- The application process opened on 29th March 2019. You should apply three months before you intend to travel.
The Innovator visa
After the scrapping of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa in 2018, the new innovator visa is intended to help experienced overseas entrepreneurs set up their business in the UK through an endorsement from approved bodies.
Approved applicants will have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea supported by an endorsing body with at least £50,000 available to invest.
The Immigration Rule’s Appendix W covers the innovator visa. Although there will only be information on the innovator visa on this page, the appendix also covers the Start-up visa for entrepreneur graduates.
What are the requirements of the innovator visa?
To qualify as an innovator, you must meet the following:
- The general requirements in part W3 (entry clearance or leave to remain applications), OR
- The general requirements in part W4 (indefinite leave to remain applications), AND
- One of the specific requirements in part W6 (new business, same business or criteria for indefinite leave to remain applications)
Both sets of requirements must be met in order to be granted leave to remain.
General requirements for entry clearance or leave to remain applications – part W3
- have provided all of the specified evidence
- be over 18
- be eligible to switch to the innovator visa
- not be in breach of UK immigration laws, except under the exceptions for overstaying in paragraph 39E in part 1 of the Immigration Rules apply
- not fall under the general grounds of refusal
The decision-maker must believe all of the following:
- You must genuinely be intending to undertake and are capable of undertaking any work or business activity in the UK stated in your application
- You must not intend to work in the UK in breach of your visa conditions
- Any money you claim to be available is genuinely available and that you intend to use it for the purposes described in the application
The decision-maker will also consider any of your endorsements and may consider any or all of the following:
- The credibility of evidence given
- Your previous educational, work and immigration history
- Declarations made to other governmental departments regarding your previous employment and activity in the UK
- Any other relevant information
You may be asked to attend an interview. Your application may still be considered if you do not go to the interview if you give a reasonable explanation for your absence.
Other requirements include:
- Knowledge of the English language – either by being a national of a majority English speaking country, by having a degree taught in English, by passing a Secure English Language test or by having met the language requirement in an older successful application.
- Maintenance – £945 held for 90 consecutive days in cash form in an approved financial institution. Foreign currencies will be converted to GBP using the exchange rate on oanda.com on the date of the application.
Requirements for indefinite leave to remain applications – part W4
- have provided all specified evidence for indefinite leave to remain
- have knowledge of the English language and life in the UK
- not be in breach of UK immigration laws (except under the exceptions in 39E part 1 of the Immigration Rules)
- not fall under the general grounds of refusal
- have lawful continuous residence for 3 years in the UK and your most recent grant of leave must have been in the worker category
- not have spent more than 180 days during any consecutive 12 months outside the UK
Specific requirements for the innovator visa application – part W6
You can be endorsed under either the ‘new business’ or ‘same business’ category depending on whether it is an:
- initial application (new business)
- extension application with a different business venture (new business)
- extension application with the same business venture (same business)
New business endorsement – part W6
- Endorsement – you must be endorsed by an approved endorsing body. The body must confirm the business is innovative, viable and scalable.
- To prove this endorsement – you must have an endorsement letter which includes information about you, your business and confirmation that you meet the requirements. The letter must also have contact information for the body.
- Investment funding – the endorsing body must confirm £50,000 is available to you to invest or that it has already been invested. If they do not confirm you have all of the money, you will have to show that you have the rest.
Same business endorsement – part W6
Endorsement – you must be endorsed in this category by an approved endorsing body. They must confirm:
- you have made significant achievements
- that your business is registered with Companies House and you are listed as a Director
- that your business is active and trading along with details of your role in the business
Applying for indefinite leave to remain under the innovator visa – part W6
You can apply to settle in the UK under the Innovator visa if the endorsement letter confirms both of the following:
- You meet the ‘same business’ criteria outlined above
- Your business venture meets at least any two of the following:
– At least £50,000 has been invested and was spent pursuing the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement
– If the number of customers has at least doubled in the latest 3 years and is higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering similar products/services
– The business has conducted considerable research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK
– A minimum annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last year covered by its accounts has been generated
– The business is generating a minimum annual gross revenue of £500,000 in the last year covered by its accounts with a minimum of £100,000 from exporting overseas
– Your business has created the equivalent of a minimum of 10 full-time jobs for resident workers
– Your business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers of an average gross salary of at least £25,000 a year
You can combine any two of the above; however, you cannot rely on the same criterion more than once.
