Innovator Visa

The Innovator Visa offers international entrepreneurs the opportunity to invest in a UK-based business venture.

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Summary of Immigration History

The Innovator Visa: Unlocking Business Opportunities in the UK

The Innovator Visa offers international entrepreneurs the opportunity to invest in a UK-based business venture. To be eligible for this visa, applicants must secure an endorsement from an approved endorsing body and possess a minimum investment of £50,000 for their business.

The UK Innovator Visa, introduced in April 2019 to replace the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, is tailored for experienced business individuals seeking to establish a business presence in the UK. A minimum investment of £50,000 is required, and the business proposal must receive endorsement from a recognized endorsing body.

This visa is granted for an initial three-year period, with the possibility of a three-year extension. In certain cases, Innovator Visa holders may qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain status in the UK after just three years of lawful residency.

Meeting the Innovator Visa Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the Innovator Visa, applicants must fulfill specific requirements. Eligible candidates must:

  • Originate from outside the EEA and Switzerland.
  •  Be at least 18 years old.
  • Possess a minimum investment of £50,000 if establishing a new business.
  • Present a business idea that has garnered endorsement from an approved endorsing body (with endorsement not having been withdrawn prior to the Home Office’s consideration).
  • Satisfy the English language proficiency requirement.
  • Meet prescribed personal financial thresholds.

Multiple applicants can jointly seek endorsement to serve as co-directors of the same company. However, each applicant must individually demonstrate access to £50,000 for investment.

Distinguishing the Innovator Visa from the Start-Up Visa

The Start-Up Visa represents an alternative option for entrepreneurial individuals, but it targets less experienced entrepreneurs classified as high potential. Key distinctions between the two visa categories include:

AspectStart-Up VisaInnovator Visa
Investment RequirementNo initial investment neededMinimum £50,000 investment required
Prior Business ExperienceApplicants must not have set up a UK businessEligible if the business was set up in the UK before
Duration of StaySuccessful applicants can stay for two yearsSuccessful applicants can stay for three years
Employment Outside Business VenturesPermitted to undertake work outside the businessCannot undertake any work outside of business ventures
Visa ExtensionVisa cannot be extendedVisa can be extended

Understanding the Innovator Visa Requirements

As mentioned earlier, several requirements must be met by Innovator Visa applicants for their applications to be considered:

Business Proposal

The applicant’s business proposal must adhere to the following criteria:

  •  Innovation: Demonstrating a genuine and original business plan addressing new or existing market needs that will contribute to the British economy and workforce (applicants cannot join or invest in an already trading business).
  • Viability: Proof of possessing the necessary skills, knowledge, and market awareness to successfully operate the business.
  • Scalability: Demonstrating the potential for job creation and business growth.

Innovator Visa Endorsing Bodies

One of the pivotal requirements for the Innovator Visa is securing approval for your business idea from an endorsing body. Before initiating your Innovator Visa application, you must possess an endorsement letter from an approved endorsing body. These endorsing bodies evaluate the applicant’s business proposal against the aforementioned criteria.

The endorsing body, in its letter, must specify whether it will provide the investment funds or whether the applicant has the necessary funds available for investment in the business (or has already invested). Additionally, endorsing bodies should demonstrate a track record of supporting UK entrepreneurs unless a new organization is established by another body with its own proven track record.

A comprehensive list of endorsing bodies can be found here.

English Language Requirement

Applicants must prove they possess a B2 level of English proficiency according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It’s worth noting that citizens of most native English-speaking countries are exempt from this requirement.

Exemptions from the English language requirement include individuals who:

  • Hold a degree or higher qualification taught in English, recognized by the UK NARIC.
  • Already hold a CEFR B2 level certificate in reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Citizens of specific countries are also exempt from this requirement, including but not limited to Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Canada, Jamaica, and the USA.

All other Innovator Visa applicants must pass a B2 English language test in reading, writing, speaking, and listening from an approved test provider to be eligible for the visa.

Switching to the Innovator Visa from Another UK Visa

Switching to the Innovator Visa from another UK visa is indeed possible. To be eligible, you must obtain endorsement from an approved body, just as required for a standard Innovator Visa application. If you meet the eligibility criteria and are already in the UK, you can switch from any of the following visas:

  • Start-up visa
  • Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa
  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa
  • Skilled Worker Visa
  • Visitor Visa (if you came to the UK to seek funding with supporting documentation from an endorsing body)

Additionally, if you plan to switch from a Student visa, specific conditions must apply:

  • The start date of your job falls after the completion date of your course.
  • You have been pursuing a PhD for at least 24 months.

As long as you submit your Innovator Visa application before your current visa expires, you can remain in the UK until a decision is reached.

Bringing Family Members to the UK Under an Innovator Visa

Certain family members can accompany you when you travel to the UK on an Innovator Visa, classified as your dependants. The following individuals qualify as dependants:

  • A partner.
  • A child under 18.
  • A child over 18, provided they are already in the UK as a dependant.

If you have dependants, you must maintain £630 in savings per dependant, in addition to the £945 required for your own support. Proof of possessing the necessary funds in your bank account (or the dependant’s bank account) for at least 90 days before applying for the Innovator Visa is mandatory.

