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Commonly asked questions about the Innovator Visa

16 December 2022
Commonly asked questions about the Innovator Visa

Introduced in March 2019, the Innovator visa is one of the latest additions to the UK’s range of immigration options. The Innovator visa is for anyone who wants to set up or run a business in the UK. The business must be ‘innovative’, i.e. something new in the business field. The Innovator visa partly replaced the UK Tier 1 visa (Entrepreneur) route, which is now closed for new applicants. Here, we answer some commonly asked questions about the Innovator Visa.

What are the requirements for the Innovator Visa?

Applicants for the Innovator visa must meet the following criteria:

  • Be aged 18 or over
  • Be a genuine Innovator applicant
  • Want to set up or run a new business in the UK – applicants cannot join a business that is already trading
  • Have a new, innovative and viable business or business idea 
  • Have their business or business idea endorsed by an approved body
  • Have at least £50,000 in investment funds if setting up a new business, or have already invested £50,000 in the UK business (subject to certain exceptions)
  • Meet an English language requirement in speaking, reading, writing and listening – Level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)
  • Provide proof of enough personal savings to support themselves, and any dependants, while in the UK. There are fixed amounts the applicant will need to be able to show
  • Not be at risk of being refused under the general grounds of refusal, which include, for instance, automatic refusal on the grounds of the previous overstay, deception and/or certain criminal convictions

There are different requirements if the applicant is applying relying on the same business as the business used in a previous endorsement under the Innovator, Start-Up, or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route.

What is the application process for the Innovator Visa?

The Innovator route is a two-stage application process. Applicants will first need to apply for endorsement from an ‘endorsing body’. Once endorsed, they will be able to apply for leave to enter/remain in this category.

Endorsing bodies are on an approved list and are sector-specific. 

To obtain an endorsement, applicants must have a business plan, and the endorsing body must be satisfied that they have created or made a significant contribution to that plan. The endorsing body will want to be satisfied that the applicant will be based in the UK and involved in the day-to-day management of the business and implementation of the business plan they put forward. The endorsing body will also want to see that the applicant is either the sole founder of the business, or that they are an instrumental member of the founding team. 

Applicants must be able to prove to an endorsing body that their business idea is:

  • Innovative – the business idea must be genuine and original. It must meet new or existing market needs and/or create a competitive advantage
  • Viable – applicants will need to show they have, or are actively developing the relevant knowledge and skills to carry out the business plan, and that the plan is realistic based on the applicant’s resources
  • Has potential for growth – the business must be scalable. Applicants will need to demonstrate structured planning and potential job creation and growth in to national and international markets

The endorsement letter must be used within three months after the date it has been issued.

Can you apply for the Innovator Visa from within the UK?

Applications can make an application for an Innovator Visa from within the UK, unless the applicant was last granted permission in the UK in any of the following visa routes, or is on immigration bail: 

  • Visitor
  • Short-term student
  • Parent of a child student
  • Seasonal worker
  • Domestic worker in a private household
  • Outside of the Immigration Rules

How much does the application process cost?

Entry clearance costs approximately £1,036 for the main applicant, with the same fee for dependants. In-country applications cost approximately £1,292 for the main applicant, with the same fee for dependants. 

In addition, applicants have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge which is currently approximately £624 per person per year applied for.

How long does the Innovator Visa last for?

The Innovator visa is for three years. Applicants can apply for another three years when their visa is due to expire. There is no limit on the number of times the visa can extend. However, applicants may apply to apply for settlement once they have been in the UK for three years on an Innovator visa.

An innovator visa can be cut short if the endorsing body withdraws its endorsement.

What can’t be done on an Innovator Visa?

Innovators cannot:

  • Work as a professional sportsperson or sports coach
  • Work as a doctor or dentist in training
  • Receive public funds

We hope that you have found this post on commonly asked questions about the Innovator Visa useful. Our immigration lawyers have many years of experience in helping our clients get their visas and solve their immigration and legal issues. We’re here to provide advice when it comes to start-up and innovator visas.  Contact us here to find out more about how we can help you with your Innovator Visa application.

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