provided the business idea is sufficiently innovative, viable and scalable.  For example, the restriction on companies mainly engaged in property development under the previous Tier 1 Entrepreneur category does not apply.   Applicants can develop other businesses as well as their main business idea.

If you wish to join an already trading business then the Tier 2 General Skilled Worker visa may be more appropriate.  If you wish to invest in an already trading business then you may wish to consider the Tier 1 Investor visa route.   If you are a senior employee of an overseas business looking to establish a commercial presence in the UK then you may like to consider the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa.

Requirements for an Innovator visa

In order to qualify for an Innovator visa you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:

  • You are at least 18 years old;
  • You have at least £50,000 available to invest in your UK business or have already invested £50,000 in your UK business (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);
  • If applying to set up a new business venture, you have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that has positively assessed your business idea for innovation, viability and scalability and is satisfied that you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business venture;
  • If applying to continue the same business venture as in your initial application, you have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that is satisfied that you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement, you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures;
  • Your endorsement letter was issued not more than 3 months before the date of your Innovator visa application;
  • You genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in your application;
  • You are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B2 (equivalent to IELTS 5.5 in reading, writing, listening and speaking);
  • You have at least £945 available to support yourself (and £630 for each dependant) without relying on public funds.

The exact requirements that you will need to satisfy may vary depending on the circumstances of your case. We recommend speaking to an immigration lawyer for expert advice.

To receive a free initial assessment of your suitability for an Innovator visa, complete our Innovator Visa Enquiry Form.

Investment funds requirement for an Innovator visa

You will usually 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.

The investment funds requirement for an Innovator visa is waived for applicants switching from either 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.  In both cases, applicants need to have demonstrated significant achievements judged against their business plan.

Endorsement criteria for a UK Innovator visa

In order for your business proposal to be endorsed, an approved endorsing body will need to be satisfied that your business idea meets all of the following criteria:

  • Innovation: You have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage;
  • Viability: You have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business;
  • Scalability: Your business plan shows evidence of structured planning and potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

The endorsing body will also need to be satisfied that you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures.

If you are applying to continue the same business venture as in your initial application, you will need to demonstrate significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement.  You will need to demonstrate that you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures.

List of approved Innovator visa endorsing bodies

We have published an up-to-date list of endorsing bodies for Innovator visa applications.  This list is based on information provided by the Home Office, which is updated periodically.  Our 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.

Some endorsing bodies accept open applications (often with sector and/or geographic limitations), whilst some only issue endorsements to business founders that they are already working with through their existing programmes.  

Richmond Chambers is a trusted introducer to several endorsing bodies, ensuring eligible clients direct contact with investment panel members as well as transparent and timely decision-making.  

Switching 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 if you were last granted leave to remain as a Start-up, Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, Tier 1 Entrepreneur, Tier 2 General or Tier 2 ICT Skilled Worker or Visitor (if you came to the UK to get funding and have a letter of support from an endorsing body).

Joining an existing business as an Innovator visa holder

The Innovator visa category is for people seeking to establish a new business in the UK for the first time.  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. 

If you are looking to join an existing trading business then the Innovator visa category is not an appropriate immigration route.  However, a new business that is to trade as part of a joint venture arrangement may be acceptable.  If you wish to apply for an Innovator visa on the basis of a joint venture arrangement then we recommend that you speak to an immigration lawyer.

Applying for an Innovator visa as part of a team

You do not need to be the sole founder of your business and you may be a member 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.

Innovator visa application fee

The current Home Office application fee for an Innovator visa is £1,021 if applying from outside the UK or £1,277 if applying to switch into the category from within the UK.

Innovator visa validity period

Your initial Innovator visa will be valid for 3 years.  
It is possible to extend an Innovator visa for periods of 3 years at a time, subjecting 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.

To see how our immigration barristers can support your Innovator visa application, see ‘Stages to obtaining an Innovator visa’ below.

Innovator visa conditions of stay

As an Innovator visa holder you will need to abide by various conditions of stay.

You can 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.

Innovator visa checkpoints

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.
 

Indefinite Leave to Remain as an Innovator

In order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain as an Innovator you will need to satisfy UK Visas & Immigration that:

  • You have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that is satisfied that you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement, you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures;
  • You satisfy at least two of the following:
    • At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering your business plan;
    • 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;
    • The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers with no average salary requirement;
    • The number of 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 has generated 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.
  • You 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;
  • You have sufficient knowledge of the English language and Life in the UK.

Stages to obtaining an Innovator visa

Our Innovator visa application preparation and submission service is divided into 8 discrete stages:

Stage 1 – Complete our Innovator visa enquiry form

To receive a free initial assessment of your suitability for an Innovator visa, complete our Innovator Visa Enquiry Form.  A barrister will review your responses.  We aim to respond within 24 hours.

Stage 2 – Eligibility Assessment

All endorsing bodies require that applicants have checked that they are eligible as an individual for an Innovator visa before they are contacted for endorsement.  If Stage 1 is completed successfully, we will have an initial consultation meeting where we will check that you are able to satisfy the general eligibility requirements of the Immigration Rules for an Innovator visa.

Stage 3 – Concept Assessment

All endorsing bodies require applicants to demonstrate that they have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea. We will have an initial consultation meeting where we will listen to your concept and advise as to whether it is appropriate to take forward to an endorsing body. This stage can be run concurrently with Stage 1.

Stage 4 – Introduction to Endorsing Bodies

Having successfully completed stages 1 and 2, we will formally introduce you and your business plan to up to 3 Home Office approved endorsing bodies. As a trusted introducer, Richmond Chambers can ensure direct contact with investment panel members as well as transparent, timely decision-making.

