In most cases, applicants will need to have access to at least £50,000 to invest in their business (or have already invested £50,000 in their business), but certain exceptions apply. Applicants also need to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is approved and supported by a licenced endorsing body.
The Innovator visa category is suitable for experienced businesspersons and entrepreneurs looking to set up a new business in the UK that is innovative, viable, and scalable. Applicants are expected to present a new business idea. Generally, the business will not already exist; however, where it does, the new company should not yet have fully started trading.
Up until 2019, the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa would have been the most suitable route for entrepreneurs, but the Innovator visa route has since replaced this.
Applicants can work on their own as a sole founder or as part of an entrepreneurial team, provided that each applicant is an original and significant member of the founding team.
The business idea may relate to any sector, provided the business idea is sufficiently innovative, viable and scalable. Applicants can develop other businesses and their main business idea but are not permitted to undertake employment outside of their business ventures. For example, the restriction on companies mainly engaged in property development under the previous Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa category does not apply.
If you are a senior employee of an overseas business looking to establish a commercial presence in the UK, you may consider the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa instead of the Innovator visa.
To apply for the UK Innovator visa, applicants must meet the following criteria:
You will usually need to have at least £50,000 available to invest in your UK business or have already invested £50,000 in your UK business. You may rely on money of your own or funding provided by your endorsing body.
The requirement to have a ‘viable’ and ‘scalable’ business idea means that, in practice, you may need to have more than £50,000 available to invest. Some endorsing bodies require an additional level of funding as a condition of endorsement.
The investment funds required for an Innovator visa are waived for applicants switching from the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Start-up category to pursue the same business venture or extend as an existing Innovator to follow the same business venture. However, applicants will need to demonstrate that their business is financially sustainable and that they have made significant achievements judged against their business plan.
There is also an initial application fee of £1,036 if applying from outside the UK, or £1,292 if applying to switch into the category from within the UK. You’ll also need to prove that you have enough money (known as ‘maintenance funds’) to support yourself and any dependent family members while in the UK. For the Innovator visa, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have £1,270 available for this purpose.
The time it takes for a decision to be made on your application depends on several factors, including where you made the application from, where any information is outstanding and whether you have purchased a priority service.
When applying from within the UK, you will usually receive a response within a shorter period of time than from outside the UK. Response times vary from a few weeks to months, and since you must first receive endorsement from an endorsing body, the process can take longer. The response time can be sped up by applying for a priority service, which is available to customers in many countries.
With a UK Innovator visa, you can stay in the UK for three years, with no limit on its extension.
As outlined above, the Innovator Visa also allows you to bring dependent family members with you to the UK — meaning that they can also benefit from local amenities such as healthcare and education. This could be a spouse, a civil partner or unmarried partner, a child under 18 (or over 18 if they’re currently in the UK as your dependent).
If you’re applying with your partner as a dependent, you and your partner must be able to provide evidence of a civil partnership or marriage that’s recognised in the UK.
If applying with a child aged 16 or over, they must live with you unless in full-time education at a boarding school, college or university. They cannot be married, in a civil partnership or have children, and you must financially support them. You will also need to provide documents confirming their address if they live with you.
In some cases, UK Innovator Visa holders will be eligible to apply for an Indefinite Leave to Remain status after three years of running their business in the UK, provided that they meet the requirements Indefinite leave to remain is how you settle in the UK. It gives you the right to live, work and study here for as long as you like, and apply for benefits if you’re eligible. You can use it to apply for British citizenship.
To obtain this after three years of residency, all of the following conditions must be met:
In addition to the above, at least two of the following criteria must be met:
After 12 months of holding an Indefinite Leave to Remain, you can apply for British Citizenship.
There are, however, some conditions attached to the Innovator Visa. As an Innovator Visa holder, you must work on your business full-time and are forbidden to take on outside employment.
This means another company cannot employ you. You also cannot work as a doctor or dentist in training, work as a professional sportsperson, or receive public funds such as benefits and housing assistance.
For your business proposal to be endorsed, you will need to receive a letter of endorsement from a UK Government-approved endorsing body. Endorsing bodies are selected UK higher education institutions or business organisations with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs. An approved endorsing body will need to be satisfied that your business idea meets all of the following criteria:
The endorsing body will need to be satisfied that you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures.
Our multi-lingual business consultancy team is highly experienced in helping international businesspersons and entrepreneurs to develop Innovator visa-compliant business plans that meet the criteria of being innovative, viable and scalable and are highly optimised for the UK market.
In addition, our visa consultancy team can help you with all the necessary documentation to apply to a range of suitable endorsing bodies and assist in the process of making a visa application to the UK Home Office.
Our team has helped many entrepreneurs successfully obtain Innovator or Start-up visa endorsement and Entry Clearance into the UK.
InvestUK has a 5-step process to help you apply with peace of mind. Our team will support you in areas such as;
InvestUK will support you with more than simply an Innovator visa application: our Innovator Advance Programme also provides optional business support services for your business once you have obtained a visa.
As well as a business mentoring service, InvestUK can provide you with lifestyle planning services during your time in the UK including wealth, tax management and education consultancy services.
Read our top reasons why the UK is the best place for new and experienced entrepreneurs to start a business.
Support for first-time entrepreneurs to plan, develop, apply and launch a UK business under the Start-up visa category.
InvestUK is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme established for the protection of investors does not apply.