Personal Immigration

INNOVATOR

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.

What are the main eligibility 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.

For an outline of some of the issues that you may encounter when seeking endorsement, see our post ‘The Problem With Endorsing Bodies’. For information on alternatives to the Start-up and Innovator visas, see our post ‘Alternatives to the Start-up and Innovator visas’.

What else do I need to know about the Innovator visa?


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 Prospective Entrepreneur.

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.

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.  There is no maximum time limit in the category.

You will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) after spending 3 years in the Innovator visa category.

As an Innovator visa holder you will not be permitted take any employment other than working for the business or businesses that you have established.

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.
  You will also need to abide by various other conditions of stay.

Your partner and any children under the age of 18 may accompany or join you as your dependant(s).

What are the main eligibility requirements 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.

How our immigration barristers can help


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 prepare a strong application for endorsement which demonstrates that your business idea is 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, or are actively developing, 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 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 arrange an initial consultation meeting with one of our immigration barristers, contact our Innovator visa team on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

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