UK Innovator Visa for Experienced Businesspeople

UK innovator visa.

The UK innovator visa replaced the Tier 1 entrepreneur visa and is reserved for experienced businesspeople looking to setup an innovative company in the UK. Britain has a thriving business community and is a hotspot for international entrepreneurs to establish a successful company. Approximately 200,000 new businesses a year are started in the UK.

How Our Specialist UK Immigration Solicitors Can Help

With some of the best UK innovator visa solicitors in London, we will help you secure backing from an endorsing body, providing a pathway to applying for an innovator visa. Our comprehensive innovator visa services include a review of your UK innovator visa business plan to ensure key criteria are met, and full support with your innovator visa application.

Innovation Visa UK Eligibility

You’re eligible for this visa if:

  • You live outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.
  • You want to set up or run a business in the UK*. To set up or run a business in Britain your business or business idea must be endorsed by an approved body.

*If you want to set up a business in the UK, you must have a minimum of £50,000 in investment funds. If you already have a business established in Britain and you have been endorsed for an existing UK visa, no minimum investment funds are required.

The funding requirement for the innovator visa UK will be waived if you switch from the startup visa and you can show significant development of your enterprise in accordance with your business plan.

Innovator Visa UK Requirements

UK immigration rules specify the following requirements to be eligible for the innovator visa:

  • Innovation – Proof of a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage
  • Viability – Applicants must be able to demonstrate the necessary skills, knowledge and experience, plus market awareness, to run a business competently
  • Scalability – Evidence of structured planning and the potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets

Applying for an Innovation Visa UK

You must be at least 18 years old to apply for an innovator visa for the UK. Your application will be subject to a new, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) credibility assessment for which you must meet the following criteria:

  • A genuine intention to take on and be capable of taking on the work or business activity specified in your innovator visa application
  • You do not intend to work in the UK in any way that would breach the conditions of your visa
  • The money that you have to invest is genuinely available as described on your application and will be used for the purpose you have specified

As part of your application, UKVI will consider the following:

  • The evidence that you have submitted and its credibility
  • Your previous educational, work and immigration history
  • Any declarations you have made to other UK government departments regarding any previous employment and other activity in the UK
  • Other information UKVI deems relevant

You could be summoned to an interview with UKVI officials or asked to provide further information and evidence to support your application.

You can only apply for the innovator visa, online**. In addition, you will need to have your fingerprints and a photograph taken at a UK visa application centre in the country from which you are applying. You must do this to get a biometric residence permit, which is needed as part of your innovator visa UK application.

**If you live in North Korea, you cannot apply online. Contact our specialist innovator visa immigration lawyers for more information on how to apply for the innovator visa.

The earliest you can apply for an innovator visa is 3 months before you travel. It can take a minimum of three weeks to receive a decision on your visa application.

If your original business idea is unsuccessful, you can re-apply for a UK innovator visa with a new business idea.

For more information about the requirements you need to meet to apply for an innovator visa, contact our specialist innovator visa immigration solicitors.

UK Innovation Visa Endorsing Bodies

To support your application, you must provide a business plan and supporting documents for endorsement. A business sponsor from the following approved bodies will endorse your business plan and innovator visa application:

  • The Bakery
  • Seed Camp
  • Invest Northern Ireland
  • Zinc
  • Deep Science Ventures
  • Wayra
  • Ignite
  • Bethnal Green Ventures
  • Codebase
  • Capital Enterprise
  • Cylon
  • Tech X
  • Seed Haus’
  • Med City
  • Scottish Edge
  • Royal Society Edinburgh
  • Tech Nation
  • NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • Royal Bank of Scotland Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • Set Squared Bristol
  • Set Squared Exeter
  • Set Squared Southampton
  • Set Squared Surrey

Your Length of Stay in the UK

You can stay for three years if you enter the UK on an innovator visa or if you switch to the visa from another valid UK visa.

You can apply to extend your visa for another three years when it is due to expire. There is no limit on the number of times you can extend.

After five years, you could be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (UK settlement).

Any endorsement for UK settlement will be based on several criteria, including investment, innovation, business growth and job creation. You will be able to choose which criteria your settlement application is based on.

If you apply for settlement, you must have spent three continuous years in the UK, lawfully. Your most recent time outside of Britain, prior to your application, must have been in the innovator visa category in order to qualify for settlement to meet the conditions of your most recent leave.

Applying for settlement in the UK means you will need an endorsement letter confirming the following two things:

1. You must meet all of these same business endorsement criteria:

  • Significant business development – assessed based on your original business plan.
  • Registration with Companies House, listing you as the director or as a member of the business.
  • Your business must be actively trading.
  • Your business must appear sustainable for a further 12 months.
  • You play a key role in day-to-day business operations and developing the business.

