The Innovator visa
With the abolition 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. The applicant will need to obtain an endorsement of their proposed business 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.
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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