Moreover, it is possible for someone residing in the UK to switch their visa to join you as a dependant. In such cases, the dependant must apply as a dependant partner or a dependant child.

Essential Documents for an Innovator Visa Application

The specific documents required for the Innovator Visa application vary depending on individual circumstances. However, the following documents are universally required:

  • Current passport or valid travel identification.
  • Evidence of passing a B2 English language test (if applicable).
  • Bank statements indicating a minimum savings balance of £945 for 90 consecutive days prior to application.
  • Proof of investment funds.
  • Tuberculosis test results, if applicable based on your country of origin.
  • Translation of any documents not in English or Welsh by an accredited translator.

It is imperative to include all necessary documents in your application, adhering to the rigorous standards set by the Home Office. Failure to do so may result in automatic rejection.

At the Immigration Secure, our team of highly experienced immigration advisors can assist you in compiling all relevant documents, ensuring that your portfolio of evidence meets the required standards.

The Innovator Visa UK Application Process

Once you have gathered all the necessary documents and secured an endorsement from an approved body, you can proceed with completing the Innovator Visa application form. The earliest you can apply for the Innovator Visa is three months before your intended travel date to the UK.

Processing Times for the Innovator Visa

If you are applying for the Innovator Visa from outside the UK, you can expect a decision from the Home Office within three weeks. Applications submitted from within the UK may take up to eight weeks to process. Dependant applications are also typically processed within eight weeks. However, processing times may be extended if the Home Office has any concerns regarding your application, possibly requiring verification of certain supporting documents.

Biometric Information Requirement

Biometric information, including fingerprints and a photograph, must be provided as part of the Innovator Visa application process. After submitting your application, you will be prompted to schedule an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services center to provide the required photo and fingerprints.

Innovator Visa Application Fees

The cost of a UK Innovator Visa application varies based on your location and individual circumstances. The fees are as follows:

  • Applicant: £1,036 (Standard Application) / £1,292 (Extension or Switch)
  • Partner and Children: £1,036 per person (Standard Application) / £1,292 per person (Extension or Switch)

Duration of Stay Under the Innovator Visa

Upon approval, you are granted a three-year stay in the UK. At the end of this period, you can extend your visa if you continue to meet the eligibility requirements and are actively involved in a UK-based business or plan to establish a new one. If your business was already endorsed in your initial Innovator Visa application, you do not need to maintain £50,000 in investment funds for the visa renewal. Additionally, you must include any dependants from your current Innovator visa in the extension application.

How Immigration Secure Can Assist You

Navigating the various visa categories and application procedures can be challenging. Immigration Secure offers expert guidance to help you choose the right Workers Visa category and ensure you meet all specific requirements for a successful application. Our services include comprehensive document checks, assistance with application forms, and the provision of a Letter of Representation to strengthen your case.

To initiate the process of obtaining your Temporary Worker Visa, please reach out to us or make an online enquiry. Our team of professionals is here to guide you through the entire application process.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Innovator Visa and who is it for?

The Innovator Visa is for international entrepreneurs who want to invest in a UK-based business venture. To be eligible, applicants must secure an endorsement from an approved endorsing body and have a minimum investment of £50,000 for their business.

How long is the Innovator Visa valid for?

The Innovator Visa is initially granted for three years, with the possibility of a three-year extension in certain cases. Some Innovator Visa holders may qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK after three years of lawful residency.

What are the eligibility criteria for the Innovator Visa?

To be eligible, applicants must meet specific requirements, including being from outside the EEA and Switzerland, being at least 18 years old, having a minimum £50,000 investment, and presenting a business idea endorsed by an approved body.

What’s the difference between the Innovator Visa and the Start-Up Visa?

The Innovator Visa requires a minimum £50,000 investment and is for experienced business individuals. In contrast, the Start-Up Visa doesn’t require an initial investment and targets less experienced entrepreneurs with high potential.

What are the requirements for the business proposal under the Innovator Visa?

The business proposal must demonstrate innovation, viability, and scalability. It should address new or existing market needs, contribute to the British economy, and be genuine and original.

How do I secure endorsement for my business idea?

You must obtain an endorsement letter from an approved endorsing body. These organizations evaluate your business proposal based on certain criteria.

What are the financial requirements for the Innovator Visa?

In addition to the investment funds, applicants must maintain a balance of at least £945 in their bank account for 90 consecutive days before applying. This cannot be fulfilled using investment funds or illegal employment income.

Is there an English language requirement for the Innovator Visa?

Yes, applicants must prove they possess a B2 level of English proficiency according to the CEFR, with some exemptions for citizens of native English-speaking countries.

Can I switch to the Innovator Visa from another UK visa?

Yes, it’s possible to switch to the Innovator Visa from several other UK visas, provided you meet the eligibility criteria and obtain endorsement from an approved body.

Can I bring my family with me under the Innovator Visa?

Yes, certain family members, including a partner and children, can accompany you as dependants. Financial requirements apply for dependants.

What documents are required for an Innovator Visa application?

While specific documents may vary, universally required documents include a current passport, evidence of English language proficiency, bank statements, proof of investment funds, and any necessary translations.

How long does it take to process an Innovator Visa application?

Processing times vary but generally take up to three weeks for applications from outside the UK and up to eight weeks for applications from within the UK. Dependant applications also take around eight weeks.