Innovator Visa Endorsement

The Innovator visa is a newly established visa route for experienced overseas entrepreneurs seeking to set up a business venture in the UK. Successful applicants will have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea that will need to be endorsed by an approved endorsing body.

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What will an Endorsing body do?

Endorsing bodies can include incubators, accelerators, government agencies and business development organisations that have a proven track record of supporting UK entrepreneurs or can prove a connection to another body with its own track record.

Endorsing bodies will be responsible for issuing endorsements to the applicants by assessing their business venture, staying in touch with the applicant to monitor their progress and issuing further endorsements where relevant. They will not make immigration decisions for the applicant – securing an endorsement does not mean securing a visa. 

The current list of approved Endorsing bodies:

  • The Bakery

The Bakery endorses bona-fide entrepreneurs who qualify for their corporate

innovation programmes. Find out more on their website.

  • Bethnal Green Ventures

BGV is an early stage investor in tech for good companies who only endorse

start-up entrepreneurs accepted onto their support programme – visit their website

for more information.

  • Capital enterprise

Capital Enterprise will only be endorsing founders within our community. You

can read more here. Check back as this may change with time.

  • CyLon

CyLon is interested in hearing from emerging cyber security companies or

entrepreneurs planning on setting up an innovative cyber start-up.

  • Deep Science Ventures

Apply here if you are a scientist or engineer determined to start a deep science

company. You can apply through their current opportunities page.

  • Founders Factory

Founders Factory is an award-winning tech startup accelerator and incubator.

Read more about them here.

  • Ignite

They only endorse applicants who are successful in applying for one of their

accelerator programmes.

  • Invest Northern Ireland

Invest NI endorses entities for Start-up/Innovator Visas via participation on its

Accelerator Program or requests from Client companies only.

  • Kollider

Kollider is a high growth business incubator. They endorse members with

innovative ideas in the creative, digital and tech sectors expected to scale in

their markets within 24 months. Find out more here.

  • Level 39

Level39 only endorses those involved in FinTech, cyber security, smart cities,

retail tech and other globally ambitious tech business.

  • MDR LAB

MDR LAB is an accelerator for tech start-ups in the legal space. They only

endorse migrants accepted onto their 10-week May-July programme.

  • MedCity

MedCity supports collaboration, investment, entrepreneurship and industry

within the life sciences across Greater South-East of England.

  • NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • Royal Bank of Scotland Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • Scottish EDGE

Scottish EDGE can endorse winners of its bi-annual funding competition for

innovative, high-growth potential Scottish businesses. Approx. 6% of

applicants win.

  • Seedcamp

Seedcamp invest early in world-class founders attacking large, global markets and

solving real problems using technology.

  • SeedHaus
  • SETsquared Bristol

SETsquared Bristol incubator will only endorse technology start-ups meeting entry criteria to their incubator and looking to establish an office in Bristol. You can get more information here.

  • Startup Funding Club
  • Tech Nation

Tech Nation focuses on entrepreneurs of product-led digital technology

businesses and commences work as an endorsing body in September 2019.

  • Techstars London

Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed.

Techstars runs two accelerator programs in London: Techstars London

and Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars.

  • Tech X

Unique tech accelerator & incubator for global start-ups looking to transform

the Energy Sector – offers unparalleled funding and support.

  • The Royal Society of Edinburgh

They only provide endorsement to our awardees who have received an RSE Enterprise Fellowship.

  • Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • Wayra
  • Zinc

For a further list of endorsing bodies click here.

The flexibility of Endorsing bodies

There is no set way to apply for an endorsement; the procedure varies according to the nature of each individual body. Some endorsing bodies require for the Innovator applicant to meet specific requirements, i.e to have completed internal programmes. This means that not all applicants will be eligible for certain endorsing bodies, even if they work in the same sector as the endorsing body.

It seems the bodies have not been given strict instructions on how to determine whether a Innovator applicant is credible enough to obtain an endorsement. The Home Office, through their guidance, have made it clear that the role of the endorsing bodies will be restricted to assessing the Innovator applicant and their business venture (along with fulfilling standard compliance duties as sponsors) and that solely the Home Office will be responsible for assessing the applicant’s immigration suitability.

The Home Office will also not advise endorsing bodies on which sectors/categories to market – this has also been left up to the bodies to decide according to their suitability and objectives. The free reign given to endorsing bodies means the applicants will be assessed by experienced and knowledgeable experts who will have the ability to determine whether the business venture is innovative, viable and scalable.

The separation of the business assessment (endorsing bodies) with assessing immigration requirements (Home Office) is line with the long-standing critique of the lack of the Home Office’s ability to assess a business idea. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) in 2015 suggested that business ventures be objectively assessed by those experienced in the relevant field rather than by the Home Office itself, who are not equipped to judge the viability of complex business proposals. The new Innovator route separates the two stages of the visa – endorsement and visa application.

The Endorsement letter

Innovator Visa Endorsement criteria – new business

The endorsement letter should confirm that your business proposal has been assessed against the following:

  • Innovation – do you have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage?
  • Viability – do you, the applicant, have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully carry out the business venture?
  • Scalability – is there evidence of structure planned and potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets?

It should also confirm that the endorsing body is satisfied that you will spend your working time in the UK in the business venture relied on in the application. It can also confirm that you have the relevant funding of at least £50,000 available to invest in the business; however, it is not compulsory for the letter to confirm so.

Innovator Visa Endorsement criteria – same business

The endorsement letter should confirm that your progress in developing your business has been significant:

  • Have you made significant achievements, judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement?
  • Have you registered your business with Companies House and listed yourself as the director or member of that business?
  • Is your business active and trading?
  • Does your business appear to be sustainable for at least the next 12 months based on its assets and expected income, weighed against its current and planned expenses?
  • Have you, the applicant, demonstrated an active key role in the daily management and operation of the business?

It should also confirm that the endorsing body is satisfied that you will spend your working time in the UK in the business venture relied on in the application.

Innovator Visa Endorsement criteria – settlement in the UK

The endorsement letter should confirm that your progress in developing your business has been significant and that the business has made quantifiable achievements. The letter should confirm:

ALL of the following:

  • Have you made significant achievements, judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement?
  • Have you registered your business with Companies House and listed yourself as the director or member of that business?
  • Is your business active and trading?
  • Does your business appear to be sustainable for at least the next 12 months based on its assets and expected income, weighed against its current and planned expenses?
  • Have you, the applicant, demonstrated an active key role in the daily management and operation of the business?

And at least 2 of the following:

  • £50,000 minimum has been invested into the business and actively spent
  • The number of customers has doubled in the most recent 3 years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products of services
  • The business has engaged in significant research and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK
  • The business has generated a minimum of 1m as annual gross revenue in the last full year
  • The business is generated a minimum of £500,000 as annual gross revenue in the last full year with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas
  • The business has created the equivalent of a minimum of 10 full-time jobs for resident workers
  • The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers with an average gross salary of at least £25,000 a year

How can NA Law help you get an Innovator Visa Endorsement?

As a newly established visa, we understand that a new, overhauled process may not be clear to follow and this may raise questions about your entrepreneurial prospects in the UK. NA Law can guide you throughout the entire process, from the first consultation to obtaining an endorsement to submitting the application with the relevant supporting documents.

We can help you secure an endorsement by liaising with the most appropriate endorsing body to suit your business idea. If there is a body that is not currently an endorsing body but would like to become one, we will help you with the relevant process to do so.

Contact us today for a case assessment!

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