What is the Innovator visa?
Previously, the Innovator visa fell into the Tier 1 category of immigration visas in the UK.
The Innovator visa is one of the business visas that is designed to attract some of the world’s ‘best and brightest’, from entrepreneurs and budding business people, to investors and innovative people in their field.
As such, you must be able to demonstrate your worth to the UK in order to successfully receive a UK Innovator visa which can be achieved through a thorough investment plan or rigorous business idea.
Other similar types of UK visas include:
- The investor visa
- The entrepreneur visa
- The graduate entrepreneur visa
- The global talent visa
The UK Innovator visa UK allows overseas talent to come to the UK to start up or pursue a business plan in the United Kingdom for up to three years. However, your new business idea must be endorsed by a recognised UK body. Your plan and idea will go through rigorous testing and a thorough assessment process.
Get in touch with Manchester Immigration Lawyers today to hear more about how our lawyers can help you prepare your business plan and apply for a UK Innovator visa or any other business visa. By putting your trust in an immigration solicitor, you minimise the risk of a visa refusal and ease the burden of the paperwork. Contact us today on 0161 826 9783.
Innovator visa eligibility
To apply for the UK Innovator visa you must fulfil the eligibility criteria to have any chance of success.
Who is eligible for the Innovator visa?
- Have a business idea that would be considered a new business
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a thorough business plan and idea that has been endorsed by an approved body
- Intend to set up or run your business idea in the UK
- Meet the financial requirements (investment funds)
- Meet the English language requirements
Innovator visa requirements
If you wish to apply for a UK Innovator visa, there are several requirements you must meet.
What are the Innovator visa requirements?
- Being at least 18 years old
- Demonstrating your money is genuine and made via legitimate means
- Proving that you intend on using these funds towards your new business
- Satisfying the English requirements
- Satisfying the Financial requirements including £945 personal maintenance and at least £50,000 in investment funds
The Business plan requirement
To apply for the UK Innovator visa, there are four main milestones you must reach in order to demonstrate you have a thorough business plan. This is in addition to your endorsement letter that has to be approved by an eligible endorsing body.
The UK Innovator visa business plan milestones
To meet the UK Innovator visa requirements, your idea must be unique and new. In other words, you cannot join or invest in a business that is already set up and trading in the UK. To apply for an Innovator visa, you need to be able to demonstrate that you can run a business.
For scalability, your business needs to have a plan that demonstrates its potential for growth, including recruiting staff (job creation) and generating revenue.
You must ensure that you already possess the necessary skills and expertise to run your business venture successfully in the UK in order to meet the viability requirement.
In addition, you must demonstrate your personal commitment to the plan. This means you cannot work for another country as all your time must be allocated to developing your business.
Once you meet the above milestones, you can then seek endorsement from an approved UK body to set up your business and have accumulated £50,000 in funds to invest in your plan. However, you may not need these funds if your business is already existing and has been endorsed by a previous application.
Throughout the duration of your time in the UK, your endorsing body will check in with you and your business at key intervals. Usually, this is around the 6 months, 12 months and 24 months mark after your business is up and running. If you fail to demonstrate reasonable progress within these timeframes, your endorsement may be withdrawn. A withdrawn endorsement is likely to see your visa curtailed, too.
Innovator visa document checklist
Your endorsing body will check you meet all the requirements in your business plan while UKVI will check you meet the Innovator visa immigration rules.
The applicant must send the following documents in their original format to the Home Office within the application.
Innovator visa document checklist
- An endorsement letter
- Your passport/ID
- A bank statement (which must not be older than 1 calendar month before the date of application) which shows you have at least £945 in savings for 90 consecutive days
- Proof of English language
- A letter from your bank confirming that you have money available
- Business accounts of funds invested in another business that details the money that has been invested and the name of the accountant
- A signed declaration underlining the connection between the applicant and the company if the source of your funds is a UK organisation
- A letter from a legal representative may be needed to confirm all third parties’ permissions to invest the funds in your business idea
- The letter from your endorsement body confirming the availability of funds
Processing times and length of validity
Generally speaking, from the date you submit your Innovator visa application you should receive a decision within 3 weeks. This waiting time may be reduced if you send your application from within the UK.
The earliest you can submit your Innovator visa application is 3 months before you plan on entering the UK. This should allow plenty of time for you to receive a decision.
However, if for whatever reason there is a minor error or discrepancy in your application, you are likely to be met with delays in the application process.
If you wish to speed up the process and receive a decision sooner, you can opt for the Home Office’s Super Priority Service. Here at Manchester Immigration Lawyers, we can also help you with our Fast-Track Service. Your immigration lawyer will prioritise your Innovator visa application and will endeavour to meet you within a 24-hour timeframe.
