UK Innovator Founder Visa

On November 02, 2023 | In General | By A Y & J Solicitors

Introduced by the UK Government on 13 April 2023, the Innovator Founder route replaces both the Innovator and Start Up visas and is a primary visa category for foreign entrepreneurs who are planning to set up a business in the UK.

This article will provide a detailed overview of the UK Innovator Founder Visa.

Eligibility and Requirements

The applicant must meet several requirements and will score points for meeting the relevant criteria. Some points relate to the individual and some points are awarded for the applicant’s business plan. A total of 70 points are needed for a successful application.

The individual must meet the following requirements to be eligible:-

  • Meet the English language requirement (CEFR Level B2)
  • Be at least 18 years old on the date of the application
  • Be able to prove that they have held enough personal savings in their bank account for 28 days in order to support themselves whilst in the UK (£1,270 for themselves, £285 for a dependant partner, £315 for the first child and £200 for each additional child) if they have been in the UK less than 12 months
  • Not fall foul of the general grounds for refusal which include having committed certain types of crime

The applicant will score 10 points for meeting the English language and a further 10 points for meeting the financial requirements.

The applicant’s business idea must also meet the Home Office requirements. An endorsement letter from an endorsing body must have been issued no more than three months before the date of the application. There are several endorsing bodies that are authorised by the Home Office to perform this role.

The endorsing body must deem that the applicant has made a significant contribution to the business plan and will have a day-to-day role in running the business. The applicant must also have at least two contact point meetings with the endorsing body within their period of permission.

The endorsing body will also examine the applicant’s business plan to decide if it is new, innovative, viable and scalable. The Home Office’s guidance states that the business the Innovator will start must be:

  • New – an applicant cannot join a business that is already trading
  • Innovative – the applicant’s business idea must be genuine and original
  • Viable – the business plan must be realistic and achievable, and the applicant must have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to run the business
  • Scalable – the applicant must give evidence of planning that includes job creation and national/ international growth

30 points are awarded for the business plan itself, and 20 points are awarded for the venture being innovative, viable and scalable.

If an applicant is switching from the old Innovator or Start-up visas, they do not have to show that their business is new so long as their business was the one they used for their previous applications. Furthermore, they may still gain endorsement from legacy endorsing bodies that the Home Office no longer permit to endorse new Innovator Founder visa applications. The business must be shown to be performing well against the original business plan and the applicant must still be active in the day-to-day management of the business. Points are awarded for previous visa application success, business performance and the applicant’s continued involvement in their business.


An applicant from outside the UK must pay £1,191 for themselves. Each individual dependant must also pay the same fee. An applicant who is currently inside the UK and wishes to either extend their Innovator Founder visa or switch from a different visa must pay £1,486 for themselves. Each of their dependants must pay the same fee.

Applicants must also pay the healthcare surcharge as part of their visa application. This is currently £624 per year of the visa for every adult applicant, and £470 per year for dependants under 18 (due to increase in 2024). The visa would be issued for 3 years at a time.

Benefits of the Innovator Founder Visa

There are several benefits to the Innovator Founder visa route, including:

  • An applicant may bring their dependants with them on this visa
  • An applicant may travel abroad and return to the UK
  • An applicant may apply to settle permanently in the UK, known as an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) application – under the Start Up visa this was not the case time spent did not count towards a settlement application
  • There is no minimum requirement for investment – the previous Innovator visa required applicants to invest at least £50,000
  • The applicant may do another job alongside running their own business (as long as it is ‘skilled work’) – this was not allowed under the Innovator visa

Downsides to the Visa

The major disadvantage to the innovator founder visa is that the applicant’s business must be endorsed by one of the Home Office authorised bodies. This will take time and effort as it is a lengthy and complicated process. It requires the applicant’s business venture to meet the aforementioned criteria of being innovative, viable and scalable. Moreover, if the endorsing body withdraws its endorsement, it could lead to the termination of the Innovator Founder visa, which could lead to the departure of the applicant from the UK.

What alternative options are there for entrepreneurs?

An alternative route to the Innovator Founder visa is the Self-Sponsorship route. The Self-Sponsorship route combines the well-established Worker Sponsor licence application with the Skilled Worker route. The applicant can, with the assistance of a regulated legal advisor, set up a UK company, apply for a sponsor licence and then go on to be assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship in support of their own Skilled Worker visa. After 5 years in the UK as a Skilled Worker, the individual can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Self-Sponsorship does not require a letter of endorsement from an endorsing body, avoiding a lot of time and effort, and also removes the risk of the visa being cancelled because an endorsement is withdrawn. In addition to this, an applicant’s Self-Sponsorship company does not have to meet the innovative, viable and scalable thresholds – it can be any business, which makes it much easier. The Self-Sponsorship route does have strict requirements that need to be met, but these are generally less onerous than the Innovator Founder route.

Final Words

The UK Innovator Founder visa is a well-known route for foreign businesspeople who wish to move to the UK and set up a business. It allows them to bring their dependants, travel abroad and eventually settle in the UK.

However, its requirements, particularly the need for an endorsement, can make it difficult to attain.

Bearing in mind the complexity involved in obtaining an Innovator Founder visa, the Self-Sponsorship is another option for foreign entrepreneurs who wish to set up a UK company. It is worthwhile weighing up both options and seeking legal advice before making a visa application.

A Y & J Solicitors is a specialist immigration law firm with extensive experience with all visa for entrepreneurs and businesspeople. We have an in-depth understanding of immigration law and are professional and results-focused. For assistance with your visa application or any other UK immigration law concerns, please contact us on +44 20 7404 7933 or contact us today. We’re here to help!

A Y & J Solicitors

A Y & J Solicitors is a multi-award winning, 14+ years experienced, recommended by Legal 500, boutique UK immigration law firm based in Central London. Having assisted 5000+ clients, we are well equipped to help you with our ‘In It To Win It’ approach. For your assurance and confidence, we are pleased to share our trust rating of 4.9/5 based on 1000+ reviews on Trustpilot & Google.

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