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