On 29th March 2019, the Innovator visa opened as a replacement for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category. This new category aims to encourage the development of and investments in viable, innovative and scalable businesses in the United Kingdom in order to drive economic growth.
You will need £50,000 available to invest in your business, unless you are switching from the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Start-up category, or extending your visa as an existing Innovator to pursue the same business venture. You will also need an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an approved endorsing body.
It is not a requirement to be the sole founder of your business and you may be a member of an innovator team. However, innovator team members are each required to satisfy an investment funds requirement and cannot share the same £50,000. Each member of the team must individually hold £50,000 or more.
Applicants must obtain an endorsement from an approved endorsement body. For a new business, the endorsing body will decide if the business plan and required documentation meets the endorsement criteria of innovation, viability and scalability and is genuine and credible. If so, an endorsement letter will be issued to the applicant in support of their application to the Home Office.
Innovation - The applicant must have a genuine, original business plan that is in line with new or existing market needs and/or has a competitive advantage.
Viability - The applicant is actively developing or already has the required skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to run their business successfully.
Scalability - There needs to be evidence of structured planning and of job creation prospects as well as potential to grow into national markets.
The endorsing body must be satisfied that applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures. Applicants must remain in contact with their endorsing body with checkpoints at 6, 12 and 24 months after approval of application, to allow the endorsing body to ensure that the migrant is continuously working on their business venture.
The initial Innovator visa is granted for 3 years which can be extended numerous times for additional 3 years After migrants have been in the UK for 3 years, they can apply for permission to permanently settle in the UK – Indefinite Leave to Remain. Having lived in the UK with an Indefinite Leave to Remain for 12 months, migrants can apply for British Citizenship.
Eligibility Criteria (initial application):
- Applicant should be least 18 years old;
- The business or business idea must be assessed and approved by an endorsement body, an organisation which has been approved by the Home Office to endorse applicants in the relevant category;
- Applicants must have enough money to support themselves whilst they are in the UK without recourse to public funds. They need to have had at least £945 in cash funds in their bank account for 90 consecutive days before they apply for a visa. These must be in addition to the investment funds;
- Applicant must meet the English language requirement of at least CEFR Level B2 in reading, writing, speaking and listening. There are specific circumstances where an applicant will be exempt from this. This is not required if you are a national of a majority English-speaking country, or have an academic, English-taught qualification equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, masters or PhD as recognised by NARIC.
- The immigration rules regarding the investment funds criteria are complex and can be difficult to follow. The Home Office will refuse applications where enough evidence to prove the investment funds;
- Applicants can form a team with other Innovator applicants, but cannot share the same investment funds. Each Innovator applicant must have access to at least £50,000.
Conditions of your stay in the UK with Innovator visa:
- Set up a business or several businesses;
- Work for your business - this includes being employed as a director, or self-employed as a member of a business partnership;
- Bring your dependent family members with you to the UK;
- Apply to settle in the UK after 3 years;
- Extend your visa multiple times.
- Do any work outside your business, for example be employed by another business;
- Work as a doctor or dentist in training;
- Work as a professional sportsperson;
- Receive public funds.
Switching to Innovator visa:
- It is possible to switch to Innovator category if the applicant is already in the UK on specific types of business visa.
- The earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel and should receive a decision within 3 weeks of your application;
- Priority Service may be available at some visa application centres for entry clearance applications which should result in a decision within 10 – 15 days. However, as the processing time depends on the complexity of the case, personal circumstances of the applicant and the amount of applications under consideration at a certain time, it is not guaranteed that the application will be processed quicker with Priority Service;
- For applications submitted from within the UK by switching from a different visa category, processing time is set at approximately 8 – 12 weeks.
Yes, it is possible to switch to the Innovator Visa from another UK visa.
You will need to receive endorsement from an approved body to be eligible to switch to the Innovator Visa, just as you would with a standard Innovator Visa application.
If you meet the eligibility requirements and you’re already in the UK, you could switch from one of the following visas:
- Start-up visa
- Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa
- Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa
- Skilled Worker Visa
- Visitor Visa, (if applicant came to the UK to get funding with a supporting letter from an endorsement body)
As long as you applied for the Innovator Visa before your current visa expired, you will be able to stay in the UK until a decision has been reached.
Certain family members can join you when you travel to the UK on an Innovator Visa. Your family members will be classed as dependants of you.
The following people will be classed as dependants:
- A partner
- A child under 18
- A child over 18 if currently in UK as a dependant
If you have dependants, you must have £630 in savings per dependant, in addition to the £945 you need to support yourself.
You need to prove you have the required money in your bank account (or the dependant’s bank account) for at least 90 days before you apply for the Innovator Visa.
It is also possible for a person living in the UK to switch their visa to stay with you as a dependant. In these circumstances, the dependant must apply as a dependant partner or a dependant child.
The specific documents which need to be included in the Innovator Visa application depends on your particular circumstances.
Still, the following documents will always need to be included in your portfolio of evidence:
- Current passport or other valid travel identification
- Proof of B2 English language test pass (if applicable)
- Bank statements showing that you have at least £945 in savings in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply
- Evidence of your investment funds
- Your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where the test has to be taken
Any documents which are not in English or Welsh must be translated by an accredited translator.
It is imperative that you provide all necessary documents in your application, and that they adhere to the strict Home Office standards. Failure to do so will result in an automatic rejection.
If you are applying for the Innovator Visa from outside of the UK, you can expect to receive a decision from the Home Office within three weeks. Applications made from inside the UK can take up to eight weeks. Also, dependant applications will be processed within eight weeks.
The application could take longer to process if the Home Office has any concerns about your application. For instance, you could be asked to have certain supporting documents verified.
If your application is approved, you can stay in the UK for three years.
At the end of the three years you will be able to extend your visa if you still meet the eligibility requirements and are still running a business in the UK, or want to start a new one.
If your business has already been endorsed in your original Innovator Visa application, you do not need to have £50,000 in investment funds to renew your Innovator Visa.
Also, you will need to include any dependants who are on your current Innovator visa in the Innovator Visa extension application.
The cost of a UK Innovator Visa depends on where you apply from and your specific situation.
|Who?||Standard Application||Extend or Switch|
|You (from Turkey or Macedonia)||£966||£1,222|
|Dependents||£1,021 per person||£1,277 per person|