The Innovator Founder Visa Route
The Innovator Founder Visa Route has officially launched and will open mid-April 2023. This route is for founders, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople looking to start an innovative business in the UK.
Unlike the Innovator Visa Route, applicants are not required to show a minimum level of funds to invest. The business concept still needs to demonstrate that it is innovative, viable and scalable.
Applicants need to provide a detailed and realistic business plan, demonstrate previous experience, and obtain an official Endorsement from a UK-approved endorsing body. At this point, they will be expected to have contributed to their business idea signnificantly. They will also need to have a key role in the day-to-day management and development of their business.
Successful applicants will receive a 3-year residence in the UK to work on their newly established business and would be able to settle and apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK after 3 years provided they continued to meet the eligibility criteria under the route.
This route is most suitable for start-up founders, entrepreneurs and experienced business people looking to set up a new business in the UK coming from any sector provided the idea is confirmed to be innovative, viable and scalable. The confirmation would be in the form of an official endorsement for an appointed body.
Applicants looking to apply under the Innovator Founder Visa Route must meet the following list of requirements and that they are:
- at least 18 years old;
- have an endorsement letter from an approved UK endorsing body confirming:
- Fitness as a person to receive endorsement.
- There are no concerns over the source of any investment funds.
- There no reason to believe the existence of illicit and or unexplained wealth.
- There is a realistic business plan and either already generated or made a significant contribution to business plan concept.
- Having a day-to-day role in carrying out the business plan.
- Having at least two Contact Point future meetings with the endorsing body.
- Being the sole founder or an instrumental member of the founding team.
- The business plan is innovative, viable and scalable.
- Have an official endorsement letter issued no more than 3 months before the visa application date;
- Demonstrate competent in the English language to at least B2 level (equivalent to IELTS 5.5);
- Have at least £1,270 for maintenance unless apply from inside the UK after living for 12months under a different route;
- Have at least £285 for dependent partner, £315 for a first dependant child and £200 for each additional dependant child;
- Not fall under the general grounds for refusal;
- Able to provide a TB test certificate when required.
While it comes as great news of flexibility that applicants now do not need to show a minimum amount of investment funds to apply under the route, however this creates new test to determine whether applicants genuinely have sufficient level of funds to initially setup and grow the business as outlined in their proposed business plans.
Successfuls applicant must show that their business concept is:
- Innovative: original, genuine, business idea dealing with existing or new market problems and creating a competitive benefit.
- Viable: realistic and achievable business idea in light of available resources and necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness.
- Scalable: structured planning for growth with potential for job creation and growth into the wider markets.
Individuals who are already pursuing a business in the UK under the Innovator Visa Route and have been previously assessed but would not be able to settle would be expected to apply for a further endorsement as an Innovator Founder.
This is relevant for individuals looking to either switch from an existing route such as the start-up, Tier 1 Entrepreneur, Skilled Worker, Global Talent, Student or can not simply meeting the criteria for settlement under the old Innovator Visa Route.
Ideally, applicants under the route would go through the following five steps:
- Book a initial consultation with an immigration lawyer to assess background, business concept and proposed plans.
- Once demonstrated there is a confirmed business concept and initial suitability then approaching potential government approved endorsement bodies would the next step for a full concept assessment.
- Once the Endorsing Body is satisfied of the background, business concept and plans, then the endorsing body will carry out verifications on the source of funds before accepting a formal application for endorsement.
- Once approved an official letter will be issued confirming endorsement.
- Submit an application to the Home Office either from inside the UK or from abroad.
For entrepreneurs who have already established a business in the UK, even if innovative, they would have to consider other visa routes such the Skilled Worker Visa. For senior manager from an overseas businesses, looking to establish a commercial presence in the UK, and not looking to obtain settlement, then the UK Expansion Worker Visa would be the most ideal route.
Applicants should also note the following:
- The Home Office fees are currently set at £1,292 if applying from inside the UK or £1,036 if applying from abroad.
- Once granted the Innovator Founder visa is valid for 3 years without a buffer period so moving to the UK imminently would be required.
- There is no maximum on the number of extensions applicants can obtained provided they are re-endorsed every time they are making an application for extension under the route.
- Successful applicants must continue to meet the conditions under the route during their stay in the UK and pass the regular checkpoints meeting with their endorsing bodies.
- Unlike the old Innovator route, successful applicants would be expected to mainly work on their business but would be able to take full time employment with other businesses.
Innovator Founders can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK after 3 years if they are meeting the following criteria:
- endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body
- the endorse body is satisfied of achievements and significant progress compared to the initially proposed business plan
- the business is registered with Companies House
- the Founder is a named director on the Companies House or Member of an LLP
- the business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least another future 12 months
- the Founder is active in the day-to-day management and development of the business
- the Founder has at least two of the following:
- invested £50,000 into the business.
- created at least 5 full-time jobs for settled workers with an an average salary of £25,000 a year.
- created at least 10 full-time jobs for settled workers with at least the national minimum wage salary.
- number of customers has at least doubled within the most recent 3 years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services.
- 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 covered by its accounts.
- the business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with £100,000 from exporting overseas.
- the Founder spent 185 days inside the UK in each 12-month rolling period during the 3 years.
- the Founder passed the Life in the UK test.
GOOD ADVICE UK is one of the UK’s leading immigration law firms and our experienced team is able to guide and assist founders, innovators and entrepreneurs setup in the UK and establish themselves and ensure they are on the right track to obtain settlement and British citizenship.