Innovator Visa

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Innovator Visa

The Innovator Visa route is for experienced entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business in the UK. The business you wish to establish in the UK must be based on an innovative, viable and scalable business idea you have come up with, or to which you have significantly contributed. You must demonstrate that you will have a key part in the day to day running of the business and in most cases you will need to show funds of at least £50,000 to invest in your business, but some exceptions to the funding requirement may apply.

Your dependent partner and dependent children can apply to join you under this route. If you are successful in your application, you will be granted 3 years of leave in the UK at the end of which you can apply for settlement.

Requirements of the Innovator Visa Route

In order to qualify for leave to enter or remain in the UK under the Innovator Visa route, you will need to demonstrate to the UK Visas and Immigration that:

  • You are over the age of 18;
  • You are able to provide a business plan, which is supported by an endorsing body who confirms that you have generated or significantly contributed to the ideas set out in the business plan, and you will have an active day-to-day role in the implementation of those idea;
  • You have £50,000 of funds available to invest in your UK business or you have already made an investment of £50,000 in your UK business;
  • If you are setting up a new business, your business has received endorsement from a Home Office approved endorsing body which confirms that your business is innovative, viable and scalable and you will have an active day to day role in executing the business plan;
  • If you are continuing with the same business as in your initial application, your business has been assessed by a Home Office endorsing body, either as part of your previous endorsement or a fresh endorsement, confirming that your business is active, trading and sustainable and you have demonstrated significant achievements in relation to the business plan submitted as part of your initial application;
  • You are genuinely seeking entry or stay in the UK as an innovator and you have the relevant knowledge, experience and skills to implement the ideas set out in your business plan;
  • You are able to demonstrate English language ability at Level B2 CEFR;
  • If you are applying from outside the UK or you have not been in the UK for at least 12 months, you have sufficient funds to maintain yourself and your dependent family members.

The specific requirements, that may be applicable to you, will differ depending on your circumstances. You may wish to seek expert advice from an immigration lawyer.

If you wish to apply for a UK Innovator Visa, speak to one of our specialised immigration lawyers for expert advice by completing our “Enquiry Form”.

Innovative, viable and scalable business requirements

In order to qualify for an Innovator Visa you must demonstrate to the UK Visas and Immigration that you will be leading an innovative, viable and scalable business venture. To meet this requirement, the UK Visas and Immigration must be satisfied that the ideas set out in your business plan meets new or existing market needs in the United Kingdom and/or it is capable of creating a defensible business model that has a competitive advantage.

The UK Visas and Immigration will want to be satisfied that you have acquired or are actively developing the market awareness, knowledge of your industry, and the skills necessary to competently implement the ideas drawn in your business plan. You must also provide evidence that your business has plans in place for the creation of jobs and continued growth in domestic and international markets. 

You must obtain a letter from your endorsing body, which has assessed your business plans and is supporting you, to confirm that you meet all of the above requirements.

Endorsement criteria for UK Innovator visa

In order for your business idea to be endorsed, you must satisfy a Home Office approved endorsing body that your business is innovative, viable and scalable. You can meet the innovative, viable and scalable business venture criteria if you can demonstrate to the endorsing body that:

  • your business proposal meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage;
  • your business proposal is realistic and can be executed with the funds and resources at your disposal;
  • you have acquired or are actively developing the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to competently run the business in the UK; and
  • you have structured plans in place for future job creation and growth into domestic and international markets.

Your endorsement letter must confirm that the endorsing body is satisfied that you meet the innovative, viable and scalable business venture criteria. You must also satisfy the endorsing body that the majority of your stay in the UK will be spent developing your Start-up business in relation to which you have been granted leave.

Investment funds requirement for a UK Innovator visa

The Innovator Visa route requires you to show that you have at least £50,000 of funds available to invest in your business or you have already invested £50,000 in your business.

You are permitted to rely on your own funds or funds provided by the endorsing body to meet the investment funds requirements. You may also rely on rely on other sources of funding such as funds provided by a UK organisation.

Depending on the source of funding, the endorsing body must confirm in its letter of endorsement one of the following:

  • it is providing the funds of at least £50,000 itself;
  • it has verified funds of at least £50,000 which you have available for investment in your business;
  • it has verified that funds of at least £50,000 has already been invested in the business;
  • it has verified funds of at least £50,000 available from other sources.

Applying for Innovator Visa as part of a team

The UK Innovator Visa route can be used by sole founders or multiple members of an entrepreneurial team working on the same business ideas. If multiple innovators are applying for leave under the Innovator Visa route as part of the same business, each applicant must obtain endorsement from the endorsing body in their own right.

Each applicant must also show that they have funds of at least £50,000 available to them for investment or show that they have already invested funds of at least £50,000 in the business.

Where more than one member of an entrepreneurial team apply for Innovator Visa at different times, the UK Visas and Immigration will want to be satisfied that the funds of £50,000 relied on by the second application is separate to the funds relied on by the first application. The UK Visas and Immigration will also want to be satisfied that the first team member has either already invested the £50,000 they had available for investment or they still have it available for investment in the business.

Genuine Innovator Requirement

The UK Visas and Immigration, as part of their decision making process, will carry out a credibility assessment to ensure that the Innovator visa applicant genuinely intends to undertakes work relating to and implement the ideas set out in their business plan.

