New Innovator visa attracts just four applicants in first three months

According to Home Office there have been only four applications for the new Innovator visa for foreign entrepreneurs since its introduction in April 2019. Two of those applications have been resolved, of which both were granted.

What is interesting is that the visa it replaced on 29 March 2019 — Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) — had 1,900 applications in 2018.

These figures will raise questions about the viability of the Innovator route. Aimed at experienced foreign entrepreneurs who have at least £50,000 in capital behind them, it requires applicants to be endorsed by one of a limited number of endorsement bodies.

Experts had warned that the design of the Innovator visa scheme is flawed. Issues include the frequent need to participate in a business accelerator programme to secure endorsement; having to give up equity in the start-up; and the “extremely high” bar for getting settlement.

The model is perceived as unattractive to the calibre of people who would meet the criteria for an Innovator visa, which include being able to bring their start-up business into international markets.

The Home Office said in the past that it expects to grant fewer visas under the new Innovator and Start-up routes than under the schemes they replace, however, it seems unlikely that such an insignificant number of applications would make the cost of designing and administering the route worthwhile.

The Start-up visa is off to a slightly better start. It attracted 32 entry clearance applications in its first quarter of operation, of which 25 were decided on and 23 granted. However, these numbers are still very small.

Posted on Aug 22, 2019.

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