Applicants are required to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body. The endorsements of applicants will be handled by UK trusted bodies – such as business accelerators, seed competitions and government agencies, as well as higher education providers. These bodies will assess applicants’ business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability.
The full list of endorsing bodies with programmes descriptions and application process can be found via this link.
A. Minimum requirements
With some exceptions, applicants will have funding of at least £50,000 to invest in their business.
The Innovator category to replace a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category which existed before. This category is aimed at more experienced business people seeking to establish a business in the UK.
- The Innovator category applies to experienced businesspeople.
- As well as an endorsement, applicants will need £50,000 to invest in their business from any legitimate source.
- The funding requirement will be waived for those switching from the Start-up category who have made significant achievements against their business plans.
- Endorsement for initial applications will be based on expert assessments whether applicants’ business ideas are innovative, viable and scalable.
- Endorsement for extension applications in the Innovator category will be based on assessment of whether applicants have made significant achievements against their business plans, and whether their businesses are trading.
- Applicants whose original business ideas did not succeed may re-apply, with a new business idea, for endorsement under the criteria for initial applications.
- The category may lead to settlement in the UK. Applicants may apply for settlement as soon as their businesses satisfy at least two of these criteria (innovative, viable and scalable), providing they have spent at least three years in the category.
- Endorsements for settlement applications will be made against a range of criteria – covering investment, innovation, business growth and job creation – which applicants may choose from in order to qualify for settlement.
C. Requirements for entry clearance and leave to remain
The applicant must be at least 18 years old.
The UKVI will be undertaking a new credibility assessment which entails the following requirements:
- Genuine intention to undertake, and to be capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in their application.
- The applicant does not intend to work in the UK in breach of their conditions.
- Any money which the applicant claims to be available is genuinely available as described, and the applicant intends to use it for the purposes described in the application.
The UKVI will further take into account any endorsement of the applicant and may also take into account additional factors:
- the evidence the applicant has submitted and its credibility;
- the applicant’s previous educational, work and immigration history;
- declarations made to other government departments regarding the applicant’s previous employment and other activity in the UK;
- any other relevant information.
The UKVI may ask the applicant to attend an interview or to provide additional information and evidence.
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All applicants for entry clearance, leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain must have been endorsed in this category by an endorsing body. The endorsement letter issued by the endorsing body will have to contain the following information:
- the name of the endorsing body;
- the endorsement reference number;
- the date of issue, which must be no earlier than 3 months before the date of application;
- the applicant’s name, date of birth, nationality and passport number;
- a short description of the applicant’s business venture and the main products or services it provides;
- confirmation that the applicant’s business venture meets the endorsement criteria;
- the name and contact details (telephone number, email and workplace address) of an individual at the endorsing body who will verify the contents of the letter to the Home Office if requested.
There are additional criteria depending if the endorsement is under the new business criteria or same business criteria.
The applicant can choose to apply as a sole founder of the business or as a member of an entrepreneurial team.
(There must be at least £50,000 investment funds available for each Innovator team member.)
The endorsement letter must confirm both following features:
1. *That the applicant’s business venture meets all of the three endorsement requirements:
Innovation - the applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.
Viability - the applicant has, or is actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.
Scalability - there is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets.
2. That the endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend the majority of their working time in the UK on developing business ventures.
If the endorsement was given under the new business endorsement, at least £50,000 funds must be available to the applicant to invest in their business.
If the endorsement was given under the same business criteria the endorsement letter must confirm all of the following:
- The applicant has shown significant achievements, judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement.
- The applicant’s business is registered with Companies House and the applicant is listed as a director or member of that business.
- The business is active and trading.
- The business appears to be sustainable for at least the following 12 months, based on its assets and expected income, weighed against its current and planned expenses.
- The applicant has demonstrated an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business.
- The endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on continuing to develop business ventures.
There will be a full list of endorsing bodies.
The applicants will be asked to stay in contact with their respective endorsing body with checkpoints after 6, 12 and 24 months after their application is granted.
The endorsing bodies will monitor whether the applicants are continuing to work on their business ventures and have either demonstrated reasonable progress with their original ideas or are pursuing new business ideas that are also innovative, viable and scalable.
An applicant will need to show maintenance funds of £1,270 for at least 28 days before the date of application.
The applicant does not need to provide evidence of maintenance funds if the letter from their endorsing body confirms that they have been awarded at least £1,270.
In addition to the £1,270 you must have to support yourself, you - or your partner or child - will need:
- £285 for your partner
- £315 for one child
- £200 for each additional child
The applicant must have good command of English to be able to communicate with variety of business organisations and potential customers. This can be demonstrated by one of the following:
- being a national of a majority English speaking country;
- passing an English language test proving a knowledge of English equivalent to level B2 of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework (please refer to the Approved English Tests Providers List);
- holding a degree taught in English and equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or above.
