Innovator VISA

The Innovator visa category is for non-EEA nationals who are experienced businesspersons seeking to establish a business in the UK.  In most cases you will need to have access to at least £50,000 to invest in your business (or have already invested £50,000 in your business), but certain exceptions apply.  You will also need to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is approved and supported by an endorsing body.

Innovator visas are valid for 3 years and can lead directly to indefinite leave to remain in the UK at the end of this period.  Innovator visa applicants can bring their partner and any children under the age of 18 to the UK.

The Innovator visa is open to experienced business people who want to move to the UK and set up a new business in the UK which is innovative, viable and scalable. Generally, the business will not already exist.  However, where it does, the new business should not yet have fully started trading.

Meet the following requirements:

  • You want to set up or run a business in the UK

  • You are at least 18 years old

  • An endorsement letter confirms available or prior investment of £50,000

  • The applicant must pass the credibility assessment

  • B2 English language ability is required

  • Maintenance funds required for the Main Applicant are £945.

  • Endorsement for an Innovator visa

Applicants can work on their own as a sole founder, or together as part of an entrepreneurial team.  Joint venture arrangements may also be acceptable.

Endorsing Body & Criteria

The UK Innovator visa has been developed to attract a broad spectrum of entrepreneurs looking to set up business in Britain. The route however is only open to those who have secured appropriate endorsement from an appointed professional body by meeting the following criteria:

Innovation: The applicant has a genuine and actual business plan which serves new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

Viability: The applicant has skills and market awareness to successfully run the business.

Scalability: There is evidence of structured planning for job creation and growth into national markets.

The first stage requires applicants to secure endorsement from a relevant endorsing body following an assessment of your business idea against certain criteria. You will be expected to present a comprehensive business plan detailing all aspects of your business idea, including projections for growth, profit, cashflow and job creation, to demonstrate the business meets the endorsement criteria.

If you are successful in being endorsed, you can then proceed to apply to the Home Office for the Innovator visa.

Endorsing bodies have a responsibility to inform the Home Office if, at certain checkpoints (6,12, 24 months), both of the following apply:

  • The individual has not made reasonable progress with their original business venture;

  • The individual is not pursuing a new business venture that also meets the endorsement criteria set out in the immigration rules.

It is important to note an Innovator visa may be refused. Alternatively, if your endorsement is withdrawn, your visa could be cut short. In both cases, you would need to reapply with new endorsement.

The government operates a list of authorised bodies and organisations permitted to endorse Innovator visa applications. Contact us for advice on making your application to the relevant endorsing body.

The Innovator visa allows you to do:

Permitted to work on your business and can several businesses;

You can work for your business, including as a director. However, you are restricted from doing any work outside your business, such as being employed by a separate business;

You will have no access to any public funds with an Innovator visa;

Dependant family members such as your partner or children are eligible to come to the UK with you through an Innovator visa.

Duration of the Innovator visa

Leave under the innovator route will be granted for three years at a time, with no maximum time limit placed on visa holders under this category.

Individuals will however have to reconfirm endorsement should they wish to extend their leave at the three year stage or apply for settlement.

Switching to the Innovator route

It may be possible to switch to the innovator route if you are in the UK lawfully under one of the following categories:

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)

Tier 2

Visitor (Prospective Entrepreneur)

Settlement under the Innovator route.

You have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that is satisfied that you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement, you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures;

You satisfy at least two of the following:

  • At least £50,000 has been invested into the business;

  • The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers, with a salary of at least £25,000 a year;

  • The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers;

  • The number of customers has at least doubled within the most recent 3 years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services;

  • The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK;

  • The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts;

  • The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.

  • You have spent not more than 180 days outside the UK in any rolling 12 month period during the 3 years prior to the date of application;

  • You have sufficient knowledge of the English language and Life in the UK.

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