The UK Innovator visa category is for individuals seeking to establish a business in the UK. Typically, you will need to have access to £50,000 to invest in your business (or have already invested £50,000 in your business), at the least. You need to have a business idea that is innovative, feasible and scalable and approved and supported by an endorsing body.
Validity of Innovator visas are for 3 years and often lead to indefinite leave to remain in the UK at its end. Innovator visa applicants can bring their dependents (partners and any children under the age of 18) to the UK.
Who is the Innovator visa suitable for?
The UK Innovator visa category is suitable for experienced businesspersons wanting to set up a new business in the UK which is innovative, viable and scalable. You can work as a sole founder or together as part of an entrepreneurial team, granted your business idea is new.
Joint venture arrangements are also acceptable.
The business idea can entail any sector, provided the business idea is sufficiently innovative, feasible and scalable. If you are planning to join an already trading business, then the Skilled Worker visa may be more appropriate. Consider the Tier 1 investor visa if you aim to invest in an already trading business. Likewise, if you are a senior employee of an overseas business and want to establish a commercial presence in the UK, the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa is more applicable.
Requirements for an Innovator visa
To qualify for an Innovator visa, you will need to satisfy UKIV of the following:
- You are 18 years or older;
- You have at least £50,000 available to invest in your UK business, or have already invested £50,000 in your UK business. (Switching from the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Start-up category to pursue or extend the same business venture, then this requirement is waived).
- You are endorsed by an approved UK body to set up a new business venture. They have assessed your business idea for innovation, viability and scalability and are satisfied that you will spend your entire time in the UK developing your business venture.
- You are registered with Companies House as a Member or Director of your business.
- Your business is active, trading and is sustainable for at least 12 months.
- You have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and are willing to spend your time in the UK developing your business ventures.
- Your endorsement letter needs to be issued not more than 3 months before the date of your visa application;
- You are capable of any work or business activity in the UK as stated in your application and genuinely intend to undertake this venture and see it to success.
- You understand and speak the English language – at least CEFR Level B2 (equivalent to IELTS 5.5 in reading, writing, listening and speaking).
- If you have not been in the UK in the past 12 months or reside outside, you need to have at least £1270 to support yourself. For a dependent partner, £285. £315 for a first child and £200 for each additional child.
Endorsement criteria for a UK Innovator visa
For your business proposal to be endorsed, an approved endorsing body needs to be satisfied that your business idea meets the following criteria:
- Innovation: You have an authentic, new and original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and creates a competitive advantage;
- Viability: You have the required skills, knowledge, and experience and market awareness to run the business successfully.
- Scalability: Your business plan shows a structured framework and potential for job opportunities and growth into national and international market
The endorsing body needs to be satisfied that you will spend your time in the UK developing business ventures. You will also be required to demonstrate significant achievements against your business plan, granted that you are applying to continue the same business venture as stated in your initial application.