Alternatively, the applicant can meet the English language requirement by demonstrating that they met the requirement in a previous successful application and they must have had a previous grant of entry clearance or leave to remain in any of the following categories:
- Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) – currently called Minister of Religion Visa;
- Tier 4 (General), supported by a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) – currently called Student Visa
D. Periods and conditions of grant
Leave to enter or remain will be granted for up to 3 years initially and can be extended for up to 3 years. There is no maximum time limit in this category and the route can lead to settlement (subject to other requirements).
If the applicant is granted leave in the Innovator category, no employment other than working for the business the applicant established is allowed.
E. Additional requirements for settlement
The applicant must have spent a continuous 3 year period lawfully in the UK, with their last leave being in the Innovator category, to qualify for settlement and comply with the conditions of their most recent leave.
If the applicant is making a settlement application, they need to obtain an endorsement letter which must confirm both of the following:
- The applicant meets all of these ‘same business’ endorsement criteria:
- Significant achievements, judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement.
- Registration with Companies House and the applicant is listed as a director or member of that business.
- The business must be active and trading.
- The business appears to be sustainable for at least the following 12 months.
- The applicant plays an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business.
- And, the applicant’s business venture meets at least two of the following requirements:
- At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent.
- The number of the business’s customers has at least doubled within the most recent 3 years.
- 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.
- The business is generating 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.
- The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers.
- The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers, which have an average salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any expenses).
The applicant may combine the above criteria even if they are similar (for example if the business has annual revenue if £1million, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas, then two criteria have been met).
If the applicant is relying on the criteria for creating jobs:
- The jobs must have existed for at least 12 months and comply with all relevant UK legislation.
- Each of the jobs must involve an average of at least 30 hours of paid work per week.
- Part time jobs that add up to 30 hours per week may be combined to represent the equivalent of a single fulltime job, as long as each of the jobs has existed for at least 12 months.
- A single full-time job of more than 30 hours of work per week does not count as more than one full-time job.
An applicant cannot qualify by relying on the same criterion twice (an applicant who has invested £100,000 [2 x £50,000] in their business venture will be considered to have met one criterion, not two).
If the business venture has one or more other team members who are applying for, or have been granted, settlement in the Innovator category, they cannot share the same means of meeting these criteria. For example, if two applicants are both relying on the requirement to have created 10 jobs, 20 jobs must have been created in total.
The requirements relating to naturalization applications have not been affected and even if they obtain ILR on completing three years’ residence they would still be required to wait for another 2 years and comply with the residence and other requirements in order to apply for naturalization.
You might be able to apply to change (‘switch’) to an Innovator visa if you’re already in the UK on a different type of visa, with the exception of:
- a visit visa
- a short-term student visa
- a Parent of a Child Student visa
- a seasonal worker visa
- a domestic worker in a private household visa
- immigration bail
- permission to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds
An applicant can bring dependants to the UK and dependants already in the UK can apply for leave as dependants in this category, subject to the dependant maintenance requirements. Dependants will now be allowed to apply from within the UK, as long as they are not here illegally, as visitors, or on temporary admission or temporary release.
H. What is allowed and prohibited on the Innovator Visa
On this visa, you are allowed to:
- 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 partner and children with you as your ‘dependants’, if they’re eligible – spouse and children under 18 years old
- travel abroad and return to the UK
- apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) if you’ve lived in the UK for 3 years and meet the other eligibility requirements
On this visa, you are not allowed to:
- do any work outside your business, for example work where you’re employed by another business
- work as a professional sportsperson, for example a sports coach
- apply for most benefits (public funds), or the State Pension
I. Administrative Review (Entry clearance, extension and settlement applications)
If the entry clearance, extension or settlement application is refused by the ECO in the British Diplomatic post or by the Home Office, the applicant will be given a right to make a request for a review of the decision that must be exercised within 28 days of the date of service of the decision if application was submitted outside the UK or 14 days if application is made inside the UK. The applicant will only be able to rely on the information/documents already submitted with the application and will not be allowed to provide or submit any fresh evidence with the review request.
It is therefore strongly advised to take professional help while making grounds for making review request.
We can advise on the procedure, requirements and merits of making an application for leave to enter or remain in the Innovator category.
We can advise and represent our clients in making representations in support of their immigration matters
We can advise and represent our clients’ dependants to seek dependant visas in line with the visa of the main applicant
We can advise on the merits of an administrative review in the event of any refusal
Whatever the case, we are here to assist, advise and represent our clients in relation to any aspect of their immigration matters.