Innovator Visa

The British government has announced that the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa and the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa is to be replaced by two new routes:

  • The Start – up Visa
  • The Innovator Visa

The Innovator route offers an opportunity for experienced entrepreneurs to enter the UK market.  As the world’s fifth largest economy with access to the European Union, Britain provides strong, sustainable prospects for those who wish to launch a business in the UK.

Based in the heart of London, A Y & J Solicitors has been successfully advising Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa applicants for many years.  From providing pragmatic advice on drafting a comprehensive business plan to assist with interview preparation, our team can partner with you from the beginning of the application process.

What is the Innovator Visa?

The Immigration Rules define the Innovator visa as follows:

‘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 Visa is built on an endorsement model and is designed for those who have funds to invest in a business.  It provides three years leave to remain and can be extended for a further three years.

The Applicant does not need to be the sole creator of the business and can be part of a team.  If we were to recall the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route, where the team could have shared the investment of funds in the Tier 1 Innovator route the team cannot share the investment funds.

Those granted in this category can only work for their business(es) in the UK.

What documents do I need to provide with my application for an Innovator Visa?

Ensuring you have the correct documentation is critical to a successful application.  Supporting documents, you will need include (but are not limited to):

  • An endorsement letter from your endorsing body. This should state the nature of the business, the main products/services it provides, proof of the availability of £50,000 investment funds, and how it meets the criterions of innovation, viability, and scalability.
  • Bank statements are showing you have the required £945 so you can support yourself when you first arrive in the UK. In the event you wish to bring your dependants, the Applicant must be able to demonstrate the required maintenance funds for them.
  • Evidence of your English language ability
  • Your passport.

Your investment funds must be in a financial institution which allows immigration officials to check the viability of the funds.  The UK has strict money-laundering rules; therefore, it is imperative that authorities can easily check the source of the investment funds you are using.

What are the advantages of an Innovator Visa?

One of the criticisms of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa is that immigration officials, may or may not have commercial knowledge and expertise to evaluate the credentials of an applicant’s business plan.   In contrast, the government has stated that Innovator Visa applications will be assessed by business experts.  They will consider the innovativeness, viability, and scalability of the venture.  Unlike the Startup Visa, scalability will be assessed in terms of its potential to grow internationally, not just domestically.

Another advantage of the Innovator Route is applicants can bring their dependent family members with them.  Dependents normally include your spouse or partner, and any children under the age of 18 years.  In addition, unlike the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa which is replacing, the Innovator Visa only required an applicant to have investment funds of £50,000 rather than £200,000.

How to differentiate between “same business” or “new business” when applying for Innovator Visa?

The Immigration Rules differentiate between Applicants who are applying under the “new business criteria” and those applying under the “same business criteria”.

An applicant may be endorsed under the “new business” endorsement criteria if either of the following applies:

  1. The application is an initial application.
  2. The application is an extension application, and the applicant is pursuing a different business venture from the one that was assessed in the endorsement which led to their previous grant of leave.

An applicant may be endorsed under the “same business” endorsement criteria if both of the following apply:

  1. The applicant’s last grant of leave was in Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), Start-up or Innovator category.
  2. The applicant is pursuing the same business venture that was assessed in the endorsement which led to that grant of leave.

An applicant may be endorsed under either the “new business” or the “same business” criteria if both of the following apply:

  1. The applicant’s last grant of leave was in Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) or Start-up category.
  2. The applicant is pursuing the same business venture that was assessed in the endorsement which led to that grant of leave.
Do you need help with Innovator Visa?

What is the Endorsement Criteria for a “new business”?

The endorsement letter must confirm both of the following:

  1. The Applicant’s business venture meets all of the below requirements:
    • Innovation – you must have an original business idea and a plan that proves it meets an existing market need or provides a competitive advantage in a particular sector
    • Viability – you need to prove you have or are developing the required experience, skills, knowledge, and commercial acumen to run the business
    • Scalability – there must be evidence of a clear growth strategy and job creation potential
  2. The endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that the Applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures.

What is the Investment funds requirement for a “new business”?

The Immigration Rules list down four separate categories of how an application can be assessed with respect to the Investment funds.

  1. If the applicant’s endorsement was given under the new business endorsement criteria, at least £50,000 funds must be available to the applicant to invest in their business. This may include funds which have already been invested in the business.
  2. If the endorsement letter confirms that at least £50,000 funds are available or have been invested in the applicant’s business, no further evidence of investment funds is required.
  3. If the endorsement letter does not confirm that a full £50,000 funds are available or have been invested, the applicant must provide evidence of the remaining balance of their £50,000 investment funds.
  4. If the business venture has one or more other team members who are applying for, or have been granted, leave in the Innovator category, they cannot share the same investment funds. There must be at least £50,000 investment funds available for each Innovator team member.

What is the Endorsement criteria for a “same business”?

The endorsement letter must confirm all of the following:

  • The applicant has shown significant achievements, judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement.
  • The applicant’s business is registered with Companies House, and the applicant is listed as a director or member of that business.
  • The business is active and trading.
  • The business appears to be sustainable for at least the following 12 months, based on its assets and expected income, weighed against its current and planned expenses.
  • The applicant has demonstrated an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business.
  • The endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on continuing to develop business ventures.

Eligibility requirements specific to the Innovator route include:

  • The Applicant will need to show you have been endorsed in this category by an approved endorsing body.
  • Unless the endorsement body is providing the investment funds, applicants who are applying under the ‘new business’ criteria must demonstrate that they have access to at least £50,000 for investment in the business
  • Proof you can speak English to a B2 level
  • A credible business plan
  • At least £945 which must have been held for at least £945 for a consecutive period of at least 90 days in a manner specified by the rules

How A Y & J Solicitors can help you with an Innovator Visa application

Based in the heart of London’s business hub, we are highly experienced immigration lawyers who understand the UK commercial market.  We can assist you right from the beginning of the application process, ensuring you have the correct documentation in place.  We will assess the strengths and weaknesses of your application and provide practical advice on how you can address aspects of your submission which may negatively affect your chances of success.

Our lawyers are approachable, smart, and meticulous in their attention to detail.  We have advised many clients on obtaining entry to the UK via the Entrepreneur route and to go on to obtain settlement.

Only certain Applicants can switch into this category while they are in the UK with valid leave to remain and the categories are as follows:

  • Start-up
  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
  • Tier 2

A visitor who has been undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur. The Immigration Rules state that: ‘A visitor who can show support from one or more endorsing bodies for the Start-up or Innovator categories in Appendix W, as listed on the website, may come to the UK for discussions to secure funding from any legitimate source, which they intend to use to set up a business in the UK.’

It is possible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) if you meet the eligibility requirements.  These are:

  • Your business venture meets at least two of the following requirements:
    • At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business plan when you applied for an extension.
    • Your customers have at least doubled within the most recent three years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services.
    • Your organisation has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK.
    • Your business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts.
    • Your business is generating a minimum annual gross revenue of £500,000 in the last full year, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.
    • Your business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers.
    • Your organisation has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers, with an average salary of at least £25,000 a year
    • You have spent no more than 180 days during any consecutive 12-month period outside the UK unless an exception applies
    • You do not fall foul for General Grounds of Refusal

Our lawyers will advise you throughout your application, extension, and settlement process to ensure you have the best chance of success and the process runs smoothly.  This will allow you to concentrate on meeting the criteria and growing your business.

A Y & J Solicitors’ Review

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