You must, therefore, satisfy the UK Visas and Immigration, on the balance of probability, that you are a genuine Innovator Visa applicant and will spend the majority of your stay in the UK developing the ideas stated in your business plan.

The UK Visas and Immigration will only look for factors that may give rise to suspicion that the Start-up visa application may not be genuine. Those factors include, but are not limited to previous refusals because of genuineness concerns or there having been a significant number of identical or very similar applications in the past, some of which have proved not to be genuine.

In practice, however, the UKVI will not carry out a very rigid assessment as the endorsing, that issued the endorsement letter, would have already carried out its own genuineness test.

List of Approved Innovator Visa endorsing bodies

Endorsements can only be obtained from organisations that have been approved by the Home Office. The Home Office has published a list of authorised endorsing bodies (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/endorsing-bodies-start-up/start-up) that can issue endorsements for Innovator Visa Applicants. Only organisations that appear on the list are eligible to provide valid endorsement to support Innovator Visa applicants.

Whilst some endorsing bodies accept applications from all applicants, there are some endorsing bodies that only issue endorsements to entrepreneurs that they are already working with as part of their existing incubator programmes.

Obtaining Innovator Visa endorsement

Our specialist immigration lawyers have significant experience of dealing with start-up visa applications and can assist you prepare a successful Innovator visa application. Our lawyers can also help you secure endorsement for your business by preparing tailored applications and accompanying representations to the endorsing bodies.

Financial requirements of Innovator Visa

In order to qualify for an Innovator Visa, you must demonstrate to the UK Visas and Immigration that you have sufficient funds to establish and maintain yourself and any dependents in the UK without recourse to public funds.

You must only meet the financial requirements of an Innovator Visa application if you are applying from outside the UK or if you’re applying from within the UK you have not been in the UK for at least 12 months prior to the date of your application. If you fall into one the two categories you will need to prove that you have funds of at least £1270 to support yourself, plus £285 for a dependent partner, £315 for a first child and £200 for each additional child.

Switching into the Innovator Visa category

You can submit an application for an Innovator Visa from outside the UK or from within the UK depending on your circumstances. You are per mitted to switch into the Innovator Visa route from within the UK provided that you do not currently have or your last leave was not as a Visitor, Short-term Student, Parent of a Child Student, Seasonal Worker, Domestic Worker in a Private Household or outside the Immigration Rules.

Conditions attached to grant of Innovator Visa

If you are successful in your application for an Innovator Visa, you will be granted leave subject to the following conditions:

Indefinite Leave to Remain under the Innovator Visa Route

You will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain as an Innovator after 3 years of continuous leave to remain under the Innovator Visa Category. You qualify for indefinite leave to remain as an innovator you must demonstrate that you have not been absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any rolling 12 months period in the three years leading to the date of application for ILR. You must also meet the English Language and Life in the UK Test, and satisfy other eligibility requirements for settlement under the Innovator Route.

How our lawyers can help you with your UK Innovator Visa Application

Our lawyers are specialists in UK immigration law with almost a decade of experience. We have assisted hundreds of UK Innovator Visa applicants to prepare and submit successful UK Innovator Visa applications.

Our immigration lawyers can provide you expert advice on meeting the requirements of the Immigration Rules, carry out a detailed assessment of your prospects of qualifying for a UK Innovator Visa and can assist you with the preparation and submission of your immigration application.

Our lawyers combine creative energy with deep technical legal expertise to uncover innovative, out-of-the-box and unconventional strategies that help you succeed in your application even when you’re facing inherent challenges in meeting the requirements of a UK Innovator Visa.

We do this by deploying the following:

  • Taking a holistic approach to analysing every facet of each case and formulating strategies to comprehensively address every element of the case;
  • Bringing deep technical and substantive legal expertise;
  • Collaborative strategizing among specialist lawyers, who operate at different levels of seniority, bringing a wealth of technical expertise, tactical know-how and diversity of perspective on your matter;
  • Using Design Thinking to reframe the challenges you face with a view to redefining value and opening up the scope of solutions;
  • Designing customised strategy to meet your specific challenges.

What this means for you?

If you instruct us to take on your case, our scope of work will comprise of the following:

  • Taking detailed instructions to carry out a thorough analysis of your case;
  • Assessing your eligibility for a UK Innovator Visa in line with the requirements as set out in the Immigration Rules, the accompanying Policy Documents and the wider case-law jurisprudence;
  • Notifying you of the strengths and weaknesses of your case;
  • Advising you on strategies, where possible, to remedy the weaknesses in your case and better evidence the strengths of your case;
  • Providing you detailed and customised advice on the documents you need to provide in support of your application;
  • Reviewing your documents to assess whether they meet the evidential requirements of your application and to advise you if further documents are required;
  • Drafting the application form to provide to you for review and, if required, amending the application in line with your observations;
  • Preparing a detailed letter of representations to be submitted in support of your application;
  • Submitting the application form online and arranging an appointment for the enrolment of your biometrics;
  • Responding to any queries from the Home Office regarding your application
  • Addressing any queries that you may have regarding your application and any issues arising relating to your immigration status;
  • Corresponding with the UK Visas and Immigration (Home Office) to ensure a timely decision on your application.
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