The Innovator visa category is for experienced businesspersons and entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business in the UK.

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 who are looking to set up a new business in the UK which 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 business should not yet have fully started trading.

Applicants can work on their own as a sole founder, or together 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.  For example, the restriction on companies mainly engaged in property development under the previous Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa category does not apply.   Applicants can develop other businesses as well as their main business idea, but are not permitted to undertake employment outside of their business ventures.

If you are a senior employee of an overseas business looking to establish a commercial presence in the UK then you may like to consider the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa.

In order to apply for the Innovator visa applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • You are at least 18 years old;
  • You have at least £50,000 available to invest in your UK business or have already invested £50,000 in your UK business (this requirement is waived if switching from the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Start-up category to pursue the same business venture or extending as an existing Innovator to pursue the same business venture and, in both cases, you have shown significant achievements judged against your business plan);
  • If applying to set up a new business venture, you have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that has positively assessed your business idea for innovation, viability and scalability and is satisfied that you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business venture;
  • Your endorsement letter was issued not more than 3 months before the date of your Innovator visa application;
  • You genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in your application;
  • You are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B2 (equivalent to IELTS 5.5 in reading, writing, listening and speaking);
  • If you are outside the UK or have been in the UK for less than 12 months then you have at least £1270 to support yourself, plus £285 for a dependent partner, £315 for a first child and £200 for each additional child.

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 requirement for an Innovator visa is waived for applicants switching from either the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Start-up category to pursue the same business venture or extending as an existing Innovator to pursue the same business venture.  In both cases, applicants need to have demonstrated significant achievements judged against their business plan.

In order 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 institution 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:

  • Innovation: You have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage;
  • Viability: You have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business;
  • Scalability: Your business plan shows evidence of structured planning and potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

Read the full list of endorsing bodies.

The endorsing body will also need to be satisfied that you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures. You may not take on other employment outside of your business. This includes anything that effectively amounts to employment, such as using your business to hire out your labour to another employer.

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 subsequently make a visa application to the UK Home Office.

Our team has helped over 50 entrepreneurs to successfully obtain Innovator or Start-up visa endorsement and Entry Clearance into the UK. We have a track-record of success in helping our clients to successfully obtaining an endorsement and Innovator visa.

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