The Innovator visa category is for non-EEA nationals who are experienced businesspersons seeking to establish a business in the UK. In most cases you will need to have access to at least £50,000 to invest in your business (or have already invested £50,000 in your business), but certain exceptions apply.
You will also need to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is approved and supported by an endorsing body.
In order to qualify for an Innovator visa you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:
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;
If applying to continue the same business venture as in your initial application, you have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that is satisfied that you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement, you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures;
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);
You have at least £945 available to support yourself (and £630 for each dependant) without relying on public funds.
Home Office has defined the Innovation, Viability and Scalability as meeting the following criteria:
Innovation: The applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.
Viability: The applicant has, or is actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.
Scalability: There is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets.
Applications for Innovator visas can be made from outside the UK, but it is also possible to switch into the Innovator visa category from within the UK if you were last granted leave to remain as a Start-up, Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, Tier 1 Entrepreneur, Tier 2 General or Tier 2 ICT Skilled Worker or Prospective Entrepreneur.
You do not need to be the sole founder of your business and you may be a member of an innovator team. However, each applicant must receive their own individual endorsement from an approved endorsing body. Innovator team members that are required to satisfy the investment funds requirement for a new business endorsement also cannot share the same £50,000 but must instead have at least £50,000 investment funds each.
Your initial Innovator visa will be valid for 3 years. It is possible to extend an Innovator visa for periods of 3 years at a time.
There is no maximum time limit in the category.
You will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) after spending 3 years in the Innovator visa category.
As an Innovator visa holder you will not be permitted take any employment other than working for the business or businesses that you have established.
You will need to stay in contact with your endorsing body with checkpoints at 6, 12 and 24 months after your application is successful. The endorsing body will need to be satisfied that you are continuing to work on your business venture and have demonstrated reasonable progress in relation to either your original or a new business idea that is innovative, scalable and viable. Your endorsement may be withdrawn and your leave curtailed if this is not the case. You will also need to abide by various other conditions of stay.
Your partner and any children under the age of 18 may accompany or join you as your dependant(s).
Duration of Visa:
Two main applicants can apply for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa at the same time as part an ‘entrepreneurial team’ and rely on the same investment funds.
Your initial Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa will be valid for either 3 years and 4 months (if applying from overseas) or 3 years (if applying from within the UK).
You will need to register as a director of a UK company or as self-employed within 6 months, then invest your £200,000 (or £50,000) and create at least 2 full-time jobs for members of the settled population that last for at least 12 months.
You will be able to extend your stay as a Tier 1 Entrepreneur for a further 2 years, before qualifying for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) after 5 years. There is also an accelerated route to settlement as a Tier 1 Entrepreneur after 3 years if you create at least 10 new full-time jobs or your business has a turnover of at least £5 million.
In order to settle in the UK as a Tier 1 Entrepreneur, you will need to spend not more than 180 days outside the UK in any rolling 12-month period and, unless aged 65 or over, have sufficient knowledge of the English language and Life in the UK. For settlement applications made from 11 January 2018, the Home Office will consider absences from the UK on a rolling basis, rather than in separate consecutive 12-month periods. If your qualifying period includes time before this date and you believe that this change would cause you exceptionally harsh consequences, you must set out the reasons.
Your partner and any children under the age of 18 may accompany or join you as the Family Member of a PBS migrant.
As a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa holder you will not be permitted take any employment other than working for the business or businesses that you have established, joined or taken over.
Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain:
In order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain as an Innovator you will need to satisfy UK Visas & Immigration that:
You have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that is satisfied that you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement, you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures;
You satisfy at least two of the following:
At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering your business plan;
The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers, which have an average salary for at least £25,000 a year;
The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers with no average salary requirement;
The 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 at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.
You have spent not more than 180 days outside the UK in any rolling 12 month period during the 3 years prior to the date of application;
You have sufficient knowledge of the English language and Life in the UK.
If you wish to obtain advice or legal assistance in respect of your immigration matter, we offer an affordable and confidential consultation at a fixed fee with and experienced immigration lawyer where we can answer your questions and explain the processes that will apply. Your consultation fees will be set off against your instructions to the firm if you go on to instruct us.
For more information or to book an initial consultation, please contact us.