How do the rules differ from the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa?
The investment amount
You are required to have access to only a minimum of £50,000 as opposed to having access to £50,000 or £200,000 on the old Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. This is perhaps one of the most significant changes that has been made.
Assessment of entrepreneurship
Endorsing bodies with a track record of supporting entrepreneurs will objectively assess and endorse prospective applicants. They will assess your business proposal against the rules as well as your skills and experience to handle the business.
The Home Office was previously in charge of all business credibility assessments under the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa’s genuine entrepreneur test, which was often critiqued.
How can NA Law help with your innovator visa application?
As immigration law specialists, NA Law will guide you from the start and answer any questions you may have about your eligibility. Here, you will be provided with a tailored, cost-effective service with only your best interests in mind.
We will also communicate with endorsing bodies to secure you an endorsement if you do not already have one. For more information on endorsing bodies and the Innovator visa, visit the following:
- Obtaining an Innovator visa endorsement
- Indefinite leave to remain (settlement) as an Innovator visa holder
Alternatively, contact us today for a case assessment!
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
When can I apply for the innovator visa?
Can I apply for the innovator visa without legal assistance?
If I fail to meet the requirements for the innovator visa, can I still make an application?
- If you do not meet the requirements for this visa it is highly likely that it will be refused. The Home Office are not flexible and they have to follow the requirements as they are laid out. If you have a complex case and would still like to apply, contact us.
Do I need to provide £50,000 for the innovator visa application upfront?
- No, all you must do is show proof that you have access to £50,000 in a bank account.
How long will it take for me to receive my innovator visa, if my application is successful?
- The decision on your visa should be within 3 weeks.
What are the requirements for ILR for the innovator visa?
- have had previous grant of leave in the innovator category
- have sufficient knowledge of the English Language and knowledge about living in the UK
- not fall under the general grounds for refusal
- not be or not have been in breach of UK immigration laws
- meet the continuous residence requirement
Do I have to apply for settlement or can I remain on the innovator visa?
- You can re-apply and stay on the innovator visa or opt for settlement in the UK once the three-year period expires.
Can I switch from a different visa type to the innovator visa?
- Visas you can switch to the innovator visa from are: Start-Up Visa, Tier 1(Graduate Entrepreneur), Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), Any Tier 2 Visa and a standard visitor visa provided you came to the UK for funding and have a letter of endorsement from an endorsing body.
Can I switch to the innovator visa from the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa?
- Yes, provided you meet the requirements and hold a valid Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa.
Is it possible to switch from the start-up visa to the innovator visa?
- Yes, you will be able to switch to the innovator visa once the two-year period has expired.
How does the innovator visa differ from the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa?
- A key difference is that the innovator visa requires £50,000 for funding instead of £200,000 for Tier 1 holders. In addition, the endorsement process consists of businesses that assess the business idea. Under Tier 1, all business assessments were made by the Home Office. [For more differences check out our page on the innovator visa].
How do I receive endorsement from an endorsing body with the innovator visa?
- Applicants will have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea with at least £50,000 investment available.
How difficult will it be to obtain an endorsement from an endorsing body?
- You should approach businesses suitable for your business idea to increase chances of endorsement. All endorsing bodies have the freedom to make their own requirements for endorsement. The individual criteria of each body influences how difficult it will be to get endorsed.
Can I be endorsed by any type of business in the UK?
- The Home Office has a list of endorsing bodies that can endorse potential applicants. On the start-up visa you can choose from a regular endorsing body or a UK university endorsing body.
What will happen if my endorsing body is no longer an endorsing body?
- If your endorsing body dissolves, they will no longer endorse you. This may affect your grant to leave. If you want to stay, you will have to re-apply with a new endorsement before the visa expires.
Can I bring dependants with me when applying for the innovator visa and what is the cost?
- Yes, you will be able to bring dependants. Applications outside the UK cost £1,021 per person; extensions or switching into the visa cost £1,277 per dependant.