2. Your business venture must meet a minimum of two requirements from the following:

  • An investment of at least £50,000 has been made and actively spent.
  • The number of customers your business has must have at least doubled in the most recent three years.
  • Your business is active in significant research and development activities and has submitted an application for intellectual property protection in the UK.
  • Your business has achieved a minimum £1 million gross annual revenue in the past 12 months.
  • The business has generated gross revenue totalling a minimum of £500,000 in the last full year covered by your accounts, with exporting overseas accounting for £100,000 of revenue generated.
  • Your business has created the equivalent of a minimum of 10 full-time jobs for UK resident workers.
  • At least five full-time positions for resident UK workers have been created, each with a minimum average salary of £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any expenses).

You are allowed to combine any of the above criteria, even if they are similar. For example, if your business generates £1 million annually and a minimum of £100,000 is from exporting overseas, you meet the two necessary criteria.

If your UK settlement application is made based on your business creating jobs, the following criteria apply:

  • To comply with the relevant UK legislation, jobs must have existed for a minimum of 12 months
  • An average of 30 hours of paid work, per week is required for each job
  • Combined totals of 30 hours per week for part-time jobs must be the equivalent of a single, full-time position
  • One, full-time job exceeding 30 hours per week does not qualify as being more than a single, full-time job

Your application for UK settlement based on your business creating jobs is not permitted to rely on the same criteria twice. If you have invested £100,000 in your business as two, separate £50,000 investments, the funds will only be considered to have met one of the criteria, not two.

If more than one person involved in the business venture is applying for UK settlement – or has been awarded leave to remain – in the innovator visa category, you cannot share the same means of meeting the necessary criteria.

For example, if you and another member of the business are relying on the creation of 10 jobs, this is not allowed. A total of 20 jobs must have been created.

Those endorsing your innovator visa application must be ‘reasonably satisfied that you will spend much of your working time in Britain developing business ventures,’ in accordance with UK immigration rules.

You will be expected to stay in contact with your endorsing body, and they will assess your business venture at intervals of six, 12 and 24 months after your application is granted. You will be monitored to ensure that you are continually working on your business.

You will need to demonstrate that you have made reasonable progress with your original business idea – submitted as part of your UK innovator visa application – or show that you are pursuing new business ideas that are innovative, viable and scalable.

UK Innovator Visa Maintenance Funds

You will need to show evidence that a minimum of £945 has been in your bank account for 90 consecutive days, ending no earlier than 31 days before the date of your application.

If you are awarded a sum of £945 by your endorsing body, in addition to your £50,000 investment funds, you do not need to submit evidence of maintenance funds if you have a letter from your endorsing body confirming that you have been awarded £945.

Innovation Visa UK English Language Requirements

You will need to demonstrate a good understanding of the English language to show that you can communicate with various business organisations and potential customers. You can meet the English language requirement in the following ways:

  • You are a national of a country where the majority of people are English speaking
  • You pass an English language test from an approved, registered provider that is the equivalent of a level B2 of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework
  • You hold a degree taught in English that is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or above

Alternatively, you can meet the English language requirement if you show that you have met the criteria as part of a previous, successful UK visa application. You must have been awarded previous entry clearance or leave to remain in one of the following UK visa categories:

  • Tier 1 (General)
  • Tier 1 (Post-Study Work)
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) under the rules in place before 13 December 2012
  • Tier 2 (Minister of Religion)
  • Tier 4 (General), supported by a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) assigned on or after 21 April 2011.
  • Startup Visa
  • Innovator Visa

Switching to a UK Innovator Visa

You could be eligible to switch to an innovator visa from another UK visa category, if you hold leave to remain in any of the following:

  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur);
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
  • Tier 2
  • As a visitor who has been undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur

UK Innovation Visa Dependants

Under the innovator visa scheme, you can bring dependants with you to the UK. If you have dependants in the UK already, they can apply for leave to remain in the innovator visa category in accordance with dependant maintenance requirements.

Provided dependants are in the UK legally, they can now apply from within the country as visitors or on temporary admission or temporary release.

UK Immigration Health Surcharge

When you apply for an innovator visa, you will have to pay a UK Immigration Health Surcharge. For help calculating the surcharge amount you have to pay, talk to a specialist immigration lawyer in London.

Get Help with Your UK Innovation Visa Application

If you’re thinking about setting up an innovative business in the UK, speak to our specialist innovator visa solicitors. Our immigration lawyers are regularly sought out to advise and assist entrepreneurs to navigate UK immigration law competently and efficiently.

Partner with the best immigration lawyers in London, now. Call us on +44 (0)207 629 3633 or click here to get in touch.