Stage 5 – Concept and Business Plan Approval

The endorsing body will have an initial consultation where you can pitch your concept and business plan. If the endorsing body feels that it is appropriate to take the proposal forward then they will spend time with you to fully understand your model, the cashflows, and other requirements they deem necessary to make sure your concept has the best prospect of being endorsed.

Stage 6 – Full KYC and Due diligence

The endorsing body will need to know everything about you and the source of your funds. This process will normally run concurrently with Stage 4.

Stage 7 – Visa Application

Having successfully passed stages 4 and 5 and secured an endorsement, we will prepare your Innovator visa application and submit it to the Home Office. The Immigration Rules contain strict requirements in terms of the evidence that must be provided in support of an Innovator visa application. We will ensure that your Innovator visa application is professionally presented, technically correct and approved first time.

Stage 8 – Approval & Mentoring

Once your Innovator visa application has been approved by the Home Office, you will be able to enter the UK to start deploying your investment funds and developing your business concept. We will continue to support you until ILR is achieved after 3 years.  Via our trusted partners, we can also provide full wealth, tax management and education consultancy services for UK schools and universities, if these services are desired.

Applying for an Innovator visa? Contact our immigration barristers 

Richmond Chambers is widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading immigration practices for Innovators.  Our immigration barristers were awarded ‘Business Immigration Chambers of the Year in England’ at the 2018 Corporate Intl Magazine Global Awards,  ‘UK Business Immigration Barrister of the Year’ at the ACQ5 Law Awards 2018 and ‘Business Immigration Set of the Year’ at the Global Law Experts Awards 2017.   The work of our immigration barristers on behalf of innovators has also been recognised through membership of the Investment Migration Council and the Department of International Trade’s Investor Support Network.

Our team of immigration barristers has experience in assisting all types of innovative entrepreneurs and their businesses.  Our barristers are experts in the immigration options for innovators and will guide you through the complex Home Office rules and policies.

We pride ourselves on being approachable and proactive in understanding and meeting our clients’ needs. We are a highly driven team, dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration advice to businesspersons as part of a professional and friendly service.

We can also assist with

  • Applications for Innovator visa endorsement by approved UK endorsing bodies

    Before you can apply for an Innovator visa, you will need to be endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body.

    If applying to set up a new business venture, our immigration barristers can assist you to identify an appropriate endorsing body and then formally introduce you to the endorsing body.  Our introductory letter will demonstrate how you satisfy the general requirements of the Immigration Rules and why your business idea should be regarded as innovative, viable and scalable.

    Innovation: You will need to satisfy the endorsing the body that you have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

    Viability: You will need to satisfy the endorsing the body that you have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run your business.

    Scalability: You will need to satisfy the endorsing the body that there is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

    Our immigration barristers can also assist you to satisfy the endorsing the body that you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business venture(s).

    If you are applying to continue the same business venture as in your initial application, our immigration barristers can assist you to prepare a strong application for endorsement which demonstrates that you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement, you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures.

  • Drafting an Innovator visa compliant business plan

    As part of your Innovator visa application, you may wish to include a detailed, genuine and original business plan.  Our immigration barristers can assist you to identify a suitably qualified professional business plan writer, instruct the business plan writer on your behalf and then liaise with the plan writer to ensure that your Innovator visa business plan satisfies the requirements of the Immigration Rules.

  • Credibility assessment interview preparation for Innovator visa applicants

    Even if you have obtained an endorsement, you will still need to satisfy the Home Office that you genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in your application.  As part is its credibility assessment, the Home Office may invite you to attend an interview.

    Our Credibility Assessment Interview Preparation sessions include:

    • Advice as to potential interview questions;
    • One-to-one interview practice with an immigration barrister;
    • Constructive feedback on all aspects of your performance;
    • Advice and tips on further preparation and how to improve on any weak areas;
    • Time for you to ask questions and/or address any other concerns that you have about your credibility assessment interview.
  • Applications for extension of stay as an Innovator

    In order to qualify for further leave to remain as an Innovator in order to continue pursuing the same business venture as in your initial application you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:

    • You are at least 18 years old;
    • You have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that is satisfied that you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement, you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures;
    • Your endorsement letter was issued not more than 3 months before the date of your Innovator visa application;
    • You genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in your application;
    • You are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B2 (equivalent to IELTS 5.5 in reading, writing, listening and speaking);
    • You have at least £945 available to support yourself (and £630 for each dependant) without relying on public funds.
  • Applications for indefinite leave to remain as an Innovator

    In order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain as an Innovator you will need to satisfy UK Visas & Immigration that:

    • You have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that is satisfied that you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement, you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures;
    • You satisfy at least two of the following:
      • At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering your business plan;
      • The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers, which have an average salary for at least £25,000 a year;
      • The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers with no average salary requirement;
      • The number of 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 has generated 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.
    • You 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;
    • You have sufficient knowledge of the English language and Life in the UK
  • Fresh applications, Administrative reviews and Judicial reviews for Innovator visa applicants

    If your application for entry clearance or leave to remain or settlement as an Innovator has been refused, our immigration barristers can advise on the merits of making a fresh application or challenging the decision.

    If the decision-maker failed to apply the Immigration Rules or Home Office policy correctly, we can bring Administrative Review proceedings to challenge the decision.

    If the decision to refuse your application was unlawful, unreasonable or procedurally improper, our immigration barristers can apply for Judicial Review and provide representation at Judicial Review hearings.

WHAT CAN WE HELP YOU WITH?

To discuss your Innovator visa application with one of our immigration barristers, contact our Innovator visa lawyers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

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