This category is for more experienced businesspeople seeking to establish a business in the UK. Applicants will have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body. With some exceptions, applicants will have funding to invest in their business. This category may lead to settlement in the UK.
The Innovator immigration visa category has replaced the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa. Application under the Innovator immigration route may get Settlement (ILR) in the UK in just 3 years with just £50 000 investment (or even no investment in certain cases).
You can apply for an Innovator visa if:
- you want to set up or run a business in the UK - you need to have your business or business idea endorsed by an approved body
- you meet the other eligibility requirements
The endorsement letter must confirm that the applicant’s business venture meets all the requirements in relation to:
- 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.
Interestingly, study is permitted, subject to the condition set out in Part 15 of the Immigration Rules.
Conditions of the Innovator visa
Applicants granted leave in this category are subject to the following conditions:
• they cannot use public funds
• they must register with the police, if they are required to do so by paragraph 326 of the Immigration Rules
• they cannot take up employment, other than working for the business or businesses they establish, join or take over - working for such a business or businesses does not include any work the applicant does under a contract of service or apprenticeship with another business, whether:
- express or implied
- oral or written
• no employment as a professional sportsperson (including as a sports coach)
You must be employed as the director of the business you have invested in (or as a member, if the business is a partnership).
Before you apply you need to have your business or business idea assessed by an approved body.
They will provide you with an endorsement letter if your business is viable.
You must also:
- meet the English language requirement
- be at least 18 years old
- be able to prove that you have enough personal savings to support yourself while you’re in the UK
You must have at least £50,000 in investment funds to apply for an Innovator visa if you want to set up a new business.
Your funding can come from any source.
You do not need any investment funds if your business is already established and has been endorsed for an earlier visa.
You need to have had at least £945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply.
If the applicant is applying in the Innovator category, they do not need to provide evidence of maintenance funds if the letter from their endorsing body confirms they have been awarded funding of at least £945. In the case of Innovator applicants, this must be in addition to the £50,000 investment funds required in that category.
You cannot use either of the following to support yourself:
- money from your investment funds
- money earned while working in the UK illegally
You can form a team with other Innovator applicants, but you cannot share the same investment funds.
Your team must have £50,000 for each Innovator applicant. For example, if you have 2 Innovator applicants, your team must have £100,000 to invest.
Knowledge of English
You may need to prove your knowledge of the English language when you apply.
You can prove your knowledge of English by either:
- passing an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B2 in reading, writing, speaking and listening
- having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD
You do not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’ve already proved it to be level B2 or above in an earlier successful application.
You will not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’re a national of one of the following countries:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- the Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
When you apply you need to provide an ‘endorsement letter’ to show that an approved body has assessed your business or business idea.
You also need to provide:
- a current passport or other valid travel identification
- bank statements showing you have had at least £945 in savings in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply
- proof that you meet the English language requirement
- evidence of your investment funds (if you are setting up a new business)
- your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where you have to take the test
You will need to provide a certified translation of any documents that are not in English or Welsh.
You may need to provide additional documents depending on your circumstances.
Applicants are expected to apply online.
It is also possible to extend or switch to the Innovator immigration category.
You can apply to switch to this visa if you meet the eligibility requirements and you are already in the UK on one of the following visas:
- Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
- Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
- Tier 2
- a visitor who has been undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur
You can stay for 3 years after switching to an Innovator visa.
There is no limit on the number of times you can extend your visa.
Your family members (‘dependants’) can come with you when you come to the UK on this visa. Your family members must have a visa.
A ‘dependant’ is any of the following:
- your partner
- your child under 18
- your child over 18 if they’re currently in the UK as a dependant
Adult family members must provide a criminal record certificate from any country they have lived in for 12 months or more in the last 10 years.
You must have £630 for each dependant in addition to the £945 you need to support yourself. This is to show that your dependants can be supported while they are in the UK.
You need proof you have the money, and that it has been in your bank account or your dependant’s bank account for at least 90 days before you or they apply.
Dependants applying outside the UK
Your family members must apply online.
Each family member will need to make their own application.
Dependants applying in the UK on their own
Your dependants can apply to extend or switch their visas to stay with you if they’re already in the UK. Dependants must either:
- apply online as a dependent partner
- apply online as a dependent child
Although the Innovator route is leading to Settlement just in 3 years, it is still possible to apply for extension of the Innovator visa, if required. It is possible to make an extension application from overseas if the applicant has previously held leave as an Innovator.
Evidence of investment funds – the new business
The £50 000 funding under the Innovator category can be from venture capital firms or from the applicant themselves. Different set of documents is required for each of the funding routes.
The £50 000 funding can come in different ways:
- Endorsing body
- UK organization employing at least 10 people
- An overseas of UK organization, employing less than 10 people
- An individual or 3rd party
- Funds held by the applicant
- Funds already invested in business
The applicant must meet all the same business endorsement criteria as set in the relevant Rules. The endorsing bodies must also confirm in their endorsement letter that an applicant has achieved at least 2 of the following:
• at least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business plan assessed in the applicant’s previous endorsement
• the number of the business’s 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 revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts
• the business is generating a minimum annual revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas
• the business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers
• the business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers, which have an average salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any expenses)
An applicant may qualify under any combination of two of the above criteria, even if they are similar. For example, an applicant will have met two criteria if their business has an annual revenue of £1 million, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.
An applicant cannot qualify by relying on the same criterion twice. For example, an applicant who has invested £100,000 (2 x £50,000) in their business venture will be considered to have met one criterion, not two.
If the business venture has one or more other team members who are applying for, or have been granted, settlement in the Innovator category, they cannot share the same means of meeting these criteria. For example, if two applicants are both relying on the requirement to have created 10 jobs, 20 jobs must have been created in total.
There is no right of appeal in case the Innovator visa is refused, only an administrative review right. That means that extra care must be used in preparation of the application, or the Legal Centre can help you with your Innovator application. All it takes is to book your initial online consultation with us.
The above options are not exhaustive as we treat every client's case individually. Please do not hesitate to book a phone, Skype or office consultation with us for a professional immigration advice and possible further representation before the UK Border Agency or the First Tier or Upper Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) (FTT/UTT IAC).
We are here to help: www.legalcentre.org , 077 911 45 923 (Mob/Viber/WhatsApp), 0330 001 0342 and, of course, the helpful instant and same day Legal Centre Skype, Phone, Viber and WhatsApp Consultations