Innovator Founder Visa

The Home Office has made significant changes to the Innovator visa route, which came into force on 13 April 2023. The Innovator visa route was initially launched in March 2019, allowing overseas nationals to seek entry to the UK for the purpose of establishing an innovative business. The changes to the Innovator visa route can affect future visa applications and their eligibility requirements. The new Innovator Founder route aims to allow more genuinely innovative entrepreneurs to enter the UK and set up their own business.

UK Innovator Founder visa

Changes to the current Innovator visa route from 13 April 2023

The changes will replace the current Innovator visa route with the newly named Innovator Founder route. While this is not too dissimilar from the current iteration of the visa category, new criteria aim to be more flexible to allow for more genuinely innovative entrepreneurs to enter the UK and set up their new business.

The new route removes the £50,000 minimum investment fund requirement. However, you are now required to show that you have sufficient capital to get your business idea off the ground. So where you have little or no overheads, you will need less capital, but where you require expensive machinery, for example, you may need to show significantly more than the previous £50,000.

Innovator Founder visa holders will also now be able to engage in employment outside of their own innovative business, provided that the secondary employment is in a skilled role of at least RQF level 3 (A-level and above).

The Innovator Founder route provides validity for 3 years with the option to apply for settlement at the end of the 3-year period.

The changes to the Innovator visa route have made the Start-up visa category obsolete and this route is now closed to new applicants, unless they received their endorsement letter before 13 April 2023.

Who is the UK Innovator Founder visa route designed for?

If you have played a key role in developing a new business concept that you wish to bring to the UK, you may be eligible to apply for an Innovator Founder visa.

There are several requirements you will need to meet. The business you wish to run must be:

  • new – you cannot join an existing business
  • innovative – you must have an original business idea which is different from anything else on the UK market, so either it is a completely new product/service, or it is a new aspect of an existing product/service
  • viable, with potential for growth
  • scalable – you must show how you are planning to create jobs and growth in the UK and beyond.

You will also need to have the relevant skills, qualifications, and entrepreneurial experience in order to lead the business in the UK.

You may be asked to provide a detailed business plan to demonstrate how you satisfy these requirements.

What do I need to do before applying for an Innovator Founder visa?

You will need to pitch your business concept to a Home Office approved endorsing body. If the endorsing body is satisfied that your business idea is innovative, viable and scalable, they will issue you with an endorsement letter. You can then use this endorsement letter to apply for the Innovator Founder visa.

Are there any additional requirements that need to be met?

In addition to obtaining an endorsement letter, you will need to show that:

  • you have funds available to maintain yourself and your family in the UK; and
  • you meet the English language requirement (B2 – intermediate standard).

The Home Office must also be satisfied that the proposed business is indeed innovative, viable and scalable, and that you are able to deliver on your business plan. They may also wish to see evidence that any investment funds you seek to rely on are genuinely available to you. The Home Office may also require you to attend an interview to assess whether your application is credible.

What period of leave will I be given? Can I extend my visa?

If your application is approved, you will be granted leave as an Innovator Founder for a maximum initial period of 3 years.

You can apply to extend your leave in the UK for further periods of 3years, subject to meeting various requirements, amongst them that:

  • You are continuing to pursue a business assessed by a Home Office approved endorsing body at the time of extension;
  • Your business is active, trading and sustainable and demonstrates significant achievements against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement; and
  • You continue to be active in day-to-day management and development of the business.

What kind of activities can I undertake in the UK as an Innovator Founder?

As an Innovator Founder visa holder, you are now permitted to work for the business (or businesses) that you have established, as well as any other business provided the job is skilled to RQF Level 3.

As an Innovator Founder visa holder, you are permitted to study in the UK, subject to certain conditions.

Can I bring my family with me?

The Innovator Founder visa allows you to bring with you to the UK a dependent spouse or partner and any dependent children who are under the age of 18 at the time of the initial application.

How quickly can I become settled in the UK?

It may be possible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (also known as settlement) after 3years of living and running your business in the UK.

When applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain, your business will need to meet a number of Home Office prescribed criteria, such as having created jobs for local UK residents or meeting minimum revenue targets.

For more information about us and our personal immigration services, please contact a member of the team who can answer any questions and guide you through the process.


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