The financial requirements
One of the main requirements of the UK Innovator visa is ensuring you have enough money for your business plan and for your own personal maintenance.
In addition to the £50,000 you need to invest, you need to have at least £945 of available funds to prove that you will not need public funds to support you in the UK. This figure rises per each individual child/dependent you bring to the country with you.
These savings must have been in your personal bank account for 90 days consecutively. Other means such as shares, bonds, credit card and pension funds are not permitted in meeting the maintenance requirements.
The English language requirement
In order to be successful in your UK Innovator visa application, you must be able to demonstrate that you can speak, read and understand a certain degree of English.
If you are not a national of an English-speaking country or you do not have a degree/relevant qualification that demonstrates English ability, you may need to take a test.
You must pass an accredited English test with at least CEFR level B2 in reading, writing, speaking and listening.
The only other exception is if you have already demonstrated your English ability in another UK visa application in which you were successful, such as another business visa. If you have legally resided in the UK under a Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 4 Visa and still have your English test certificate, you may not need to take the test again. Contact our immigration lawyers if you’re unsure about the language requirements for the Innovator visa, or any other business visa.
How to settle in the UK as an Innovator
Whilst most applicants generally must accrue 5 years of continuous residency in the UK to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, as an Investor or Innovator, you can seek Indefinite Leave to Remain after only 3 years.
To do so, you must meet at least two of the following conditions:
- You must have invested in your business at least £50,000 as planned
- Your business must have created at least 10 full-time jobs for UK resident workers
- Your business must have generated gross revenue of at least £1 million
- Your company has applied for intellectual protection in the UK and has engaged in development activity
- Your customer base must have doubled or more in the 3 years before your Indefinite Leave to Remain application
- Your business has accumulated at least £500,000 in revenue with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas
In addition to the above, you must then ensure you meet the Indefinite Leave to Remain requirements. One of the main prerequisites to this form of settlement is that you must not have spent more than 180 days out of the UK in the 12 months leading up to your ILR application.
Innovator visa fees
The base fee for your Innovator visa application to be submitted to UKVI is £1,021.
However, this does not exclude other, additional fees. Other fees may include:
- Document translation services for your application
- The English language test if you need to sit an exam
- Lawyer fees and business advice fees
- The cost to register your biometric information (£19.20)
- The Immigration Health Surcharge (£400 – £625 per year of residency in the UK)
These costs are likely to increase if you intend on bringing any dependents to the UK with you, such as your children or partner. Your family members are also subject to immigration control if they are not permanent UK residents or British citizens, meaning they will need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge and visa fees too.
If you need expert help and guidance towards meeting the Innovator visa requirements or those of any other business visa, get in touch with Manchester Immigration Lawyers on 0161 826 9783.
Our client care team will arrange an appointment with one of our immigration lawyers who you can choose to speak to over the phone, face-to-face or via video chat such as Skype. We can offer bespoke Advice Sessions, full Application Support or check your portfolio of evidence for you before you submit your Innovator visa application to the Home Office.
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Your initial Innovator visa will allow you to remain in the UK for 3 years. Afterwards, you can then apply to extend your visa for another 3 years.
You can repeat this process for as many times as you like, but it might be favourable to switch from your Innovator visa onto Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after 3 years instead.
The cost to renew or extend your Innovator visa, presuming you are applying from within the UK, will cost £1,277.
You must also ensure that you continue to meet the Innovator visa eligibility requirements. You must still be running the same business in the UK – unless you intend to set up a new one. If you have plans for a second business, you must have £50,000 in investment funds again.
You will not need to have your business or idea assessed by an endorsing body if you are extending your current plan.
It should take 8 weeks to receive a decision on your Innovator visa extension.
If you are already in the UK under a different visa, you may be able to switch onto the Innovator visa route.
However, you must currently hold one of the following permits:
- Start-up visa
- Tier 1 Entrepreneur or Graduate Entrepreneur Visa
- Business Visitor visa
- Any Tier 2 Visa
If you do not have any of the above UK visas, you may need to leave the UK and apply for your Innovator visa from your home country.
On an Innovator visa, you are prohibited from:
- All forms of public funding (social housing, benefits, free NHS care and welfare support)
- Working as a professional sportsperson or coach
- Working as a doctor or dentist in training
- Working for any other business
If you are a team of innovators working on the same business plan, you are eligible to apply as a team.
However, each member must be endorsed in their own right. This includes each member holding £50,000 each to invest into the company.
You can absolutely bring your loved ones with you to the UK as an innovator.
Your dependent/s can be:
- Your partner – spouse, unmarried, fiancé or civil partner
- Any children under 18
It is important to note that you must have at least £630 extra in savings per each dependent you intend to bring with you to the UK. This is in addition to the £945 you must personally have.