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Switching from a Start-up Visa to an Innovator Visa

Many applicants who applied for a Start-up visa when the route was opened on 29 March 2019 are now looking to extend their stay in the UK by applying for permission to remain in the Innovator visa category. In this post, we look at the requirements for switching from a Start-up visa to an Innovator visa from within the UK. 

Switching from a Start-up Visa to an Innovator visa: Validity requirements

If you currently hold a Start-up Visa then in order to extend your stay in the UK on the Innovator route you must make a valid application on the relevant specified form, pay the relevant visa application fee of £1,277 and Immigration Health Charge (£624 per year), provide your biometrics and your passport or other travel document to prove your identity and nationality. 

On the date of application, you must be 18 years old or over. You must have been issued with an endorsement letter by a Home Office approved endorsing body and this letter must be issued no more than 3 months before the date of application and have not been withdrawn.

To make an application for leave to remain in the UK as an Innovator, you must be in the UK and not have, or have last been granted, permission as:

  • a Visitor; 
  • a Short-term Student; 
  • a Parent of a Child Student;
  • a Seasonal Worker;
  • a domestic worker in a private household; or
  • outside the Immigration Rules.

It is important to note that if the requirements above are not met, the application will be deemed invalid and may be rejected and not considered.  You may wish to discuss your application to switch into the Innovator visa route with one of our specialist immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

Extension of Stay as an Innovator: New Business or Same Business?

If you hold a Start-up visa and you are looking to secure further leave to remain as an Innovator, then if you applying on the basis of a new business, you will need to have a business plan and the endorsing body must be satisfied that your business idea is innovative, viable and scalable. According to the Immigration Rules:

INN 7.1 The applicant must have an innovative, viable and scalable business venture and they must meet all the following requirements:

  • the applicant must have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage; and
  • the applicant’s business plan must be realistic and achievable based on the applicant’s available resources; and
  • the applicant must have, or be actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business; and
  • there must be evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

You must have access to £50,000 and these funds must be available to invest or have been invested in the new business.

When relying on the same business as you relied on in your Start-up visa application, you must satisfy the Home Office that:

  • Your last permission was in the Start-up route and the business has been assessed by the endorsing body either for the previous endorsement or at a contact point;
  • Your business is active, trading and sustainable and significant progress has been made against the business plan;
  • You have registered your business with Companies House and you are listed as a director of this business; and 
  • You are involved in the day to day management and development of your business.

Although the business may have been previously assessed, the endorsing body will still need to be satisfied that your business continues to be innovative, viable and scalable. Do have a look at our Top 15 Innovator FAQ’s for useful information.

English Language Requirement for Start-up Visa Holders Switching to the Innovator Route

To meet the Innovator visa English language requirement, you must show English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in reading, writing, listening and speaking to at least level B2. If switching from Start-up to Innovator, your English language ability will have already been assessed and you can rely on having met the requirement in a previous application. 

Financial Requirement for Start-up Visa Holders Changing to the Innovator Visa Route

If you have been in the UK as a Start-up visa holder for more than 12 months on the date of application, there is no need to show funds as you will automatically meet this requirement. If you have been in the UK for less than 12 months on the date of application, you must demonstrate that you have funds of at least £1,270.

Length of Grant When Switching From a Start-up Visa to an Innovator Visaa

If successful, permission will be granted for 3 years. You will not be able to access public funds and will only be allowed to work for the business(es) that you have set up. You can also study, but may require an ATAS Certificate depending on your course of study. You may be required to register with the police.

Settlement as an Innovator

Once you have switched into the Innovator route, you will need to spend a continuous period of 3 years as an Innovator in order to qualify for settlement. 

To qualify for indefinite leave to remain as an Innovator, you must also meet other requirements, including knowledge of life in the UK and obtaining an endorsement letter from an endorsing body confirming, among other things, that you have shown significant business achievements. If you have relied upon the same business as in your Start-up visa application (and not invested £50,000), the ILR requirements may be difficult to meet.  For more information, please see: Innovator Visa: Requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance with preparing an application to switch from a Start-up visa to an Innovator visa, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via our enquiry form below.


To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.

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